Community Building Institute update

The Community Building Institute Middletown, Inc. (CBI) is an asset based community development organization created in 2009. Dr. Kelly Cowan, former Dean of Miami University Middletown, partnered with the Community Building Institute out of Xavier University, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati and the Middletown Community Foundation to create Community Building Institute Middletown.

The Community Building Institute stepped up during the recession and kept the Robert “Sonny” Hill Jr. Community Center open by taking over operations at the building.

CBI is passionate to see Middletown transformed one child, one family, one neighborhood at a time. Their stated goals for Middletown are to see children adequately prepared to enter kindergarten, to have students reading on grade level by the third grade, to have youth set up for success post-graduation through college and career preparedness, and for families in poverty to be moved to self-sufficiency.

By helping families at every generational level, CBI has affected the community as a whole through sustainable programs that revitalize the Middletown area.

In 2017, CBI catalogued an impressive array of community support.

The Parent Resource Center at the Community Center gave away over 11,000 diapers to families in need, connected 75 children to early education programs to be better prepared for kindergarten, and met with over 200 parents to teach them the importance of early education programming.

PRIDE Academy served over 125 children in their after school program, with school age children engaging in enrichment activities such as yoga, music, STEM, tutoring in math and reading, all with a hot snack and hot meal.

The Future Center staff met with 95% of seniors at Middletown High School to create post graduation plans and 69 students and their families participated in FAFSA nights where they received support in completing financial aid information for post secondary schooling.

At the Community Center, CBI partnered with the Middletown City School District and the Butler County Educational Service Center to provide a full day early education classroom that currently serves 17 children. Evening program hours were extended to better serve the youth coming to the Center.

I was around when CBI was formed, and I was fortunate enough to celebrate Dr. Cowan’s retirement from the CBI Board this year after years of service to the community.

CBI continues to do great work in the city and I appreciate their dedication, their programming, and their heart for Middletown.

 

 

City Income Tax Filing Assistance

A reminder that City of Middletown Income taxes are due Tuesday, April 17 this year.  As always, residents can come into the tax office with their W2s and federal schedules and we are happy to complete their City of Middletown tax returns for free. In addition, as the filing deadline approaches, the City will have the following extended hours available to assist residents:

Friday 4/13/18                   8am – 6pm

Saturday 4/14/18             8am – 12pm

Monday 4/16/18              7am– 7pm

Tuesday 4/17/18              7am – 7pm 

Tax forms were NOT sent out by mail this year.  Postcards were sent out instead, and residents can call the Tax Department at 513-425-7862 or email itax@cityofmiddletown.org if they need a form.  Generic forms are accepted. 

rawpixel-com-586673-unsplash

People sometimes forget to file their city income tax forms when completing their state and federal returns.  Don’t forget us!  Your tax dollars fund everything the city does from public safety to paving, to maintenance at the parks.

The Income Tax Department stands ready to assist you.
Residents can also use the fillable PDF available on the City’s website – print and sign it, and mail it in with your attachments (W2’s, 1040, etc).  The online pdf can be accessed at:

https://www.cityofmiddletown.org/DocumentCenter/View/686

 

 

 

City of Middletown Charter Review

About every 10 years, the city performs a review of our City Charter, which lays out the basic structure of the municipal government.  2018 will be a Charter review year, and the information below lays out the basic process and purpose of reviewing the Charter from time to time.

What is the City Charter?

The City Charter is the local equivalent to a state or federal constitution. It defines the relationship between the government and its people. It is the “supreme law” of the City of Middletown. Under the Ohio Constitution, a charter allows a municipality to structure its government as it sees fit. In addition, the City Charter gives Middletown the ability to exercise “home rule” powers by its processes.

What is the purpose of the Charter Review Committee?

Article 1, Section 5 of the City Charter establishes the Charter Review Committee. This group is responsible for reviewing the Charter and recommending to City Council any alterations, revisions, and amendments to this Charter as in its judgment seem advisable. A committee must be formed once every 10 years to review the Charter.

Charter Review Process / Anticipated Schedule

City Council appointed the committee members at the February 20th City Council meeting. The Committee had their first meeting this week. We expect to have two meetings per month through May (or June if necessary). Meetings will be facilitated by Special Counsel, Les Landen. Members of the committee include:

Juan Helvey
John Langhorne
Greg Martin
Lauren Matus
Joseph Newlin
Rick Pearce
Jeff Repper

June 19th          Submit report containing any recommendations to City Council

July 17th           City Council votes on amendments to be placed on the ballot

August 8th        Deadline to file approved amendments with the Board of Elections

If you have any questions about the Charter or the process feel free to contact Les Landen at 727-3673 or by email at lesl@cityofmiddletown.org.

MetroParks of Butler County and the Middletown River Center

Although it’s still chilly, spring is around the corner.  No… really.  It is.

If you are a Middletown resident, you may not be aware that MetroParks of Butler County has eleven parks open to the public with nearly 5,000 acres of green space with recreational opportunities spread throughout the county.

You can see access the many parks available at:  https://www.yourmetroparks.net/

Visitors may spend time enjoying hiking, biking, running or walking on various natural and paved trails at various park system facilities. Many play areas, fishing spots, reservable facilities, shelters and campsites, as well as a dog park are available. There is water recreation through creeking, rentable kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, and stand-up paddleboards. All allow for numerous sources of family fun!

Construction recently began on the River Center, located at 120 South Carmody Boulevard in Middletown, Ohio. The location, chosen due to its proximity to Downtown Middletown and the Great Miami River Trail, will attract visitors to the trail and usage of the AK Pavilion both of which have been assets which have been previously underutilized.

River Center Construction 2

The River Center will play an active role in the ongoing revitalization of downtown Middletown. It is expected have a positive impact on revenue generation in the region as out of town visitors, of the trail and river, will likely spend time in downtown Middletown businesses and special events, as well. This potential regional impact played a big role in the $1 Million State Capital Grant Dollars which were leveraged for the construction.

The River Center is at the trailhead for the 9-mile Great Miami River Trail, Middletown segment, that is managed MetroParks of Butler County in partnership with the City of Middletown and Miami Conservancy District. The trail will eventually be connected via Franklin to Dayton and beyond in 2020 for a total of 67 connected miles and to the south of the City of Fairfield.

River Center Rendering 01-09-18 w Title Block - Resized 20%

River Center features will include:

• 41 parking spaces

• Reservable meeting room Capacity 56

• Kitchenette

• Welcome center / pre-function space

• Restrooms

• Drinking fountain

• Program office

• Ranger office

At a total cost of $1.4 Million, with $1 Million of that supported by a capital grant from the State of Ohio, the Middletown River Center is being built by Turnbull-Wahlert Construction, Inc. The projected completion date is Summer of 2018.

A fun fact about the construction is that storm water from paved areas will be captured and infiltrated on-site, to help to keep the river clean.

A second fun fact about MetroParks is that their Public Safety team is led by Middletown’s former police Chief David VanArsdale!

The Great Miami River Trail in the project area will be closed during construction. Trail users are advised to please use Carmody Boulevard as a detour around the site.

Upcoming Special Events & Programs throughout MetroParks of Butler County include:

• Show and Tell on the Farm Thursdays 6:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. & Sundays 2:00 p.m. 4:00 p.m. Chrisholm MetroPark Historic Farmstead

• Dog Gone Bone Hunt Sunday, March 25, 2018- Rentschler Forest MetroPark Reigart Road Area

• Kites N MPX Saturday, April 7, 2018 Voice of America MetroPark

• Garden Explorers & Junior Master Gardeners Camps Saturdays, April 28 & September 15 Chrisholm MetroPark Historic Farmstead

• Spring & Summer Camps Various dates & locations in April – September

• Big Week of Birding in Butler County Saturday, April 28 Saturday, May 5, 2018 Various times & locations around the county

• Hump Day Concert Series Wednesdays, May 30 August 22, 2018 (excluding July 4th)

• Crazy Cardboard Regatta July 14, 2018 Voice of America MetroPark

• Mud Mania August 10 & 11, 2018 Rentschler Forest MetroPark Reigart Road Area

More information about Programming and Events can be found at http://reservations.yourmetroparks.net/programs/

City Master Plan Update

Nearly 15 years have passed since Middletown adopted its last Master Plan and a lot has changed for the City since 2005. The City achieved many of the objectives and strategies described in the 2005 Plan, and now it’s time to re-evaluate the future direction.

A Master Plan is intended to be a blueprint that will guide the development of the City and will address a number of key topics including housing, development, and revitalization. The updated Master Plan will be a graphically-rich, streamlined document that will used for marketing purposes, grant writing, as well as a tool for directing future development.

Over the last two years, the City has worked with community groups such as Middletown Moving Forward and Downtown Middletown, Inc. to host visioning meetings to determine the needs and wants of residents and stakeholders for the City’s future. The City adopted the final community visioning document in 2017 for inclusion in the new overall Master Plan.

The City adopted its new zoning code this month, which will again provide best practices currently being utilized in Ohio for city-wide development.

In 2017, the City adopted the Downtown Middletown Strategic Plan and completed a city-wide Housing Study that determined the strengths and weaknesses in Middletown’s housing stock.

In 2018, the City will be completing a new Airport Master Plan, which will lay out future development of the 50+ acres available on the airport property.

2018 will start our review of the City park system and the future return of Recreation to the city.

All of these components will serve as the framework and the majority of the focus of the work will be on overall city land use and special planning areas.

As each of the above areas are defined, one of the last pieces will be a transportation study to determine the best way to move people as pedestrians, bicyclers, and by automobile and to determine the best uses for public transit given the other priorities in the plan.

The City chose the consulting firm McBride Dale Clarion to lead the work for the Master Plan update. They were chosen based on their previous performance on work completed for the City. McBride Dale Clarion is a consulting firm based out of Cincinnati, Ohio that focuses on comprehensive and land use planning, zoning codes and development services.

McBride Dale Clarion’s Master Plan update phases:

  1. Project Understanding and Initiation
  2. Analysis and Assessment
  3. Land Use Framework
  4. Plan Development
  5. Plan Review and Adoption

As a part of the planning process, the City of Middletown has formed a twelve member volunteer Advisory Committee for the Master Plan. The overall role of the members of the Advisory Committee will be to assist with the planning process by working with city staff and consultants by being the sound board and review body for the Master Plan. Members that were nominated to serve on the committee have a wide range of expertise, and most importantly, have pride in Middletown.

Advisory Committee members include representatives from:

  • City Council
  • Planning Commission
  • Middletown City Schools
  • Cincinnati State
  • Miami University
  • AK Steel
  • Atrium Medical
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Real Estate
  • Other Business Stakeholders and Expertise

The Master Plan Advisory Committee will meet monthly starting in late February and will work with City staff and consultants over the next 10 months. The goal is to adopt the Master Plan in December 2018.

If you have any questions regarding the Middletown Master Plan Update process, please contact Ashley Combs, City Planner, at 513-425-7922 or ashleyc@cityofmiddletown.org.

Middletown Development Code

 

On February 6, 2018 the City Council had a public hearing and a first reading on the newly drafted Middletown Development Code (formerly known as the Planning and Zoning Ordinance). City Council passed the new code at the February 20th City Council meeting, and the new code will take effect March 1, 2018.

Why are we adopting a new development code?

The City initiated the Planning and Zoning ordinance update in 2015 because our current zoning code is outdated to current practices and many provisions are almost unenforceable under Ohio law as it stands today.

Most of the City’s current zoning code was adopted in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The nature of zoning law and property rights under Ohio law has changed a lot over the past 50 years, and many of our old code sections simply were too vague or inconsistent with current Ohio law to be enforceable.

What process was used to develop the new Middletown Development Code?

For the past three years the Planning and Zoning Department worked closely with our zoning code consultant, Compass Pointe Planning, on the update of the Planning and Zoning Ordinance. Planning staff also worked with Planning Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals, outside legal counsel and other city departments, and sought feedback from community groups such as Downtown Middletown Inc. and Middletown Moving Forward. Staff encouraged citizen input through the development code update website and hosted a public open house that showcased the new ordinance compared to the current ordinance and answered questions.

What can be expected with the new Middletown Development Code?

A fully modern development code, consistent with current Ohio law and best practices throughout the State of Ohio. Those who rely on the code for making business decisions should notice:

    1. Streamlined regulations to make it easier to invest and to do business in Middletown.
    2. That the Code addresses modern uses and zoning issues.
    3. That the new Code makes it easier to understand and use the zoning regulations and processes, with clear descriptions of what is and is not permitted.
    4. That the new Code eliminates inconsistencies and provide for clearer definitions.
    5. That the new Code allows for strict enforcement of the Development Code .

The Middletown Development Code will become effective and enforced starting March 1, 2018. One more piece of the new City Master Plan is now complete and ready for action.

If you have any questions regarding the Middletown Development Code, please contact Ashley Combs, City Planner, at 513-425-7922 or ashleyc@cityofmiddletown.org.

EPA Sewer Agreement Information

Over the weekend, an inaccurate story came out regarding the Long Term Control Plan we agreed upon with the EPA. The news station who posted the article has since updated the story with an Editor’s Note, but we know there are questions and want to clarify as much as possible. 

This is all part of the Long Term Control Plan that we’ve been talking about as a city and with the EPA for over ten years. The lawsuit discussed in the story is the completion of the process, not the beginning.  The Consent Decree in the lawsuit represents the completed deal.

Every city in Ohio that was built in the same time frame as Middletown is going through this process and also has had to address these issues. That was the standard construction of sewers at the time.  It was the best practice in place at the time, over 100 years ago.  If you look at my earlier blog posts, you can see the large number of cities that have been or are going through this exact same process.  

The EPA didn’t file the suit until now because we were working together to resolve the situation.  Every Ohio city that has already executed their consent decree but hasn’t fully completed their obligations is still likely in violation in some manner with EPA regulations.

We issued a press release in December to further clarify the actions being taken: 

For Immediate Release

Agreement to Clean Water Act Proposed Consent Decree by Middletown, Ohio

Middletown, OH (December 21, 2017) — The City of Middletown, Ohio has agreed to the terms of a proposed consent decree with the United States and the State of Ohio to resolve threatened U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA enforcement claims under the Clean Water Act due primarily to combined sewer overflows (CSO’s). The proposed consent decree includes three major work components: 1.) Implementation of a Long-Term Control Plan (LTCP) to reduce CSO’s into the Great Miami River; 2.) Commitment to planned sewer system rehabilitation; and 3.) Commitment to planned waste water treatment plant (WWTP) rehabilitation. All of these components are to be implemented over 25 years (by 2043). The City’s agreement allows the City to avoid protracted, costly and disruptive federal court litigation, the results of which would be uncertain.

“This mutual agreement allows the City to prioritize critical infrastructure improvements to the sewer system and treatment plant that were already planned while improving water quality in the Great Miami River,” said City Manager Doug Adkins. “These improvements align with the City’s overall revitalization efforts to make Middletown a great place to live, work, and grow, transitioning from our bright past to our brighter future.”

Proposed Consent Decree Agreement Basics

  1. Long-Term Control Plan
  2. Construction of two large storage tanks and associated pump stations
  3. Storm Water Redirection Project including new storm sewer and pump station
  4. Green Infrastructure Project to divert storm water flow tributary to the Combined Sewer System into a regional detention basin
  5. Estimated Cost $112 million
  6. Sewer System Rehabilitation
  7. Rehabilitation of 40 miles of sewer pipewhich is at or near the end of its useful life
  8. Estimated Cost $74 million
  9. WWTP Rehabilitation
  10. Critical rehabilitation and upgrades to major treatment plant components which are necessary for the plant to remain viable over the next 25 years
  11. Estimated Cost $79 million

In addition, the City has agreed to complete a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) to significantly reduce the civil penalty for the alleged violations. The SEP includes capping of sediments in a designated section of the Hydraulic Canal adjacent to the STM/Wrenn Site. The project allows the City to obtain a “Covenant Not to Sue” from the Ohio EPA for the site under the Voluntary Action Program, which in turn will allow for future redevelopment of the site. The civil penalty has been reduced to $55,000 in consideration of this project.

“This project is a “win-win” for the City and Ohio EPA,” said Adkins. “It will create a clean, shovel-ready building site for future development consistent with the Downtown Master Plan.”

The proposed consent decree has now been filed in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The filling will initiate a 30-day comment period. Should no significant comments be received objecting to the agreement, the US Department of Justice is expected to file a motion asking the court to enter the proposed consent decree as final and effective.

###

This plan helps to fix a century-old problem. It is a solution that not only solves the EPA combined sewer issue, but also upgrades our sewer plants and associated piping to maintain viability of our water and sewer infrastructure into the future. It also improves quality of the water in the river and addresses an old industrial brownfield site, making it available for redevelopment.