GREEN Using the backdrop of the city’s “Healthy Green Initiative,” Green Mayor Gerard Neugebauer’s 2020 state of the city address Jan. 30 at Raintree Golf and Event Center, concentrated on the “health” of the city’s finances, current and upcoming projects and its future.
“We are a healthy city with strong financials that afford us the amenities and services we all expect, including a great park system, robust safety services and well-maintained roadways,” Neugebauer said. “We are a healthy city because we have strong, sustainable business and job growth that continues to outpace our residential growth.”
The mayor went on to detail how the city has been able to maintain these things due to a number of advantages, including Green’s location along Interstate 77, availability of land for growth, diverse business base, school system, and municipal employees, elected officials and community volunteers.
Financial picture – then and now
Neugebauer said Green has been blessed to have had mayors and administrations that focused on maintaining a strong general fund balance and “superior credit ratings.”
“However, when I assumed office in 2016, the city carried over $60 million in debt,” he said. “It was necessary and right to incur debt to build our city and school infrastructure to enable sustainable growth; I felt our city should reduce our debt level.”
In the past four years, Neugebauer said, the city has been able to eliminate a quarter of that debt, a reduction of $16.3 million.
“Now, in 2020, the city will once again incur new debt for the Massillon Road North project, a significant roadway improvement project that was initiated 10 years ago,” Neugebauer said.
Due the “aggressive” reduction in debt over the past four years, the mayor said, the cost of this project can be taken on as debt while keeping the city’s total debt below $50 million.
“A healthy level for a community of our size and sustainable revenues,” Neugebauer said.
He also pointed out that the city’s income tax revenue increased 2 percent, to a total of $24.7 million in 2019. This follows a four-year trend that has seen Green’s income tax revenues increase by 14 percent, or more than $3 million annually, since 2015.
“Now if you compare 2018 to 2019, 2018 revenues were significantly higher because of two one-time payments, including $7.5 million from our NEXUS settlement,” Neugebauer said. “While there have been fluctuations in other (revenue) sources – from one-time payments or the timing of grant monies – we are seeing consistent revenues of $12 million to $14 million annually.”
The city’s overall expenses, including both operating costs and debt service, were $29.6 million, a 5.4 percent decrease from 2018.
“Even more significantly,” Neugebauer said. “(Expenses were) below our spending levels in 2015.”
With 2019 revenues at “just over $40 million,” the mayor said this has left the city with $11.4 million in “discretionary funds” that have been used for projects such as the completion of the Corporate Woods roundabout and construction of the Myersville Road roundabout; the beginning of construction on the city’s third fire station; rebuilding of the historic Lichtenwalter Schoolhouse, which was destroyed by arson in 2016; completion of the Ariss Dog Park; and more than $3 million in roadway resurfacing.
Roundabouts and more roundabouts
Allowing that motorists “love them, or not so much,” Neugebauer made no bones about his affection for traffic roundabouts.
“We continue to build them because they move traffic effectively and are far safer than traditional signalized intersections,” Neugebauer said, adding that the cost of constructing roundabouts is roughly the same – or less – than a standard intersection.
In 2019, the city completed its fifth roundabout, with plans to begin construction on two roundabouts at Massillon Road and Corporate Woods Circle and Boettler Road, a third at Arlington and Greensburg roads, by 2021.
The city will also undertake its largest infrastructure improvement in its history in 2020 and continuing through the fall of 2021.
The $14.5 million project is being funded in part by $4.6 million in federal grants, Neugebauer said.
“When completed, this busy two-lane road from I-77 to just north of State Route 619 will be transformed into a four-lane boulevard with three roundabouts, a center median, a multipurpose trail, and sidewalks,” Neugebauer said. “The corridor will offer safe pedestrian and bicycling access, efficiently handling our vehicular traffic volumes 20 years into the future.”
In the area of safety services, the most noteworthy project in 2019 was the groundbreaking on the city’s third fire station, at the corner of Raber and Mayfair roads. The station is expected to be open in May.
“The station will significantly improve response times in the most densely populated area of our city,” Neugebauer said.
The Green Division of Fire responded to 4,179 calls for service in 2019, an 8.5 percent increase over 2018 and averaging 12 calls per day.
“Most of our calls, 80 percent, are medical emergencies,” Neugebauer said.
The city also upgraded its Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system in partnership with other Summit County communities in 2019. Neugebauer said Green Fire now has the ability to “seamlessly share information” with the Summit County Sheriff’s Department and other municipalities during an emergency. He thanked Summit County Executive specifically for her leadership and added that the partnership has saved the city nearly $50,000.
The mayor also recognized the city’s addressing of the opioid crisis through the ongoing work of the Green Quick Response Team and the establishment of a Community of First Responders program that has led to Naloxboxes, containing Narcan, at five hotels along the I-77 corridor and at the Akron-Canton Airport.
The city also became the first community in Ohio to launch a Community Paramedicine program, which includes visits from fire department personnel when residents return home from a hospital or nursing facility.
Founded and led by firemedic Brian Lloyd, the program helps residents understand their medications, identifies other needs, and connects them to resources.”
Neugebauer also thanked members of the Summit County Sheriff’s Department for the city’s “long partnership” with the agency and personally thanked retiring Sheriff and Green resident, Steve Barry for his service.
Parks, new business and more
The state of the city address also noted the ongoing city parks master plan process, as the city now owns more than 717 acres of parkland and greenspace, including 147 acres at Raintree, which the city purchased in January 2019.
Neugebauer again thanked Summit County officials for their assistance in offering incentives that allowed two tech companies – Surgere and Glassdoor – to remain in the city. The companies expect to hire 109 and 40 new employees respectively in the next several years.
Other noteworthy business expansions included Castle Aviation and its construction of a 51,000 square foot hanger at the former 356 Fighter Group building; and Ball Corp’s expansion with a 50,000 square foot addition to its building.
New business openings included Seco Machine, bringing 94 jobs; Fed Ex Freight, anticipating 125 new jobs; The Village of St. Edward, with an anticipated staff of 80; Kempthorn Jaguar and Land Rover; Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers; Chipotle at Heritage Crossings, The Town Tavern, Deluca’s Pizza, and TBubbles.
While new single-family housing starts were down by about half of the city’s 10-year average 60 per year, construction of maintenance-free community housing was up.
“These types of developments, not all restricted to 55 or older, are highly desired by empty nesters and young professionals alike,” Neugebauer said.
The mayor also touched on the city’s strong community volunteer base; its efforts to address diversity on city boards and commissions; and accomplishments of students and athletes at Green Local Schools, particularly the Green High School STEM and Science Clubs.
“I sometimes think their enthusiasm is unreasonable,” Neugebauer said of the STEM and Science Club members with a laugh. “They know no boundaries yet, which is what makes working with these young scientists so exciting.”
Neugebauer also took the occasion of the state of the city address to announce the opening of the reconstructed Lichtenwalter Schoolhouse.
“Since the arson, it’s been a long and bumpy road through insurance claims, planning and reconstruction,” he said. “But I am pleased to say we have rebuilt the Lichtenwalter Schoolhouse for generations to come.”
Green Local Schools' third-graders will again be able to attend class at the 1880s era one-room schoolhouse in May, Neugebauer said.
“In the end, we are truly blessed to call Green our home,” he said in conclusion. “When my term ends in four years, I hope to leave Green a better place, a richer community – inside and out – one that is healthy, strong, and better than the one we know today.”