Middletown readies for
flurry of activity in 2017
a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 Middletown
The next 12
months will bring a flurry of activity in Middletown,
but elected officials were given warning that 2017 meant getting down to
while presenting his 2017 budget proposal, City Manager Doug Adkins told
council members: “Next year is honestly probably going to be the hardest year
for many of you that you’ve ever been on council. I’m going to throw a lot of
stuff at you. We’re going to be out in the public a lot, talking to people.
You’re going to hear a lot of discussion, you’re going to hear a lot of
plans for 2017 include continuing to attract new businesses and several
budget-related items that will impact residents, including possible water and
sewer rate increases and a possible senior services tax levy.
Mallory Greenham, executive director of
Downtown Middletown Inc. stands along Central
Avenue, which has welcomed many new businesses
over the last several months.
More businesses to fill vacant storefronts
Hoping to build
off the 32 new businesses that decided to make downtown Middletown their home in 2016, Mallory
Greenham, Downtown Middletown Inc. executive director, said work to
continue the momentum into 2017 starts now.
organization plans to unveil this month its Downtown Master Plan, which will be
an attempt to chart a new future for the downtown, including a 21-acre space along the Great Miami River between Carmody Boulevard, Water Street, Central Avenue and 2nd Avenue. Upgraded street lamps and
benches also are expected, as is an effort to create more of an identity for
“Downtown Middletown is coming out
of a fabulous year of growth and momentum,” Greenham said. “ In 2016, we had 20
new street-level businesses join us, not including the 12 new studios and
microbusinesses that went into the Pendleton
became a full-time employee last April, expects that trend to continue, with
more businesses filling vacant storefronts.
has never been higher for businesses searching for both retail and restaurant
space, with an uptick in both millennials and baby boomers searching for living
space within the district,” Greenham said.
planning to open soon include Liberty Spirits, Central Tap & Pint, The
Slice, Rolling Mills Brewing Company, and Gracie’s, a “big-city comfort-food”
restaurant coming to the former TV Middletown building.
The city will
also look to continue growing business in its East end. While Elder-Beerman
announced it would be closing its location at Towne Mall Galleria in Middletown at the end of
this month, several new businesses have opened in the area, including a Buffalo
Wild Wings, Aspen Dental and Planet Fitness.
Middletown’s Women’s Wine & Chocolate Walk on
May 14 was a sold-out event. Organizers estimate as many as 70 percent of the
400 attendees were from outside the Middletown
area. Mica Glaser (pictured) is one of three owners of The Windamere Event
Venue and Art Gallery, which was the starting site for
the third annual event.
Community events to attract new visitors
events will also be a focus for the city in 2017. In 2016, the city put up digital billboards along I-75 and along Ohio 122 near the I-75 interchange to let
residents and the outside world know about things happening in the city.
holiday display Light Up Middletown continues to set record attendance.
Volunteers also recently planted several new trees at Smith Park,
where the event is held.
Middletown Inc. in 2016 scored big hits with such events as its Women’s Wine & Chocolate Walk and its Craft Beer Walk, with interest continuing to
estimated that half of each event’s participants came from outside the Middletown area, which
she previously told the Journal-News was “always good to get fresh eyes and get
The city also
plans to hold a Fourth of July fireworks display in 2017. Adkins in recent
months has said the city’s Independence Day fireworks, which make for the
city’s biggest party of the year, will return in 2017 for a third straight
Wastewater Treatment Plant on Oxford
State Road. In October, City Manager Doug Adkins
proposed an increase in sewer rates by 15 percent; water rates by 7.5 percent;
and garbage/recycling charges by 5.3 percent during a budget presentation.
Possible water, sewer rate increases
reported in the Journal-News, Butler County commissioners have an interest in partnering with the city of Middletown on its water systems,
which could mean lower water bills for residents and businesses and more money
for the city to complete infrastructure improvements.
“We can deliver
water cheaper than they (Middletown)
can deliver it to themselves now,” Commissioner Don Dixon told the Journal-News
Adkins proposed an increase in sewer rates by 15 percent; water
rates by 7.5 percent; and garbage/recycling charges by 5.3 percent during a
fee, now $14.25 per month, should rise to $15, Adkins suggested to council,
because environmental regulators are requiring additional methane monitoring at
the city’s landfill.
residential sewer bill is $28.15 per sewer, based on use of 600 cubic feet of
water per month, and that would rise about $4.22 per month. The typical
residential water rate would climb from $20.60 per month by about $1.55.
“This is not
raising to just take money,” Adkins told council in October. “We have projects
scheduled to use that money, and continue to upgrade our water and sewer
infrastructure. And again, the whole idea behind this was to increase more now,
over the next few years, so when the larger expenses for the long-term control
plan came, we weren’t making huge, 20-, 30-, 40-percent increases down the
road. We could spread them out over time, get the benefit of having them now.”
Layoffs may be needed
The city could
be forced to make difficult budget decisions in 2017. The city’s 2017 spending
plan is so tight, Adkins warned council in December, that layoffs of city
employees may be required.
The city is
experiencing financial problems because it is self-insured for its employee
health care and expenses have been significantly above expectations, Adkins
told council last month.
Because of the
higher health-care costs, the council approved transfer of $1.25 million from
the city’s general fund — essentially, its checking account that is used for
most purposes — to the city’s employee benefits fund, a month after City
Council approved the 2017 general-fund spending plan of $30.3 million. That
$1.25 million will serve as a loan to that fund. It follows a $750,000 transfer
last year to the same fund.
moves, including leaving vacant positions open until at least June, are in
place. And if things don’t improve, layoffs are possible, city council was told
Central Connections, which provides
home-delivered meals, transportation and independent-living help to older
Middletown-area residents, hopes to put a tax-levy renewal on the May ballot to
help pay off the mortgage on its building at 3909 Central Ave.
Voters may see tax issue on ballot
week took the necessary step of approving a resolution that asks the Butler and Warren county
auditors to calculate Middletown’s
total current tax valuation and the dollar amount that would be generated by a
1-mill senior services levy within city limits.
told in December the organization had been unable to pay off its mortgage with
its first levy due to $450,000 in annual budget cuts from Butler County.
With this levy
— unless there again are significant state-driven budget cuts — Central
Connections should be able to pay off the mortgage that remains on its
approximately $1,260,000 in principal and also build a fund to maintain the
building, according to Richard “Dick” Isroff, a Central Connections board
member and levy co-chairman.