It is with great pride and satisfaction that I present to you the State of the City address concerning all city operations and the accomplishments in 2016. The City is thriving under the management of City Administrator BJ King, Department Directors, and staff.
I will start with the status of the city’s finances, the heartbeat of any city and a direct result of you, the taxpayers, and your contribution thru income and property taxes. A crucial part of our everyday function is accountability with the income taxes that you pay to support city services, and I am pleased to once again announce that we have met all criteria for a clean audit as acknowledged by the State of Ohio. We received a clean audit with no verbal comments or recommendations. For the seventh consecutive year we received the Ohio Auditor “Award with Distinction”. Only two public entities in Licking County achieved that significance: Heath City schools and the City of Pataskala. This is primarily due to the outstanding work by our Finance Director Jamie Nicholson, and Finance Manager Janice Smith-Savage. During 2016, we managed a single debt issuance of $500,000 note from PNC Capital Markets. The note was issued as a nine-month security with the proceeds earmarked for design and architectural services associated with the construction of a new Police station. This issuance will be rolled into a 2017 bond issuance for construction funding. In addition to the traditional debt issuances, the city also entered into a $260,000 master capital lease program for the acquisition of a number of pieces of Street Department equipment. Under this program the city was able to acquire additional equipment for service delivery that includes roadside mower with boom extension; a Case 521F front-end loader; and 2 electronic sign boards. We maintained the Microsoft Access-based program which was initially implemented for the 2014 budget, and is used for documenting and reporting on proposed capital improvement projects. This approach provided the city with the capability to report on each project, including: a brief description of the project; funding sources; asset type; timing of purchase, etc. In addition, establishing a 5-year capital spending program is a GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) ‘Best Practice’, and enables the development of extended city budgetary projections and potential funding issues. We developed a comprehensive 5-year operating financial forecast, including the 2017 budget which was approved by Council in November 2016 – the earliest in history that the budget has been approved by Council. This multi-year approach is also a GFOA ‘Best Practice’, and provides the city with the ability to forecast future fund balance and the ability of the city to fund specific projects and initiatives. The multi-year forecast also provided the city with the ability to determine the optimal allocation of the income tax to be able to provide the necessary funding, as well as incorporating current and anticipated debt service requirements. The Pataskala Finance department was one of the very first in the state to participate in Josh Mandel’s Ohio Treasurer’s Open Checkbook initiative, and we went live on the system in 2015. This system puts information on city spending at its residents (as well as other interested parties) fingertips. We continue to update the city’s financial information on a monthly basis. Everyday operations are extremely important and we take seriously every tax dollar. Income tax collections in 2016 were up 5.62% bringing in $5,122,450.00 that increased our cash balance by $197,906.00 and our total spending for all funds ended up 13.34% ($2,835,499.00) below budget. A full report on finances is available upon request.
The City launched a new website, www.cityofpataskalaohio.gov, in late spring that is more user friendly to residents and businesses. Along with the website, there is a City Administrator blog that was implemented on the site that is updated with information about various city related projects and news. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are being used for notifications of city events, projects and general information that affects residents in our city. The website and social media implementations, monitoring, and publishing duties of our quarterly newsletter fall under the watchful eye of Jessica Cumbo, our Administrative Assistant. Jess is also responsible for the hundreds of calls we receive per week. She answers many of the questions our residents have or directs them to the correct department. By answering the phones live, many requests or issues are taken care of in the matter of a few days, with some in the matter of hours. As Mayor, I had the opportunity to do several ribbon cutting events for new businesses that have chosen Pataskala as their home. The pictures of these events are also posted to the social media sites along with the website.
Our Utility Department had another successful year. All eight employees under the direction of Nate Coey strive each year to complete their mission of safety, excellence, and reliability. Our two water treatment plants produced over 311 million gallons of safe drinking water. In our wastewater collection efforts, maintenance is the key as we service 7 lift stations, 774 manholes, and over 35 miles of sewer pipe line. In 2016 nearly 60,000 ft. of main line was cleaned out. We performed over 5000 laboratory tests to ensure EPA compliance, and produced 123 dry tons of bio solids, which in turn were distributed to local farmers to incorporate into their fields and reduce commercial fertilizer use. This effort also saves $65,000 in trucking fees since this product no longer has to be removed by a contact hauling company. Future plans call for updating our River Forest Lift Station, and continuing our GIS program. (Geographic Information Systems) to know exactly where all of our underground infrastructures are. A full report is available at any time during regular business hours. Some other numbers for 2016 include: 3,222 utility accounts, 51 new utility customers, 3,741 customer related calls taken, and 6000 visits to our customer care window. In a year that, on a national and local level, exposed some towns and cities struggling to provide safe drinking water, we were ahead of the curve with testing and even assisted in making sure other entities in and around the city had good, clean, safe drinking water, coming into our homes, schools, and businesses.
Our Planning and Zoning Department is the heart beat of growth in the city. With Pataskala on a record pace of growth, the position of city planner was approved by City Council and filled. This now brings, under the direction of Planning and Zoning Director Scott Fulton, a total of 4 people to serve the ever growing needs of our city. In 2016, 536 zoning permits were issued, applications for new builds totaled 20, applications for appeals or variances totaled 44, and code enforcement violations totaled 313. Highlights also include updating of subdivision regulations to streamline the process, especially as we have more subdivisions under construction and in consideration. Also we have begun to digitize our zoning permits as part of the city’s GIS system. This not only gives us good records, but allows permitting and other zoning info to be available online for each parcel within the city. We have also begun to update our comprehensive plan, so that the future of Pataskala with its diversity of our rural areas, our historical downtown, and our suburban life can coincide with our commercial and business livelihoods.
Our Public Service Department has had a banner year, and with the hiring of Alan Haines, we now have a full time Public Service Director/Engineer on board. While we still employ outside contractors to assist we now rely less on engineering firms for general work and use them specifically for projects like road paving, bridge replacement etc. We have eight employees in our street department lead by Public Service Supervisor, Jason Fravel. These are the guys who keep the city’s infrastructure in good shape. They are responsible for mowing, plowing, salting, ditching, sign replacement and repair, road maintenance and many, many other tasks that keep the city running smoothly. These are also the guys you see pitching in to make sure our community events can handle all the residents that attend for example, the Street Fair, The Power Show, the Fireworks, Flags over Pataskala, The Easter Egg hunt, Cook out with a Cop, etc. In 2016, $550,000 was spent on road improvement projects that included repaving in the Settlement: Enos Loomis St., Isaac Tharpe St., and Andrew Beem St. Repairs, a leveling course, and chip seal was used to repave Hollow Rd. Repairs and repaving on Cypress St. and Klema Dr were also done. The work on the Main street improvement project was completed along with the utility work and road improvements. Left-turn lanes were added and drainage improvements were completed at the Mink St. and Broad St. intersection. The City has, in 2016 repaired, replaced and installed 1,275’ of storm sewer drainage tile and restored over 12 miles of roadside ditches. 17,600 lbs of crack seal was used throughout the City and over 400 tons of asphalt for Pot Hole patching.
Our Mayors court, led by Tonia McFerin continues to take care of any issues that occur in the city, concerning traffic fines, and zoning violations. Our Mayor’s Court operates every Thursday afternoon and is presided over by the Honorable Magistrate Kip Kelsey. The court heard a total of 1,018 cases in 2016 which includes the enforcement of zoning cases. The Mayor’s court assisted in 116 defendants receiving valid driver’s licenses again, thanks to the efforts of Magistrate Kip Kelsey and Prosecutor Andrew Yosowitz.
Our Police Department managed by Chief Bruce Brooks, and Deputy Chief Michael Boals, is in fine shape. We employ 20 full time officers, 3 part time officers, 5 auxiliary officers and 2 clerks to assist in dispatching and day to day operations. Covering 29 square miles is our biggest challenge, and a new police station slated for construction in late Fall of 2017, will not only give our officers the room they need to grow, but the location, behind City Hall, will put the PD more centrally located within the city. We continue propose each budget 2 new cruisers a year to replace our aging fleet, and anticipate a new officer to be added in 2018 to meet demands.
Our Parks and Recs Advisory Board continues to guide the city’s development and upkeep of the six parks and recreational programs. With Councils blessing we now have a part-time Parks Manager, Mr. Dave Ramsey, to manage everyday operations. PRA (Pataskala Recreations Association) still runs the pool, but City Council felt it was time for the city to get back into the recreation business. We are also in the process of, with the cooperation of the T.J. Evans Foundation, expanding our parks system with the addition of more soccer fields, and the restoration of existing baseball fields at the LEADS Park on Adams Lane. As the city grows, it’s apparent thru comments from residents that they enjoy our 7 parks, and we as a city are beginning to invest more and more in the way of time and money in improving and preserving these local gems.
In conclusion, I am extremely happy with the State of the City and the direction we are heading. We have a good common sense Council, and our administration is strong. All of our directors are extremely dedicated to giving 10,000% to Pataskala. Growth is inevitable between the housing interests and the corporate park land sales, particularly with AEP coming to the site as an anchor, and both school systems are working diligently towards building new schools. I assure you we will all continue to do what we all do best to ensure a continued quality of life in Pataskala that you have come to expect. If you have any questions or comments, or would like more in depth information on any topics covered here, please don’t hesitate to contact me, or call Jessica at City Hall and ask to speak to Mr. BJ King, our City Administrator to get answers to any questions or concerns you may have.
Mayor Mike Compton