GREENVILLE – Greenville City Council will wait another two weeks before a decision will be made on the proposed Wagner Avenue extension project. Council chose to table the resolution of necessity for assessments at its Tuesday meeting in order to give the board additional time to secure the six votes needed to pass the resolution.
City council has been considering this project since June and has failed to act on what many speakers at Tuesday’s meeting called a “no brainer.” The project would widen Wagner Avenue from Lowe’s north to Childrens Home Bradford Road and make the properties in that area “shovel ready.” The property owners that abut Wagner Avenue would bear much of the cost of the project and would pay nearly three-quarters of the estimated $1.9 million project. The city would be responsible for the cost that abuts its property at the retention pond. According to Greenville City Auditor Roxanne Willman, the city’s share is estimated at $400,000. The city would assess the property owners their portion of the cost over a 20-year period, which would essentially pay 24 years of a 30-year zero interest loan.
Councilmen John Hensley and Clarence Godwin expressed concern with the project, but Councilman Jeff Whitaker said, “Personalities don’t need to be coming into play here and that’s what it’s all about. I’ll call you on it. I’m not going to hide behind a keyboard. I’ll say it right here.” Both Godwin and Hensley claimed their opposition has nothing to do with personalities. “I’ve got no conflicts with anybody on that project,” said Godwin. “The only thing that I’m looking at is that after 24 years, the city is going to incur a debt of the $400,000 of that project. I remember coming onto council and we were talking about laying off police officers, laying off firemen. We have a healthy budget, our budget is good, but you don’t know what it’s going to be like in 24 years, do you?” Whitaker started to answer, but was cut off by Godwin. “I’m not asking you…” Depending on the cost of the project, the city could expect to pay approximately $67,000 a year over the final six years of the loan.
Hensley said he wasn’t opposed to the project, but was opposed to “taxing our grandchildren to do something for us now.” He said he tried to figure out a solution and suggested the city start paying for it now by setting aside $17,000 a year into a fund that would pay it now. “I don’t like the idea of constantly creating debt for the next two generations. It has nothing to do with personalities.”
Whitaker wasn’t the only official speaking in favor of the project. Darke County Economic Development Director Mike Bowers cited the need for “shovel ready” sites for commercial and industrial properties and the need for more amenities, as well as high-end housing. “If a company looks at the city of Sidney, Piqua or Troy and they already have the shovel ready sites, from a cost stand point, they are going to the area that has active shovel ready site.” He also noted Greenville needs to increase its housing stock. Tracy Tryon, former councilman, said, “This is a no brainer, in my mind. You have the property owners willing to foot the bill and the city is responsible for their part. It should not have gone this long without being approved.” Mayor Steve Willman said the property owners are out there because they want an investment. “They’re expecting something to happen. Nobody has any complaints about it. This is just as good as some of the grants we’ve had in the past. For 25 percent of the cost, we get the whole thing developed.” Auditor Willman shared council approved and the city spent $92,700 on engineering “and all, 100 percent of the council members voted to move forward with this project at that time and spend those dollars. At this point, not voting for this project is simply a waste of taxpayer money.”
In other business, Safety Service Director Curt Garrison asked council for permission to proceed with a grant application for the state capital budget grant. The city would like to install a challenge course and lighting at Emmitt Smith Park on Fourth Street. They are hoping to receive a 100 percent grant for approximately $350,000 to $375,000. Garrison shared they would like to make the park more inviting and clear up some of the park’s issues.