We expect no shortage of news in 2016.
Here is a sampling of the events our staff anticipate making major headlines in the coming year:
• Income tax changes went into effect Jan. 1, as the new Ohio income tax code kicked in. The biggest change will allow new businesses to report a net operating losses forward five years. Other changes allow contractors to operate up to 20 days in the city without paying taxes and make gambling winnings taxable. Wellington finance director Karen Shaw said it’s difficult to predict how much the changes will cost the village. Amherst and Oberlin officials expect losses of up to $290,000. The Ohio General Assembly gave municipalities no choice in making the changes, enacting them as law under House Bill 5.
• New Wellington officials will be tested as the year begins. Mayor Hans Schneider will need some time to adjust to his new roles, as will new village council members Harold Hartman and Mark Bughman.
• A new Wellington finance director will be hired to handle the village’s books. Karen Shaw resigned at the end of the year and will depart next week. Her family is moving to Missouri.
• Will police continue to patrol Wellington Schools hallways? The school resource officer program is set to run out of cash early in the year. Donations funded the protective program for the first half of the academic year.
• Demolition is underway at the old McCormick Middle School, starting with asbestos abatement, which will continue through March. The property has long been marked for use as a village park in an agreement with the Wellington school system. We’ll keep you updated as the tear-down of the old school continues.
• More information on a massive solar panel project on Wellington’s south side is expected shortly. This past fall, village manager Steve Pyles said he expected quick development of 10 acres near the Wellington Reservation Metro Park. The company behind the effort is called SolarVision.
• After more than $2 million in cuts were made to Wellington Schools spending early in 2015, the district now reports its financial ship is righting. But the school system isn’t clear of trouble — that will require finding new revenue sources. Superintendent Dennis Mock has told the Enterprise he and treasurer Michael Pissini have been looking at the possibility of a levy. Daniel Rosecrans and Kevin Stump were elected to the board of education in November, riding a surge of voter unease over the direction the district has taken in the past few years.
• Underpass construction is expected to linger through June. While the Rt. 58 railway passage is open to travelers, workers still must finish curbing and beautification efforts and reopen side streets affected by the job.
• A $1 million effort to build an Erie Street electric substation has been approved and bid. Wellington has two other substations but a third is needed to prevent outages and other issues, village officials decided. Initial estimates put the project cost at $1.5 million, but six major equipment items returned $550,000 under expectations.
• Rejuvenated Dukes football bleachers will come thanks to a gift of the North Olmsted Schools. Wellington will pay just $3,000 to reclaim the Eagles’ metal bleacher benches and other high-priced equipment, cast off after North Olmsted voters approved a multi-million-dollar stadium and high school construction package. The Dickson Street stadium in Wellington came under scrutiny this fall when an insurance inspector refused to continue coverage, deeming aspects of the structure unsound and unsafe.
• Some interesting criminal cases could go to trial this year. The first involves former Wellington High School teacher Nicholas Vaughn, accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. A jury trial is tentatively set for April 4. Another high-profile case will explore murder charges against Bishop Howard, Ryan Crews, and Trevor White, suspects in the August death of Eric Zaffer of Brighton Township. Trial dates have not been solidified.
• How close to Wellington a 255-mile-long natural gas pipeline will pass is in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Spectra Energy has for more than a year now been vetting the construction of the NEXUS pipeline, which is set to pass through Pittsfield and Oberlin properties. An alternate route proposed by opponents of the plan would push the line south. FERC has the final say on where and how the route will travel.
• Did you realize there’s a presidential election this year? If you’re already tired of hearing about Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders’ every move, then you’d best find a hiding place. Amherst will get a chance to weigh in this March in the primary election and again in November to decide who will lead these United States. Amherst’s place in presidential elections is always interesting; polling numbers here tend to be indicators of how the entire nation will swing.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.