So we come to the end of another year in Middletown. I’m happy to say it’s been a productive year that moved us a little closer to sustainable revenues and better infrastructure.
We are fortunate to have over three-quarters of a billion dollars in new projects recently completed or underway in Middletown for 2017 including the new NTE Power Plant ($600 million), the official opening of the AK Research and Innovation Center ($36 million), construction on the new Kettering Health Network Emergency Room/Outpatient facility at the I-75 Interchange ($30 million), $90 million in new schools for MCSD under way that will be completed in 2018, OPUS – with construction starting in 2018 on a 600,000 sq ft spec logistics center in MADE Industrial Park ($12+ million), Cohen opened an Electronics Recycling Center and is completing work on a new headquarters in Middletown, Cincinnati Eye Institute expanded to a new facility on the Atrium Campus, Baker Stevens Parramore Funeral Home opened a second location in 2017, the BP Gas station at the I-75 Interchange finally became a reality, Dedicated Motivated Fitness invested $600,000 in a long time empty, blighted building to create a beautiful fitness center, and Hardee’s is nearing completion on Breiel Boulevard.
Downtown Middletown, which saw 23 new business openings in 2016, continued to expand with 2017 openings by Gracie’s, the Slice, Liberty Spirits Distillery , Rolling Mills Brewing Company, Spoken Bicycles, Grandpa Joe’s Candy and Blast Furnace Pizza. In early 2018, we add new businesses already underway with a new O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and a BMW Motorcycle store in the old Senior Citizens Center.
Our Municipal Airport received and utilized a $1.1 million grant to repave all taxiways, ramps and aprons this year. We replaced an antiquated weather system and will be working in 2018 to look at airport lighting and other repairs. We continue to work with the Start Skydiving team to develop an indoor wind tunnel for the airport to add to the regional draw at that facility.
Our Small Business Development Center, which operates out of the City building had its most successful year to date. They were honored in 2017 by the State of Ohio Award as the Best Center, received the SBA Region 5 Award (5 surrounding states) as Best Center, and also won the National SBA Award. The national SBA looks at the 987 Centers operating throughout the United States. This was the first time the National Award had been presented to an Ohio Center.
In December, the City established a PACE District. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) laws allow property owners to borrow money through governmental loans or bonds to pay for energy improvements to their properties. The amount borrowed is typically repaid via a special assessment on the property tax bill over a period of up to 30 years. The BMW store in the old Senior Citizens Center is expected to be the first user of PACE financing in Middletown, but ANY business making energy efficiency improvements anywhere in Middletown that meets the program requirements can use the PACE financing tool for items such as roofs/windows/HVAC/insulation/ lighting upgrades, etc.
In 2017, the Health Department completed a Community Health Assessment, identifying health threats to the community and populations that are being underserved in their health care due to age, location, or economic condition. We hope utilize this information in 2018 to start looking at ways to make inroads into the health of our residents throughout the city.
The Division of Fire utilized a SAFER Grant to bring on 12 new fire fighters. They completed a new Strategic Plan for the Fire Division in 2017, setting high level overall goals for the Division. Based on the goals established in the Strategic Plan, the Division of Fire will be working on a staffing and fire station location study in 2018 to design the best possible Fire Department to serve the city as it is currently built and to anticipate growth on the East End by the highway.
Our Heroin Response Team, made up of an EMS Paramedic, a MPD police officer and a Social Worker, reached out to addicts that were treated in Middletown in 2017. This team successfully referred over 250 people to treatment and their work will continue into 2018.
The additional fire staff brought on with the SAFER grant allowed the city to promote three new Lieutenants in 2018 whose main focus will be working on prevention efforts. This will include working with the Health Department on the conditions identified in the Community Health Assessment, continuing to look at the latest best practices in addressing opiate addiction, and addressing chronic, repeat EMS calls through community para-medicine techniques.
Community Para-medicine is a model of community-based health care in which paramedics function outside their customary emergency response and transport roles in ways that facilitate more appropriate use of emergency care resources and enhance access to primary care for medically under-served populations.
The Division of Police have recorded a 40% increase in drug arrests over 2016. We now utilize 5 K-9’s to combat opiate epidemic. MPD is in the process of adding new police software and technology that will give them real time crime data to make better and more timely staffing and enforcement decisions moving forward.
As usual, Chief Muterspaw has been everywhere in the community. MPD celebrated multiple community events in 2017 including National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop (quarterly), meeting with Middletown area pastors (quarterly), continued work with the Citizens Advisory Board, Candy with a Cop (distributing candy to children too sick or disabled to trick or treat), Shop with a Cop (to provide Christmas gifts to underprivileged children), and ongoing work with Middletown landlords.
We now have one Lieutenant who is assigned to nuisance enforcement throughout the city. In 2018, you will start to see the use of technology to track nuisance activity throughout the City, both in EMS service misuse/overuse and on problem properties, neighborhoods and hot spots. The goal is to reduce overall calls for public safety services over time.
Starting in May of 2017, I made a series of presentations on the City’s housing stock and the threats and opportunities facing Middletown moving into the future. A housing study was completed that outlined the current demand for new construction housing in the city, and we saw new residential construction starting to pick up this year. In Renaissance, Fischer is under construction or has completed 36 new higher-end homes. Nicholas Place Apartments on Towne Boulevard is nearing completion with the addition of 216 market rate apartments. Goetz Tower downtown has completed demolition. In 2018, they will build out the entire six story building with 1st floor offices and 16 luxury apartments. We are working with Ryan Homes to restart the Sawyers Mill subdivision which would add 152 new homes in the $150,000-225,000 range over the next three years.
2018 will see a complete revamp of the City’s Housing Policies. We will be working with the community to develop ways to improve housing conditions, housing values and reoccupy vacant homes. Those policies will likely include further demolition, renovation of existing homes, infill construction in limited areas, and a full use of the Butler County Land Bank. The goal of this work will be to start balancing our housing stock to be competitive in Southwest Ohio. Only when we have a better mix of desirable homes throughout the city will housing prices start to improve and stay higher into the future. We have a lot of work to do here yet.
While the City had many businesses that reached milestones this year, two of our largest are due special mention:
Middletown Regional Hospital/Atrium celebrated 100 years of operation in Middletown this year. Miami University Middletown, Ohio’s first regional campus, celebrated 50 years of operation in Middletown.
We saw the end of our first year of operation of the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) downtown. All in all, it went incredibly well and people have been respectful, threw away their trash, and thoroughly enjoyed attending events downtown and having an alcoholic beverage walking around as they did so. We look forward to more people and more events downtown in 2018.
July 4th activities were back in 2017, and the city hosted a number of other events including Balloon Fest, First Fridays, Taking it to the Streets summer concerts, Movies in the Park, Women Wine and Chocolate, Windamere themed dinners, parades and now Light Up Middletown.
2017 saw record income tax revenues in Middletown. We have a ton of work left to do, but we are heading in the right direction. With all of the new projects underway, Middletown is living up to its motto of a Bright Past and a Brighter Future.