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TWINSBURG -- Citing extensive economic development at Cornerstone Business Park, the addition of more than 800 full- and part-time jobs city-wide and one "frustrating" road project, Mayor Ted Yates offered his second State of the City Address Feb. 16.
The address was sponsored by the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce, drawing 115 city officials, business owners and guests Feb. 16 to the Hilton Garden Inn of Cleveland/Twinsburg.
Cornerstone Business Park at Route 82 and Chamberlin Road continues to grow, the mayor said, adding several industrial businesses in 2016 to the area once occupied by the Chrysler Stamping Plant. As well as a 200,000-square-foot multi-tenant building, Cornerstone is home to five big businesses: Amazon, FedEx, NDCP, Berlin Packaging and Tire Wholesale Warehouse (Bridgestone Americas).
"Amazon went up in eight months, they were very aggressive in this," Yates said.
The development at Cornerstone has been good for the city, the mayor said.
"It will never be what Chrysler was, but we've had some wonderful businesses go in," he said.
Yates also gave a nod to several smaller businesses that opened in Twinsburg in the past year.
"My kids are especially excited about Handel's and Dunkin' Donuts," Yates said.
In all, 840 full- and part-time jobs were added in Twinsburg in 2016, with total industrial occupancy now at 93 percent, Yates said, and an occupancy rate that is considered excellent rate for any municipality.
Another more contentious project, the new roundabout at the intersection of Darrow Road and Glenwood, opened to traffic in all directions in December.
Yates called the roundabout "a long, frustrating project."
Opinions remain split to this day, the mayor added, and feedback to his office ranges from love for the roundabout to those who think the new traffic pattern is a nightmare.
Other construction projects completed in 2016 included $4.89 million in renovations to Route 91, resurfacing on Route 82 from Interstate 480 to the city of Macedonia boundary, and replacing the sanitary and storm sewers on Mortus, Greenway, Concord and Laurel roads in Twinsburg, the mayor said.
Construction projects for 2017 include resurfacing Ravenna Road and adding sidewalks (estimated about $1.9 million), said the mayor.
"We have some sidewalks on Ravenna Road, but there's no connectivity," he said.
A big challenge facing the city is maintaining city services on the current, roughly $50 million budget, Yates said.
For example, the beginning general fund balance in 2017 was just less than $13.4 million, compared to $19.2 million in 2016 and $25.2 million in 2015. Much of that decline, Yates said, was due to the rescinding of the quarter percent (.25 percent) income tax hike, which residents passed in 2009 and the city collected on from 2010 to 2014 as a way to buoy the financials with closure of Chrysler.
However as jobs have returned, the city in 2016 collected $21 million in income tax revenue (which makes up 86 percent of the general fund revenue), a 6-percent increase over 2015. The projected income tax collection for 2017 is anticipated at $19.6 million.
A big part of the budget is the city's 178 full-time and 117 part-time staff, Yates said.
"We have a lot of great people who work for us," he said.
The city is saving money is through its Wellness Program, which started in 2016, Yates said. In its first year, 40 employees participated. So far in 2017, 63 employees are registered. This has already started to pay off in insurance claims, according to the mayor.
"In 2015, our insurance claims ratio was 126 percent," Yates said. "In 2016, it was 75 percent."
Yates also acknowledged the passing of James Davis, a custodian at the city from 2001 to 2016. Yates called him "a friendly face in the Twinsburg Governemnt Center."
The city will look toward a repeat performance of National Night Out, a community gathering last August that saw skills challenges for safety forces and the mayor offering up his arm as a chew toy for the city's K-9 officer.
"We created a safety force challenge," Yates said. "We created our own course. Around 600 residents came. We anticipate it will grow each year."
With the attendance of Patrolman Yamil Encarnacion and his K-9 partner Yasso, Yates got a first-hand experience as to how strong a K-9's bite can be.
"The officer who handles Yasso asked me if I would allow Yasso to take a bite of me in a protective coat," Yates said. "It was for a demonstration. I wound up taking two bites from Yasso."
Yates gave a good-natured smile. "That [protective] coat is not as thick as it appears to be," he said.
The fire department saw a 5.27 increase in calls in 2016, Yates said. The calls were mostly EMS, reflecting both the city's aging population and an increase in senior living facilities, the mayor said. The city's police department had 26,334 calls for service and 1,663 arrests in 2016, a 4-percent decrease compared to last year.
Yates also highlighted several activities sponsored by the city's parks and recreation department during his half-hour speech, including record attendances in 2016 for the Truck or Treat fall gathering; as well as winter and holiday programs LuminoCity, Light the Night and Winter Wonderland.
In 2016, young residents saw a new playground come to fruition at Glenmeadow Park. Music lovers can look forward to a ninth season of Rock The Park at Perici Amphitheatre in Glen Chamberlin Park in 2017.
Yates also highlighted a popular event for adults, the Adult Easter Egg Hunt and Glow Party. This year's egg hunt is April 7 at Glen Chamberlin Park, with tickets going on sale March 8.
"Many people don't realize we have an Adult Easter Egg hunt," he said. "We give them a little alcohol and food first, and then we send them out. Tickets for this usually sell out in the first 15 minutes they are available."
Several improvements were made at Gleneagles Golf Club in 2016, Yates said, including new tee boxes and bunkers on the 10th through 18th holes; the installation of a new irrigation program; and a new practice facility. Starting in 2017, construction will begin on a new $6.1 million, 19,000-square-foot clubhouse -- a project not without its own controversy -- to include a grill room, a banquet facility and a bar and restaurant area.
In all, the mayor called his first full year "eventful."
"This past year has been a crazy year for me," Yates said. "The biggest surprise was how insane my schedule is."
Yates credited his family, particularly his wife Sharon, for their support.
Those who attended the State of the City thought the mayor offered a balanced address.
"I thought he did a very nice job explaining everything," said Jeff Castora, who publishes the Twinsburg Town Planner.
Cindi Seese, who lives and works in Twinsburg, said she thought the mayor "did a fantastic job explaining what was going on in the city."
"I think he had the pros and cons," she said. "His thought process on the clubhouse and roundabout were clear."