WILMINGTON — Wilmington City Council is on board to establish a Clinton County Joint Recreation District (JRD).
City council members passed legislation Thursday night indicating intent to join a proposed Clinton County JRD. The JRD envisioned by a local task force would be formed through an intergovernmental agreement among the local governments of the City of Wilmington, Clinton County, and the Village of Blanchester.
The City of Wilmington is the first of the three governmental units to take official action to create a Clinton County JRD, the boundaries of which would be the boundaries of the county. A JRD is a governing body that can fund and maintain recreation facilities in the participating jurisdictions — of which there must be at least two that together form the JRD.
The task force recommending the Clinton County JRD was itself created to explore proposed wellness-and-recreation projects in Wilmington and Blanchester. That task force decided that a countywide JRD best addressed questions of ownership, management and financing of larger wellness facility projects, while at the same time is also the best path forward for residents of villages and rural areas to have nearby recreational and wellness opportunities.
Local attorney William “Bill” Peelle, a task force member, spoke Thursday to city council prior to its vote in favor of a JRD. He made a similar presentation to county commissioners on Wednesday. At that meeting Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods questioned why in the the proposed makeup of the JRD Board of Trustees the county and city would have the same number of appointments, given that the population of Wilmington is less than a third of the population of the county overall.
Peelle told city council Thursday that the task force spent almost an entire meeting to come up with the proposed makeup of the board of trustees.
“We determined that the city and the county are the two major players [in the envisioned JRD]. And that neither one of them should control the other,” said Peelle.
The city has skin in the game that’s equal to anybody, he added, and needs to have an equal voice at the table. One of the main reasons for that view relates to the prospect of a large wellness center in Wilmington, a facility that would receive the bulk of the funding generated by a prospective JRD tax levy, according to Peelle.
Besides, the whole purpose of the proposed JRD is to provide wellness opportunities for the entire county and community, he said.
Peelle said he wouldn’t anticipate that either the city or county would pick as trustees people who “would somehow decide that they were territorial protectors.”
Before he closed his presentation, Peelle said he believes there’s “a pent-up demand” among Clinton Countians for wellness and recreation opportunities, and he thinks a countywide JRD can take that on.
On another matter, council took the next step in what Water Committee Chairperson Kelsey Swindler called a “very long process” of improving the city’s water treatment facility, spurred by the June 2017 occurrence of harmful algal toxin in Caesar Creek Lake, the city’s main water source.
The occurrence led the City to switch water sources for almost a month during which the City used the Burtonville reservoirs as Wilmington’s drinking water source.
The City has been working with the EPA to take care of algal toxin issues, said Swindler.
A goal of the treatment facility upgrade is to create as much redundancy as possible, and make sure there is a multi-barrier approach in place to prevent algal toxin from contaminating the water, she said.
The treatment facility improvement project, which will also address some other water infrastructure needs, is expected to cost about $2.9 million. Council authorized application for a low-interest loan with the Ohio EPA and Ohio Water Development Authority.
In fact, one third of the loan will be interest-free — that part which is specifically related to algal toxin, Swindler added. The upgrade work is expected to begin in November, with completion targeted for December 2020.
Wilmington Safety and Service Director Brian Shidaker announced that Davids Drive has been reclassified as a major collector street, making it eligible for federal and state grant money. Because Wilmington is one of only two cities in the district eligible for funding through ODOT’s (Ohio Department of Transportation’s) Small Cities Program, Shidaker is very optimistic Wilmington can receive up to $2 million for improvements to Davids Drive.
Unfortunately, rehabbing Davids Drive the right way is expensive. So Shidaker is hoping an application to the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) will be successful by having the City use the Small Cities funds as a match, which in turn should improve the City’s score in applying for funding in the competitive OPWC programs.
Council received an income tax receipt report from the city tax commissioner. The revenue as of the end of May this year is very similar to last year at the same time. Revenue compared to last year has increased by 0.35 percent or a little over $13,000.
The year-to-date city income tax revenue as of the end of May is $3,789,947.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.