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Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Opposition keeps march to new West Bank Rotary Walkway at slow pace

By Timothy Cox
The proposed West Bank Rotary Walkway project and a related wetlands mitigation project are moving forward - slowly.
For the second time in a month, Celina City Council members were thwarted in their attempts to pass emergency legislation to get the projects moving forward. They originally had hoped that construction contractors could be working on the new lakefront walkway by March 1.
One councilman's opposition to the project and another councilman's absence prevented an emergency vote Monday night, which requires a three-fourths supermajority for passage.
Councilman Ed Jeffries has long opposed the walkway and voted against an ordinance to borrow $1.3 million to pay for the work and another ordinance to buy land for the wetlands creation work. On Monday, both measures passed to second reading by 5-1 margins.
Council hopes to finalize the legislation at the next meeting by passing the ordinances as emergency measures, if all members attend. An emergency ordinance means it can take effect immediately.
Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel said a special council meeting could be set for next week to clear up the issue.
Monday's vote was council's first support of a plan to enhance the walkway project with some extra spending. The base bid for the walkway - which will be built over 25 feet of filled-in lake surface area - was $850,000 from Shinn Brothers, Celina. However, city officials plan to spend up to $1.3 million to add lights and to resurface West Bank Road. The extra money also might cover some extra concrete pathway.
This is only the first phase of the walkway project, which will involve about half of the linear feet of the path, separated by a large gap in between the northern and southern parts of the path. The rest of the path along with a breakwater structure and other possible enhancements, will come in the second phase of the project.
The project will be paid for mostly through a tax increment finance (TIF) district set up in the area. The TIF diverts property taxes on new development into separate accounts to pay for public infrastructure projects. City officials plan to take out a revenue anticipation note to finance the work and then pay down the debt with annual TIF revenue.
The ordinance to buy several acres of land along Coldwater Creek from Steve Klosterman also passed to second reading by a 5-1 count. Shinn Brothers will excavate the site, use the topsoil for the path project, which will effectively lower the elevation of the Coldwater Creek land, making it flood-prone and a designated wetlands.
The undeveloped tract of land cost the city $63,000.
The wetlands project was mandated by the Ohio EPA to make up for the lake surface area that will be lost to make room for the path.
Additional online story on this date
Two Mercer County farm operations have been fined in a local court and sent violation notices from the Ohio EPA after manure from their facilities got into the Wabash River in November. [More]
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