Park planning, the need for a new police station, and a possible village tax income increase were discussed March 22 by mayor Hans Schneider at the first ever State of Wellington breakfast.
Roughly 120 residents packed into the Wellington Eagles’ banquet hall to hear updates about the village’s accomplishments over the past year and outlook for 2018.
A multi-option plan to raise income taxes by at least a half-percent was recently presented to council, with Schneider and village manager Steve Dupee leaning toward a .75 percent increase.
Residents currently pay a one percent rate, which generates $1.8 million annually.
Schneider and Dupee’s preferred approach would also institute a 1.75 percent tax credit for residents who live in Wellington but have worked elsewhere and paid taxes to another local government.
Any tax increase would be meant to prevent general fund deficits and pay for capital improvements such as a new police station.
“We’re not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes,” Schneider said. “We usually only put our council meetings on Facebook Live but we’re going to start doing that with the committee meetings where this is being talked about too.”
“We encourage and hope for high public attendance of our meetings,” he said. “We want to hear your concerns and questions. Council is very understanding of the burden on the residents, in asking them for more money out of their pocket, so that’s why we want to find a way to give something back with (the tax credit).”
A .75 percent increase coupled with the credit would amount to yearly revenue of $723,000 to $773,000.
NEW POLICE STATION
Schneider asked audience members to stand up and form a 1,000-square-foot area, which provided an illustration of the 1,067-square-foot space Wellington police officers are provided to work in.
Although no site has been finalized for a new station, the former Elyria Savings and Trust building on West Herrick Avenue has long been considered the favorite. Last year, police chief Tim Barfield showed village council a memo from the 1970s that showed plans to turn a now-demolished garage into a new station.
The current police station was built as part of a small addition to village hall not long after the building was constructed in 1885.
Renovating the EST building carries an estimated $1.5 million price tag and constructing a new station would run about $2.5 million.
Regardless of what approach is taken, Schneider said lack of space at the current home has made moving a necessity.
“For a modern day police department of their size, with approximately 10 full-time employees and 15 part-time ones, doing their work is nearly impossible in that space,” he said. “How they’ve persevered through that is a credit to them.”
“I can tell you the men and women who work for our police department are professional, dedicated individuals,” he said. “They want to work here. A lot of times we serve as a training ground and, unfortunately, we’ve lost a lot of good people. But there’s good people still here and they do excellent work.”
Planning is underway for the creation of a park at the site of the former McCormick Middle School on South Main and Dickson streets.
Corporate sponsors have expressed interest in attaching their name to certain park amenities and initial cost estimates for construction sit around $1.6 million. Grants and public funding will be sought to cover as much of that amount as possible, Schneider said.
“We’ve had a great park committee and park planner who’ve all put their heads together on this,” he said. “We’ve gone through a bunch of different designs, taken out ideas, and added ideas. We’ve talked about wanting to have a grand entrance with curb appeal.”
A number of donations for benches and new trees have come in from local entities including the Eagles and Wellington High School Class of 1968. According to Schneider, a donation in the amount of $2,000 will cover the cost of a new bench and tree.
Completion of the site is slated to take between five and 10 years. Sandstone taken from the old McCormick school will be used in park structures, there will be public restrooms, and the site will remain home to all the trees that are in good health, the mayor said.
Fred Alspach, the park planning committee chairman who passed away last July in a scooter crash, was thanked by Schneider for contributions such as stressing the importance of having a bandstand.
”We talked about the bandstand, gazebo, and playground area,” Schneider said. “After we ripped the old equipment out, for a number of weeks the number one complaint we heard was, ‘Where’s the playground equipment?’ We’re going to put in two new playground areas and a number of Wellington-centric features that will appeal to everyone.”
Other planned attractions include a life-size Spirit of ‘76 monument, fountain, and new village welcome sign.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.