Industrial growth, new construction, and the completion of the long awaited Wales Road grade separation project were among the highlights last year in Northwood.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Mayor Mark Stoner told The Press last week of the $14 million grade separation.
The project consisted of the construction of two overpasses over the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks on Wales Road that effectively eliminates three railroad crossings and opens up traffic that had been frequently delayed by trains. Wales Road is the only east-west road linking the city’s business district with its westerly neighborhoods. As a result, the trains had separated the east from the west sides of town. To adjust, the city had to build fire stations on the east and west sides to avoid serious delays when emergency vehicles responded to calls.
“It’s going to help unite the east and west sides of the city,” said Stoner. “Police, fire and residents will be able to get back and forth from one side of the city to the other. This much awaited project allows a motorist to travel with less fear of train blockage from Woodville Road to East Broadway.”
Stoner recalled that the project was first discussed back when he was a councilman 19 years ago.
“Council had talked about it and got quotes to see if we could do the project ourselves, but it cost way too much,” he said. The city got a shot in the arm when ex-Governor Bob Taft came to Northwood in 2000 to announce a $200 million, 10-year program to fund railroad overpasses at busy grade separations in Ohio. “We thought we would be number one on the list, but we turned out to be one of the last,” said Stoner.
In 2006, the city learned that Congress had transferred $4 million in funds earmarked for the project to two other communities in Ohio. The project had been scheduled to start in 2007. Stoner went to Columbus to get support from the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC), which had pledged to cover the shortfall in funding. The city had earmarked $900,000 for its local share of the project.
Now that the road has opened back up to traffic following the construction of the overpasses, Stoner is pleased by the results.
“It is nice. People realize what a blessing it is for the city,” he said.
Stoner said that the city is still recovering from the deep recession that hit the city in 2008, but things have been looking up.
“While the challenges of the recent economic downturn still linger, there are signs of improvement and we are extremely hopeful about the future of our community,” he said.
In his state of the city address last month, Stoner said the city started 2014 with a positive general fund carryover.
“We have approved a balanced 2014 budget totaling $4,544,175 and we project our 2014 general fund revenue to total $4,548,435,” he said. “We will continue to provide quality services and the city will be judicious and vigilant in its spending.”
Over $7 million was spent for new construction projects last year. “Although this amount is a decrease from the $18 million in new construction in 2012, it compares favorably with the $5 million invested in 2010 and the $8 million spent in 2011,” he said. The city is poised for a good year this year as well, he added.
The city also saw several new industrial and commercial businesses last year, including A.J.Kats on East Andrus; DNA Fitness on Oregon Road; TLD Services on Woodville; Hardtail Saloon on East Broadway; Loan Max on Woodville Road; Strike Zone Sports on Woodville Road; Educare on Woodville Road and Sahm Glass on McNerney.
The city also experienced industrial growth and new construction and expansion last year, including Spartan Warehouse & Logistics, which invested $3.5 million in addition to their existing structure; Scot Bartholomew & Sons (Stop & Stor) invested $104,000 for an additional storage building; Whitiker System spent $500,000 for an addition to their existing structure and AC & Sons LLC/IC Power Fluid invested $1.4 million in a new facility, he said.
The city also experienced residential growth within the Birchwood Hollow subdivision, which was purchased at the beginning of the year and is in the process of being built out by MS Builders. Over $1.2 million has been invested in the property, off Wales Road near Rossford, over the past year with 15 homes/villas being constructed.
To attract industrial, commercial and residential investments, the city passed legislation last year combining two existing Community Reinvestment Areas (CRAs) with other land to create a new CRA covering a majority of the non-developed land. The CRA came about through the cooperation of the mayor, city council’s Economic Development Committee, city council and the city administration who continue to work on economic development issues with an eye on future economic growth.
The Planning and Zoning Department is also committed to continuing regular inspections and enforcement of the city zoning code, including regular field checks.
Income tax collections were up 16 percent from 2012, and total General Fund expenses decreased by $89,756, or 2.1 percent from 2012.
The police department, under the direction of Chief Thomas Cairl, has continued to be progressive in its approach to providing quality police services, said Stoner, with 22 full-time and four part-time employees. Major crimes last year were down 21 percent and traffic accidents were down 4.25 percent compared to 2012. The public can access police reports on the Internet at www.northwoodpolice.com. There is also a link on the city’s webpage to CrimeReports.com where the public has free access to neighborhood crime data in near real time.
The communications center received 7,204 Calls for Service (CFS) from the public, along with receiving an additional 3,995 calls that were initiated by officers while out on patrol, totaling 11,199 CFS.
There was a 10 percent increase in the number of calls to the fire department last year compared to 2012, bringing the total number to 791 last year. Of these, 149 were for fire runs in the city, 564 were for EMS runs in the city and 78 were for mutual/automatic aid fire and/or EMS runs outside of the city. In addition to service runs, the department conducted 207 initial fire inspections and 151 re-inspections at businesses in the city. The city hired six recruits last year, bringing the total number of staff to 36.
Also last year, 18 firefighters continued various levels of state training and one firefighter is currently enrolled in paramedic school and is scheduled to graduate this March.
In addition to state training, local training opportunities included live fire training at a house donated for that purpose on Curtice Road last June.
The fire department, along with the Lake Township Fire Department and the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District received a Regional Assistance to Firefighter Grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This $438,623 award was used to purchase state of the art 800 MHz radios that enhance the agencies’ ability to communicate at emergency scenes.
This year, the fire department will host the Northwest Ohio Volunteer Firefighter Association Convention in June. The event will being hundreds of firefighters and their families to the city to celebrate their accomplishments in the past year.
Last year, the department oversaw the completion of resurfacing and drainage projects involving Wynn Road, the southern part of Tracy Road and Dillrose Drive. Additionally, the public service department contracted for the cleanout of the Curtice Road ditch.
Last year, the city was awarded a $60,000 CDBG award, or 50 percent of the total $120,000 cost of adding a turn lane on Wales Road to the intersection of Wales at East Broadway. The project is expected to be completed during the summer.