City beats ODOT deadline for Rombach funding; meetings on medians, access will be in January

By John Hamilton -

WILMINGTON — Time is of the essence was the theme of a special Wilmington City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Among the legislation needing timely approval was a resolution adopting preliminary legislation for the Rombach Avenue project, which council passed after declaring an emergency and performing the three readings needed.

Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker told council the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) needs this submitted to them by Dec. 16, which Shidaker just found out about on Thursday.

Mayor John Stanforth thanked the public for their interest in the project and said this legislation was standard for all projects with ODOT.

“(The resolution) simply formalizes a cooperative agreement between the city and the State of Ohio to complete the project. This resolution does not require any of the design elements in the plan to be built,” said Stanforth.

The project, first discussed in July, would see pedestrian sidewalks being constructed, updates for the traffic lights, and general improvement for the roads.

The project was met with controversy from local residents and Rombach Avenue business owners. They approved of many of the aspects in the project — except for proposed cement medians. Locals felt it would be an unnecessary hassle and business owners felt it would negatively affect them.

At the meeting, Stanforth stated there would be further discussions about the medians and access management in January.

“We have to keep moving, pursue it to ODOT’s timeline in order to preserve the significant grant funding for the Rombach Avenue improvements,” said Stanforth.

Councilmember Matt Purkey explained that the ordinance would simply allow the city to formally accept over $4 million in grant money they were approved for.

Councilmember Jonathan McKay thanked Stanforth for his explanation of the resolution, sharing that multiple residents have contacted him about the project.

“We need to make sure we’re as clear and concise as humanly possible, because the public does have an interest in this and we’ve got to make sure that we’re trying to keep them informed as best we can in this project,” said McKay.

The other piece of legislation needing to meet a deadline was a resolution to place the 0.50-percent permanent municipal income tax on the March 17, 2020 ballot.

The tax, approved by locals in the November 2016 election, was set to last five years and is to help maintain several city services including fire and police protection and street repairs.

At the previous council meeting on Thursday, Stanforth believed the street improvement projects and code enforcements the city has done has earned them the citizens’ trust in handling their tax dollars.

To have it qualify for the March ballot, they need to submit the resolution to the Board of Elections by Dec. 18, which will then be reviewed for approval.

Also during council:

• Council held the third and final reading for the tax increment financing (TIF) ordinance. The focus of the ordinance was on infrastructure improvements, particularly Sugartree Street, but with special attention on areas needing blight removal and clean-up. Councilmember Tyler Williams abstained from voting due to part of the ordinance covering areas around Wilmington High School, where Williams is employed at. Council President Pro Tem Kelsey Swindler, sitting in for Council President Mark McKay, advised there would be an open forum at the next meeting on Dec. 19.

• A second reading of the city’s 2020 budget was performed with the third and final one scheduled for the Dec. 19 meeting.

By John Hamilton

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574