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City Leaders Look into Crystal Ball at Forecast Breakfast
The Worthington News (SNP), February 7, 2007

CITY LEADERS LOOK INTO CRYSTAL BALL AT FORECAST BREAKFAST


By BRITTINY DUNLAP
Reprinted courtesy of The Worthington News/SNP 2007

While Punxsutawney Phil and Buckeye Chuck predicted an early spring on Groundhog Day, Worthington's leaders also predicted a healthy 2007 for the community.

"I believe 2007 will be another positive and productive year for Worthington," said City Manager Dave Elder.

At Friday's Groundhog Day Forecast Breakfast, hosted by the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, city leaders highlighted successes in Worthington in the past year and let residents know what to expect in 2007.

Elder reminded residents that the community survey would be distributed this year and that selected members of the community are in the midst of reviewing the city's charter as part of a review committee.

City Council also is reviewing its street maintenance program, which is expected to top last year's program at more than $900,000, Elder said.
Elder briefly mentioned the city would meet with the chamber of commerce this week to discuss the chamber's possible use of the historic 752 Building on the northeast corner of the Village Green.

The city and council also will continue to examine ongoing issues, including the debate about the Ohio State University Airport at Don Scott Field and proposed expansion by the Ohio Department of Transportation at U.S. Route 23, state Route 315 and Interstate 270, Elder said.

City online

2006 brought several large initiatives to the city, including a new city Web site at worthington.org and online registration for programs by the parks and recreation department.

About 40 percent of all registration has moved online, Elder said.
The city's Community Improvement Corporation is finally up and running.
"We are excited about this and how it can serve as an adjunct to what the city can do," Elder said.

Elder took time to thank the community for being so active and committed to the city, citing awards such as the Scenic Ohio Award for the Village Green and Healthy Ohioans Award for the work by Healthy Worthington as a reflection of hard work by everyone in the community.

Vacancies on council and the Worthington school board attracted a combined 39 applicants, and 25 residents applied to serve on city boards and commissions, which Elder said is a direct reflection of the commitment by residents to the community.

Despite economic setbacks in the past several years, income tax revenue in 2006 was better than the city predicted.

The city had expected a 3 percent increase, but was more than pleased to receive 5.8 percent, Elder said.

"The significant increase in income-tax revenue means significant increases in payroll," said Paul Feldman, assistant city manger and economic development director.

Between 2004 and 2006, City Council approved 13 venture grants valued at $697,500. Income-tax revenue figures indicate the city has seen a profit on the grants

Under construction

Feldman predicted job growth of about 0.5 percent in 2007, but reminded the community of several projects currently under way, including CFBank, the long-awaited renovations at Worthington Square, and the office-condominium complex Worthington Station.

There also are several new residential projects in the works, including condos at Simsbury Place and the Worthington Inn, and proposed second-floor residential condos with the development of the new CVS at North and High streets.

To illustrate how economic growth has been stimulated in the city, Feldman spoke of the office building at 300 W. Wilson Bridge Road, which used to be completely occupied by AT&T, but has suffered since it left.

"It wasn't in entirely good shape," Feldman said. "The owner put in a lot of money to bring it up to date and there are five to six very strong businesses in there."

Feldman also highlighted how Worthington has become a global hub with the sale of Diamond Innovations to Sandvic Tooling, a company based in Sweden.

"We all have a stake in success," Feldman said. "I want to thank you for doing your part."

In the books

Meribah Mansfield, director of the Worthington Libraries, said the libraries are flourishing.

In the past year, the library has seen a 4.5 percent increase in circulation with 2.6 million items circulated in 2006, she said.

In the coming months, Mansfield said, residents can look forward to new self-checkout machines, a self-service area for coffee and beverages, and a new customer-service model that will include the rearrangement of both libraries.
"We will be rearranging the bookshelves for a more bookstore feel, which will allow more space for computers," Mansfield said.

The children's areas will be redesigned and an area for teenagers will be designated, she said.

Melissa Conrath, superintendent of Worthington schools, said she predicts some challenges ahead for the school district, but said ultimately the goal needs to be to provide the tools necessary for today's students to succeed.

"I think (the groundhog) sees a number of challenges ahead of us, but also a number of good things that involve everyone here today," Conrath said. " ... Today's students have access to more things than we could dream of and we need to continue to ask what we can do to give them the tools necessary for them to succeed."


Read more Central Ohio Community News at the Suburban News Publications Web site, SNPonline.com.

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