State of the City Address
2015: A Year in Review – Your Tax Dollars At Work
For the City of Bowling Green, 2015 wasn’t unlike other years. Provide excellent services to the citizens of Bowling Green in the most cost effective manner possible. Below is a review of significant 2015 projects and a view of how your tax dollars are utilized in the community.
Coordinating the replacement and repair of sidewalks was a significant accomplishment of the Public Works Department in 2015. The City’s 50/50 sidewalk program, which is a cost sharing program between the City and property owners, resulted in the replacement or repair of sidewalks on 26 properties in the City. In addition, as the impact of the Columbia Gas natural gas line replacement repairs were realized, the Public Works Department quickly swung into action to monitor the work and advocate for citizens in the construction area. As a result, 30 properties received new sidewalks. All the sidewalk work added up to roughly one mile of sidewalk replacement in 2015. A major responsibility of the Public Works Department is road maintenance. In that area, a significant project was conducted on Poe Road, between Mitchell and North Grove. Improvements included 1.89 miles of paving. Working with state and federal resources, the City contributed $298,000 of the $1.14 million total project cost.
Numerous other infrastructure projects were completed in 2015 by the Utilities Department. The Electric Division completed street lighting upgrades to energy efficient LED fixtures on two major corridors – Mercer Road from East Wooster to East Poe Road and West Poe Road from North Main Street to Haskins Road. LED lighting is becoming the standard as older, less efficient High Pressure Sodium lighting is replaced. The Water Distribution and Wastewater Collection Division completed five sewer relining projects. These included certain sewers on Hillcrest, Buttonwood, and Main Street as well as in City Park and City Parking Lot #2. The relining of sewers and manholes is done to prevent infiltration of groundwater into the system and reinforce the strength of the sewer structure that may be damaged by roots, age, or corrosion. Existing combined sewers were replaced on North Grove, between Wooster and West Evers, and on West Evers, between North Grove and Fairview.
A major aim of the city is diversification of electric power sources to remain flexible and cost effective. Part of this strategy is utilizing various forms of renewable energy. To that end, the Utilities Department announced the American Municipal Power (AMP) Solar Phase II project. Construction of the site will occur in 2016 on 140 acres of City owned land on Carter Road, between Gallier and Newton Roads. It is projected that from the City’s 10 megawatt share of this project, 4% of all electric kilowatt hours used in Bowling Green will be solar energy once the solar field is completed. Renewable energy is not new to Bowling Green’s portfolio. One need only look to the western city limit at the City’s four wind turbines which were constructed in 2003 and 2004. Debt on the wind turbines was paid off in 2015 making the energy from the turbines extremely low cost. These remain a good source of alternative energy, with about 12% of total production coming from them. The City’s renewable energy portfolio is impressive. In 2017, it is projected that 38% of the City’s power will be from renewable sources – wind, solar, and hydro-electric power.
The Lake Erie water crisis highlighted the City of Bowling Green’s exceptional water treatment plant and processes. It also reiterated the diligent work done by the water treatment staff as well as the planning and preparation by current and past administration officials. During 2015, the City Water Treatment Plant continued this excellent and reliable service by processing 1.74 billion gallons of potable water. What distinguishes the superior quality of water coming from the Bowling Green Treatment Plant is that the Maumee River at the City’s intake location, levels of microcystin were detected as high as 41 parts per billion. Following treatment, this level is down to an undetectable amount, far surpassing the new regulations and limits established by the Ohio EPA of 0.3 parts per billion for children under 6 years old and 1.6 parts per billion for adults. The Plant’s ability to treat harmful algal blooms and microcystin is a direct reflection of the City’s continued dedication to system upgrades, ensuring best available technology is used.
The Police and Fire Divisions are both accredited agencies, known for their professionalism, dependability, and overall quality. Two accredited safety agencies in one City is extremely rare, with only 6 other communities sharing this distinction with Bowling Green. Fire and Police stayed busy in 2015 responding to calls for assistance. The Police Division handled 19,905 incidents in 2015. Of those calls, 2,273 resulted in criminal arrests and 971 resulted in warnings. The Police Division issued 3,213 traffic citations, 4,335 traffic warnings, and responded to 1,078 traffic accidents. The Fire Division experienced an overall 8% increase in the number of incidents to which they responded. Of the 4,140 incidents from 2015, 63% were for some form of Emergency Medical Service or rescue.
Bowling Green has worked over the years to cultivate and promote smart growth with infrastructure and economic development, as well as the different types of services provided. This vision continued in 2015 with the opening of two new parks – Ridge Street Park and the Black Swamp Preserve. Bowling Green has a wonderful parks system, incorporating City parks as well as Wood County parks, along with numerous programs offered by the Parks and Recreation Department.
There are varying types of economic development and business expansion that occurred as well. It is paramount to continue to diversify the City’s economic base to ensure economic downturns do not drastically alter the level of services the City may provide. The Bowling Green Economic Development office along with the Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Downtown BG has done a remarkable job fostering a cooperative working relationship to support existing businesses as well as helping recruit new businesses. There are two examples of this that occurred in 2015 – Betco moving its operations to Bowling Green and Phoenix Technologies expanding its operations. Both have occupied and expanded existing facilities and both are helping add jobs to our community.
Unlike the federal and state government, local governments cannot deficit spend or shift the burden onto another governmental entity. While the effects are still being felt from the recession as well as the state reductions to the local government fund, the City has maintained a sound fiscal position allowing it to remain responsive to citizen needs. The 2015 actual revenue, which includes all forms of revenue, totaled nearly $100.5 million and actual expenditures totaled over $98 million. Utilizing funding sources, such as grants, is an important part of City operations. The Grants Administration office oversaw the disbursement of nearly $700,000 to fund programs and activities aimed at improving the quality of life for persons with low and moderate incomes. Work included 22 housing repair and rehabilitation projects, the BG Transit which provided transportation to elderly and disabled residents at half price, and transitional housing for 108 homeless.
Two distinctions from 2015 highlight Bowling Green’s talented employees – The Auditor of State Award and the Reliable Public Power Provider designation. The Finance Department, headed by Brian Bushong, received an Auditor of State Award for a clean audit this past year. This award was presented for filing timely financial reports in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, no findings of recovery, material weaknesses, or significant deficiencies noted, and no other financial or other concerns found or noted. This is significant considering the department processed 11,901 invoices and 4,819 receipts and monitored a budget totaling $135,669,291. The City received the Reliable Public Power Provider designation, which was only bestowed upon 96 other electric providers across the nation in 2015. The designation recognizes public power utilities that demonstrate proficiency in four key disciplines: reliability, safety, workforce development, and system improvement.
It is likely that 2016 will prove to be as busy as 2015. The City remains committed to further studying the East Wooster Street Corridor, improving the accessibility of sidewalks and roads – incorporating complete streets concepts when possible, further enhancing the electrical and water infrastructure, and much more. To remain up-to-speed on all of these developments, the City has added to its website, www.bgohio.org, a link to 2016 Improvements. The City offers an eNewsletter, sign up located on the website, and is on Facebook and Twitter (@cityofbg).