2013: A year of change in Plain City
Rob Treynor Assistant Editor
2013 was a transitional year for Plain City.
“The one consistent thing in 2013 was change,” Mayor Sandra Adkins said on Friday, Dec. 27. “Change is usually a consistent thing with government, so it’s not like it’s anything new.”
Still, Adkins said all of that change could be trying at times this past year.
“It felt like we just had to keep dealing with issues instead of trying to find our footing,” she said.
Reflecting on the past year in Plain City, it became apparent the mayor was right.
— Steve Hilbert, after 17 years in Plain City’s public sector, stepped down from his job as Village Administrator on April 19. Hilbert began his career with the Ohio Highway Patrol, where he worked for 14 years before being recruited to become chief of the Plain City police force.
For four years, starting in 2004, Hilbert held the dual role of chief of police and village administrator.
“The village staff is great. Most people don’t understand the amount of hard work and dedication that is put into running Plain City,” Hilbert said last April.
Adkins appointed village council president pro tem Kevin Vaughn to replace Hilbert as the village administrator.
“The transition from Hilbert to myself went extremely smoothly,” Vaughn said.
Bob Walter, no stranger to the village, was appointed to replace Vaughn on council. Walter has sat on council in the past.
— In February, Eamon Costello stepped down from his position as the village’s solicitor. He was replaced by Paul-Michael La Fayette.
“I’m comfortable that the guy following me will do more than adequate of a job,” Costello said of La Fayette during his last meeting as solicitor.
Costello, a Plain City resident, went on to be appointed common pleas judge for Madison County, replacing long-sitting Judge Robert D. Nichols.
— A grassroots group demanding the police force be restored to 2012 levels found traction early in the 2013. Enough villagers showed up to voice their concerns with village council that meetings had to be held in Pastime Park’s youth building.
A desire to see the police budget restored nearly stalled the entire village budget. Police supporters refused to support the village budget until the police funding was restored. At a special meeting of council on the last day a budget could be passed, councilman Doug Saxour voted in opposition to passing a permanent budget for the 2013 year. Supporters did not have enough votes to pass the village budget as an emergency and it appeared the village operations would stop the next day. Eventually La Fayette was reached by telephone. He encouraged the council to pass a budget. Council rescinded the vote, then voted again, this time passing the budget.
Ultimately, council approved a ballot measure proposed by Plain City Police Chief Jim Hill, putting a .25 percent income tax increase on the November ballot for the specific purpose of restoring the force to 2012 levels.
The income tax levy eventually failed, by a small margin. While 442 Plain City voters were in favor of the tax, 457 were against it.
— One of the casualties of the economic downturn of the last few years was Plain City’s fireworks.
The village had cut 2013’s fireworks from the budget in 2012, much to chagrin of many villagers. Resident Leslie Perkins helped to head up a grassroots fund-raising effort to restore fireworks to Pastime Park in 2014. The group’s efforts paid off, and will pay for fireworks next Fourth of July.
— Six months after being hired, Pleasant Valley Joint Fire District chief Mark Kidd had a serious test of leadership when the 10,000 square foot Bindery and Specialties Pressworks building, 351 W. Bigelow Ave., went up in flames. Fifty-seven pieces of firefighting equipment from eight area companies fought the blaze.
“It was pretty turbulent,” Kidd said in July. “Brown smoke was pushing from the eaves and the walls of the back corner of the building.”
“The heat doubled our manpower needs,” Kidd said of the number of companies that responded, which equated to four alarms. “It was dangerous because of the heat index that was above 100 degrees. You can’t cool off or stay hydrated in those conditions.”
Plain City Village Administrator Kevin Vaughn was also present at the scene.
“We realized it was a good size fire,” Vaughn said. “We activated two high pressure pumps (at the village water plant) to assure a steady flow of water and a consistent level of water pressure.”
Vaughn added that the village tried to assist firefighters in whatever they needed including traffic control and street closures.
“All the different departments worked together. The level of professionalism and efforts and the way the guys handled themselves was unbelievable,” Kidd said.
— At Pastime Park, the campground saw its largest profit, with income at $39,425 for 2013 (up almost $7000 from 2012).
Revenues at the aquatic center, however, were significantly down. “The weather hampered pool sales, but everything ran smoothly and we’re happy with attendance,” Vaughn said.
In 2013, pool daily sales, memberships, rental and concessions income came in at $93,990 for the village, compared to $131,442 in 2012.
Plain City fiscal officer Renee Van Winkle said the village hopes to have website registration for the campground and the pool in place some time in 2014.
— The transitions look to continue this January as Leslie Perkins, Nicholas Kennedy and Colleen Davis join the Plain City Village Council. The three will be replacing Saxour, Todd Skidmore and long-time councilman Mark Hostetler.
Skidmore lost in a re-election bid in the November election. Saxour and Hostetler were not on the November ballot.
The mayor said she couldn’t remember a time when this many council members left at once.
“It’s a big shift, which is not a bad thing,” Adkins said, “But, still, it’s a big change.”
She added, “I hope it doesn’t mean that we become tunnel-visioned. I hope the new council members can help us work as a unit to get things done and not get sidetracked by personal agendas. I hope we can make good strides this next year and see progress across the board.”
Pointing to the Oak Grove housing development as an example, Adkins said, “We have some real positive things that we’re looking at for 2014.”
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