GREEN During his annual state of the city address, Green Mayor Gerard Neugebauer provided an update on the past year in the city and looked ahead at 2019.
The theme of the address was "thriving togethe"r and was presented in front of about 300 people.
“As a whole, our community is blessed to be thriving together,” Neugebauer said. “This past year we have been met with many challenges, but also many blessings as we continue to grow, prosper and thrive as a community.”
One area Neugebauer has worked on is reducing the city’s debt. He said when he took office in 2016, the city had more than $60 million in debt. Now, the debt has been paid down more than $13.5 million and the city plans to pay down $2.5 million in 2019.
He said the city didn’t take on any new debt with the construction of the state Route 619 and Pickle Road roundabout, but he anticipates taking on debt for the upcoming Massillon Road north project.
In 2018, the city’s total revenue was $46.7 million. Income tax revenues rose to $24.2 million, a $1.2 million increase over 2017.
“We closely track income tax as the most important indicator of the economic health of our city,” Neugebauer said. “So, by the numbers, I’d say we are thriving.”
In the category of other revenue, the city received $22.5 million, which is higher than past years. The reason for the higher amount is the $7.5 million the city received through the NEXUS settlement and $2.6 million received from a settlement with the developer of the Springhill property, which will relieve the city of $2.6 million in debt incurred in the early 2000s to construct sanitary sewer improvements for the development. The remainder of the revenue includes hotel bed taxes, federal and state grant money, license fees and property taxes.
While revenue increased, operating expenses for the city were at the lowest level in the past four years at $24.7 million.
“Part of this relates to our financial controls, which keep capital purchases out of the operating budgets,” Neugebauer said. “Part of this relates to significant investment over the last two years in technology to increase productivity. But largely it is a result of our focus to control costs and provide the best value and services to our residents.”
The city ended 2018 with $23.3 million in the general fund.
In 2018, the city spent $10.7 million on capital improvements with a significant amount going toward infrastructure. The city completed the third roundabout in the city at state Route 619 and Pickle Road in November and began construction of a roundabout at Corporate Woods Parkways and Corporate Woods Circle. The project is on hold because of weather and will be completed in the spring.
Construction of the fifth roundabout in the city also is expected to be completed in 2019 at the intersection of state Route 619 and Myersville Road. Neugebauer said the city expects to spend about $2.1 million for street resurfacing this year. Some of the projects include; Mayfair Road from Raber Road to state Route 619, a section of state Route 619 near Fortuna Drive, Massillon Road from Greensburg Park to Koons Road, Lauby Road from Mount Pleasant to Interstate 77 and several roads in the Pleasant Hills and Hillcrest Highland neighborhoods. Caston Road, paved in 2012, also will receive a pavement preservation treatment.
Neugebauer said, depending on the final bid packages and costs, the city might add more roads to the list. Design also is expected to begin this year on a roundabout for Arlington Road and Greensburg Road, Graybill Road and Mayfair Road and Corporate Woods Circle and Massillon Road. Design is expected to continue for the roundabout at Boettler Road and Massillon Road with the first public input meeting in the spring.
The city expects utility relocation to begin on Massillon Road north of Interstate 77 in late 2019 with construction taking place in 2020 and 2021. The Massillon Road north project includes three roundabouts, one at Raber, Stein and state Route 619. Neugebauer said the city first identified the need to improve Massillon Road north 10 years ago.
“Typically, projects receiving federal and state funds take longer to develop than those self-funded by the city,” Neugebauer said. “Our planning and engineer departments constantly work together to identify key areas of development or traffic congestion. They look for ways to leverage state and federal funds for future improvements, while doing their best to minimize disruption to the traveling public.”
In addition to roads, the city is investing in trails and making sidewalk connections. In 2018, the city developed a Master Trail Plan under the guidance of Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study. The city asked residents what connections they would like to see and they requested connecting neighborhoods to Central Park, connecting Central Park to Boettler Park and connecting to the Nimisila Reservoir.
“In response to feedback we have received to date, we are modifying the Master Trail Plan to refine some of the trail recommendations and clarifying text regarding the intent of the plan,” Neugebauer said. “Over the next few months, we will continue to solicit comments and feedback before formally adopting the plan.”
Neugebauer said he often hears Green is growing like crazy. He said while the city has grown, the pace has been consistent and sustainable.
“Our population has not grown significantly in the past 10 years,” Neugebauer said. “We have seen more growth in our industry and businesses, which has helped us grow income tax revenues and provided us the capital to make infrastructure improvements, enhance safety services, build parks and offer more amenities for our residents, all while balancing the high-quality residential nature of our city.”
In 2018, the airport began a $34 million gate expansion project, which is expected to be completed in 2021. The city welcomed several new businesses last year including Aldi’s, Chase Bank, The Ramp Restaurant, Liberty Green Quilt Shop, Belladonna Florist and Dental Support Services just to name a few.
In all, 33 businesses made Green their home in 2018.
Ground also was broken on several projects including Seco Machine constructing a 120,000 square foot office, warehouse and manufacturing facility at the southeast corner of Greensburg and Mayfair Roads.
FedEx Ground Crossdock Facility also broke ground on a 49,000 square foot office, warehouse and dispatch center located on Global Gateway. Finally, the Villages of St. Edward’s broke ground on an independent living, assisted living and memory care center located next to the Springhill Sports Complex on Fortuna Drive.
Parks and recreation
One of the biggest moves for the city in 2018 was purchasing 145 acres of land where Raintree Country Club is located. The city has renamed the facility Raintree Golf and Event Center, which it hopes all residents can use.
“While it was never in our plans to purchase a golf course, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase this beautiful land and preserve it as greenspace for our community,” Neugebauer said. “We also decided to continue to use the property as a golf course until we, as a community, decide on the best plan moving forward.”
The city didn’t want to run the course so it hired Billy Casper Golf to handle daily operations. The contract pays Billy Casper Golf a monthly fee to run the course with 85 percent of net profits generated coming to the city, which will be reinvested into the course and event center.
“It is our vision that this golf and event center be used by all our residents,” Neugebauer said. “First Tee will provide golf programs for boys and girls and promote the game for residents of all ages. Other city-sponsored events such as Octoberfest, 5K runs and cornhole tournaments are being planned to offer a variety of recreational opportunities for all residents.”
The city also opened four new Pickleball courts in 2018 and work began on creating a dog park at Ariss Park on Wise Road. The dog park is expected to have a grand opening April 26 and April 27.
In 2018, Green Fire responded to 3,852 calls for service as the city averages about 10.5 calls per day. The city has seen a gradual increase in call volume and the city is acquiring land to build a third fire station at the corner of Raber and Mayfair Roads.
Drug overdoses in Green remain down as Narcan was given 40 times, compared to 60 times in 2017 and 83 in 2016.
Neugebauer said he is pleased to announce a new initiative in public health and safety called the Green Community Paramedicine Program.
“This program will focus on residents who have a high probability of needing medical assistance,” Neugebauer said. “With this program, a firemedic will routinely visit an identified patient to take vitals, provide basic medical care, ensure medication compliance, answer medical questions, observe their living environment and connect them with other health and safety resources.”
Patients will be identified from previous calls for emergency services, upon release from hospitals or rehabilitation facilities and through referrals from other social services.
“What we like about the Community Paramedicine program is that our firemedics can complete the circle of care, offering support to our residents who are most in need,” Neugebauer said. “It will reduce the number of medical emergencies and hospital re-admissions by addressing medical concerns in a nonemergency setting.”