Housing Meeting May 24th

Our first housing committee meeting was May 24th in City Council chambers. Committee members include:

Doug Adkins                                        City Manager and Facilitator

Steve Bohannon                                  Council Rep

Ami Vitori                                             Council Alternate

Ashley Combs                                     City Planner

Pastor Torri Colts                                  Public member and CARE

Celeste Didlick-Davis                          Public member and CARE

Jason Hightower                                 Local businessman and CARE

Wendy Hunter                                     Residential Realtor at Coldwell Banker Oyer

Marc Dixon                                          Residential Banker at Guardian Savings

Lenny Robinson                                  Local Developer

Walter Leap                                         Local Realtor and Landlord

Dan Fishbaugh                                    Fishbaugh Homes, new construction

Dickey Brandon                                   Local Home Remodeler and Landlord

Wanda Glover                                     Second Ward Community Council

MPD, MFD, and Health Dept               As needed for various issues

You can view the video of this meeting on the Housing web page at Housing-Information  and click on the link at  Housing Policy Meeting May 24, 2018  

I laid out a plan to look at global issues facing our housing stock and then specific issues that we could tackle on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis.  The Global issues include:

Global Issue One – Tax Delinquent Property

Global Issue Two – Vacant Residential Property

Global Issue Three – Vacant Residential Land

Global Issue Four – Property Maintenance Code Compliance

Global Issue Five – Housing Buffer Around Heavy Industry Areas

Global Issue Six – Home Ownership

Global Issue Seven – Rental Housing

Global Issue Eight – Overabundance of Less Competitive Housing

Global Issue Nine –  Healthy Neighborhood Infrastructure

Global Issue Ten – Non-Infrastructure Aspects of a Health Neighborhood

Global Issue Eleven –  Unintended Consequences of Housing Choices – Gentrification

Global Issue Twelve – Selection of a Neighborhood for Revitalization

As we get through these global issues, it should be easier to look at specific neighborhoods and make determinations as to what should be done and where exceptions to the policy need to be reviewed.

My guess is that this is a several months long process with a lot of hard discussions.  That’s ok.  We’re long past due to deal with these issues.  They are very difficult and hopefully we can work as a community to resolve issues that have long kept us from being the best city we can be.

It’s my first priority for the rest of the year…. Wish me luck.

Housing Policies

As part of the updated City Master Plan process, the city will be completing a comprehensive review of our housing stock and the policies surrounding housing in 2018.

I spent a lot of 2017 talking about why we need to do better with our housing stock.

According to the Butler County Auditor, from 2011-2015, Middletown housing decreased in overall value by $58,367,350 during a time when most Butler County communities were starting to see improvements after the recession.

It made me ask why…

Below is the 1963 Master Plan map showing deteriorated and dilapidated neighborhoods….

1963 Neighborhoods

It looks a lot like the same neighborhoods we discuss as troubled today. For 55 years we’ve looked at this and said “that’s a problem,” but we weren’t able to resolve the housing disinvestment and neighborhood deterioration in any meaningful way.

I’m going to try to reverse that trend. I don’t want it to get to 75 years and we are still talking about these same problem neighborhoods.

To work on the housing piece of the Master Plan, I put together a housing committee that includes members of City Council, local residents, realtors, bankers, housing rehabbers, landlords, developers, home builders and members of the CARE group that attended City Council meetings on this issue.

We had our first meeting on May 24th and our second meeting on June 14th.  While the group is closed, the public can see everything we are doing and working on.  If you go to https://www.cityofmiddletown.org/486/Housing, you’ll link directly to the page we’ve created for this process.  You can watch taped versions of the meetings, hear the discussions, see the presentations made, the articles referenced… everything. And there is an email for your comments and input.

If you like it, tell us.  Hate it, tell us.  Have a better idea?  PLEASE tell us.  This is your city. Get involved.

 

 

 

 

Long Term Control Plan

I have blogged on several occasions over past three years about the EPA mandated Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) necessary to reduce Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) into the Great Miami River. The Consent Decree agreement was entered into Federal Court and became final and effective on 4/12/18.

City Manager Blog Post – EPA Sewer Agreement Information – Feb. 14, 2018

City Manager Blog Post – Sewer Rate Increases – Nov. 9, 2017

The City is now required to begin implementation of the LTCP.  The first project identified in LTCP consist of construction of a storm sewer to intercept a small portion of the flow from the Bulls Run stream where it enters the combined sewer system near the intersection of Sheldon Road and Santa Fe Drive. This intercepted flow will be redirected to a shallow green infrastructure basin (approximately one acre in area) located at Sunset Park, reducing storm water loading to the combined sewer system.

I have received several questions and concerns about this project and the impact it will have on the Park. I will attempt to answers those the best I can, keeping in mind we are at the beginning stages of the process.

First, “Why Sunset?  Why not put it somewhere else?”. From an engineering perspective, it is a prime location due to fact that it sits near the border where the sewer system transitions from separate to combined. This allows us to capture and retain storm water before it enters the combined sewer system thereby reducing the chance for an overflow downstream. The alternative would involve acquiring private property, demolishing structures and additional sewer infrastructure all of which would likely cost millions $ more.

Second, “Will this be a nuisance and safety issue?”. Our goal is to integrate this project into the existing park setting in an aesthetically pleasing manner by incorporating landscape and hardscape features that will enhance the overall park character. The existing playground equipment will be replaced with new, up-to-date equipment if impacted. The basin will be designed to meet or exceed all engineering safety standards and to minimize the potential to remain wet after rain events to avoid increased mosquito issues. To this end, the City has hired Williams Creek/V3, an ecological engineering and design firm that specializes in green infrastructure and sustainable project design. This will not be a traditional detention basin like you see in other parts of town. The City understands this is a highly visible and highly used area and will create an annual operations and maintenance plan to keep the basin looking good and functioning as designed.

Third, “When will this happen?”. As I mentioned earlier, we are in the early stages of planning and design. Surveying crews have been out over the past week or so gathering data. The planning and design process will take most of this year. Actual construction won’t likely start until early 2019.

Finally, “How can I get more information?”. The City will hold at least one public meeting onsite to provide additional details about the project when available and answer questions. I don’t know the exact date yet; but it will likely be later this summer. I will keep you posted. We also created a webpage dedicated to the Consent Decree agreement that will include updates about this and other LTCP projects.

2018 First Quarter Departmental Reports

As always, I’m impressed by what staff gets accomplished each quarter. I think most of us get up and go through our day and because nothing got in our way or caught our eye, we forget how much work it takes to make your day uneventful.

Let’s start with public safety. Middletown Division of Police (MPD) is in the process of adding a sixth K-9 to our force to continue to combat drug trafficking in Middletown.  There are a lot of reasons to be cautiously optimistic that we may have finally turned the corner on the opiate epidemic in Middletown.

MPD logged in 103 fewer Part I crimes (the most serious crimes) in the first quarter of 2018 vs. the same period last year. Calls for domestic violence are down around 25% this year vs. last year. In the first quarter, MPD responded to 575 fewer total calls for service than the same time last year. Despite the drop in Part I crimes and calls for service, total drug arrests and felony drug arrests are still higher than 2017.

Calls are going down. Drug arrests continue to climb. It’s the right trend if we can keep it going.

Middletown Division of Fire is showing similar positive gains. For the first time in a few years, we ran 102 fewer EMS (Ambulance) calls for service in the first quarter this year vs. 2017.

Opiate related calls are down as well. Year to date in 2018, we’ve run 124 total overdose related EMS calls vs. 231 for the same period last year. Overdose deaths are down as well. 14 in 2018 vs. 26 at the same time last year. Again, trending in the right direction.

Building Inspection issued 11 permits for new residential construction valued at $2.5 million and 4 commercial/industrial permits for new construction valued at $2.6 million.

The Health Department conducted 143 Food Service/Vending inspections, 41 Retail Food Establishment inspections, processed 14 animal bites, issued 1153 Birth Certificates, 1070 Death Certificates and processed 18 indigent cremations. The Health Department also restored their operating hours to pre-recession levels (finally!) and you can visit the Health Department Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Code enforcement logged 200 commercial inspections, resolving 46 violations. They completed 148 residential inspections, resolving 93 violations. Nuisance abatement logged 974 inspections, resolving 138 violations.

The Law Department reviewed 69 contracts and drafted 19 pieces of legislation for City Council. There are 2,881 cases pending in Municipal Court, including 244 felonies, 997 misdemeanors, 59 OVI (drunk driving), and 1,581 traffic cases.

In Public Works, crews have already spent 440 hours preparing flower beds for the spring.  We have cleaned 1,130 linear feet of sewer mains, repaired two major sewer collapses, performed 55 miles of street sweeping, repaired 94 street signs, and responded to 6 snow events spreading 2,453 tons of salt on city roads.

We get complaints about pot holes, and I understand the frustration. PW crews in the first quarter used 383 tons of asphalt repairing pot holes.

We treated 2,486 million gallons of wastewater. We completed 43 water main repairs, and we produced 837 million gallons of potable drinking water.

At the airport, we continue to work with our consultant on the new Master Plan. We are working to get the airport designated as a “Certified” site within the SiteOhio program to make the airport more marketable for new jobs. The state capital budget includes $750,000 for the airport to construct a new education hanger to not only house aviation related workforce development programs, but also to open up new hanger space for use at the airport. All of our T-hangers and all of the community hanger space is now rented and in use.

In the first quarter, Economic Development working with the Chamber of Commerce completed retention visits to Quaker Chemical, Paychex, Suncoke, Steam Systems, Ventilex, NTE, PAC Worldwide, Pilot Chemical, Kroger, Meijer and MTR MARTCO.

Economic Development is working with different partners to prepare additional sites for development.  An 86 acres site across from Atrium Medical Center was chosen by Duke for their Site Readiness program.   We closed on the old Senior Center next to the city building and work should start in the next 90 days on a new BMW Motorcycle shop at that location.

The Small Business Development Center relocated to the third floor of the City building to be more accessible to clients.  During the first quarter, SBDC met with 142 clients and provided 461 hours of business counseling.

Planning Commission convened twice, hearing 5 cases. Historic Commission met three times, hearing 12 cases. Certificates of Zoning compliance were issued to 100 businesses. 220 illegal signs were removed from the right of way. 45 zoning inspections were completed resulting in 40 zoning violation letters being sent.

In February, City Council adopted the new Development Code, which updates our old 1950’s zoning code to one of the most state of the art codes in Ohio. The Charter Review committee is well into their work evaluating potential changes to the City Charter and their recommendations should be coming to City Council this summer for consideration.  The City has completed two Master Plan committee meetings, working to develop the first City Master plan since 2005.

As we get to summer, we’ll be kicking off the review of our housing policies.  It’s a busy time at the city!

 

2018 First Quarter MPD Update

Hello Middletown!

I spent a week earlier this month in Louisville, Kentucky attending a class on using lighting, landscaping and other environmental factors to reduce crime in neighborhood redevelopment. As we move forward with our new housing policies, the information I brought back should be helpful in designing not only sustainable neighborhoods in Middletown, but also in designing neighborhoods that through their layout and design, deter crime in the future.

I also had the opportunity to briefly talk with Chief Muterspaw this past week about the first quarter of 2018.  While I’ll have actual numbers in a week or two with the quarterly departmental reports, the first quarter, January through March, demonstrated a significant reduction in crime and overdoses.

Part One Crimes (the most serious crimes) are down quite a bit from same time last year.  We’ve had no murders in 2018 to date, where last year we had already experienced five murders (2017 was a very atypical year for murders). Aggravated Assaults and thefts are down. Domestic relations and domestic violence calls have dropped significantly over the same time last year. Total calls for service are down. Felony drug arrests are up, which means we’re still out getting the opiates and other drugs off your streets. The reduction in calls for service and crime have allowed our detectives to start clearing more of their cases.

On the opiate front, we see similar good news. In January through March 2017, we had 26 deaths and 231 opiate related overdoses. Through the same period this year, we’ve had 14 deaths and 124 opiate related overdoses.

Whether this is a pause in the action or the beginning of a trend downward in ongoing crime and drug abuse remains to be seen. It’s our hope that all of the changes made to the Division of Police coupled with our Heroin Response Team, the courts, and application of our chronic nuisance ordinance is starting to have effect on crime in many areas of the city.

We still have a long way to go, but I like to share good news when I get it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

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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