Licking County Update for January 2018 from Commissioner Tim Bubb

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January 04, 2018
January 2018
Licking County Commissioner Update
From…Commissioner Tim Bubb

With the arrival of 2018, let me wish you, your family and friends a healthy, happy and productive new year! As I do at year-end I have summarized some of the County Government’s accomplishments and challenges in 2017, and would like to share them with you. I will also share some current information from Licking County Recycling and a timely reminder that it is time to buy ‘dog tags’.
First, I would like to share some big news for 2018. On Wednesday, February 28th the 13 history-related organizations that host the annual Ohio Statehood Day event at the Ohio Statehouse Licking County, the City of Newark, and several elected leaders to receive the Ohio History Leadership Award. This statewide recognition of our community includes local strong leadership in advocating for World Heritage status for the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, the restoration of the 1876 Licking County Courthouse and for multiple examples of historic preservation initiatives throughout the County. Your County Commissioners look forward to joining a number of others in accepting this special recognition!
So, let’s begin 2018 with a look back at a very productive year in Licking County! Developments at year-end were significant as new investors stepped forward to turn around a couple of well known and deteriorating properties. 2018 holds new promise for the Longaberger Basket/Office Building in east Newark and the Cherry Valley Lodge on the west side.

On December 29th Steve Coon, a Canton based developer, whose restoration company has been involved locally in the work on the Historic County Jail, the Penn Station and the NEWork Building all in downtown, and his partner Bobby George of Cleveland, purchased the Big Basket for some $1.2-million. It cost over $30-million to construct. The building, due to its unique style, is known worldwide.
Located at 1500 East Main Street, the Big Basket was built in the late 1990’s as a seven story 180-thousand square Class A office building to serve as the corporate headquarters for what was then the rapidly growing Longaberger Basket empire. Certainly much has been written about the two decade decline of the business after Dave Longaberger’s death in 1999. The basket company was sold at fire sale prices to a Texas holding company now known as JRJR.
Developer Coon says he has a ‘big vision’ for the building which will be announced in the months ahead. It is possible he will seek inclusion of the building on the National Register of Historic Places and may seek State Historic Tax Credits to facilitate the redevelopment, which could take a couple of years.
Credit should be given to the City Administration of Mayor Jeff Hall, the Newark Development Partners under the leadership of Fred Ernest, and County Treasurer Olivia Parkinson in facilitating the sale. Parkinson will now be able to collect the some $810-thousand in back taxes owed by the previous owner, which also will bring the foreclosure process and possible Sheriff’s sale to an end.
Meanwhile, in late November, a new ownership group acquired the Cherry Valley Lodge and Waterpark in west Newark adjacent to Granville. Wexford Lodging Advisors and Widewaters Hotels have plans to spend $13-million for much needed restoration and renovation of the property, which includes some 200 hotel rooms and meeting facilities. The indoor waterpark on the property has since been closed and will be converted into a 45-thousand square foot exhibition hall and event center.
Widewaters Hotels, based in Syracuse, will operate the property with a goal of returning Cherry Valley to its former position as a leading central Ohio destination for meetings, events, groups and leisure travelers.
In 2017 your Licking County Commissioners completed a much needed restoration and renovation of the Historic 1876 Courthouse on the town square. The Courthouse (seen above in a Christmas 2017 photo) was returned to its previous glory with a seven phase $8.6-million project. The work included a
complete restoration of the ornate tower and roof system (photo right), tuck pointing throughout, updated lighting and electrical, plumbing and drainage repairs, a new full sized elevator, and interior restoration of the ornate skylight and an employee break room. A rededication will be held in the spring. Behind the project was Wachtel-McAnally Architects, Robertson Constructions Services, Mid State Restoration Contractors and Weekley Electric; along with a long list of other talented subcontractors.
In addition, the County began a renovation of its East Main Street Annex which houses the Children Support Enforcement Agency CSEA. The project includes the addition of a permanent County Records Center. The combining of these two major projects, on this County owned site, is saving taxpayers some $3-million. The project is over halfway complete and will be done this spring. As with the 1876 Courthouse, an open house is planned.
The County, in year four of a five year bridge program, saw major progress in 2017. Under the leadership of County Engineer Jarod Knerr, the County replaced or repaired 21 bridges, and contracted for another eight to be completed by mid-2018. The cost of year four of this program was $4.57-milliion. The County Commissioners have allocated an additional $2-million for 2018 and the County Engineer believes an additional 15 bridges will be returned to excellent condition. This program
to date has addressed some 125 County spans that were in deteriorated condition.
This past year saw continued progress in cooperation with our Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) ‘Grow Licking County’ in bringing additional development and jobs to the County. The year includes providing improved County services, and remaking public buildings to better serve this growing community.
In 2017, we have seen investments and new opportunities from our existing partners at 1-800 Flowers with new call center positions in Hebron, a major corporate expansion by American Electric Power in New Albany, and new career opportunities at Hebron’s Transcendia. Pataskala saw the technology firm, TechR2, expand into their community. Heath saw continued growth in the Central Ohio Aerospace & Technology Center with two big wins, Ohio Pack, LLC & GB Foods Incorporated.
And Facebook (see photo left) found a new data center home in New Albany with a project that could see expansion for nearly a decade along Beech Road and north of SR 161. This Economic Development achievement in 2017 adds up to 500 new jobs and over $800 million in private investment for Licking County.
In the Buckeye Lake region work is underway on the final phase of construction of the new 4.1-mile replacement dam on the north and west banks of the Lake. This $150-million four year ODNR project should be near completion by the end of 2018. Recreational water levels on the Lake returned to near normal in 2017, as did boating activity. The Buckeye Lake 2030 Committee, representing the three counties on the Lake (Licking, Perry and Fairfield), are continuing their redevelopment efforts with several capital improvements
The County’s Transportation District (TID) is working with the County Engineer, State, Etna Township and the private sector on a project to widen the State Route 310 south of I-70, and at the U.S. Route 40 and Route 310 interchange. This improvement will be completed in 2018 at a cost of some $7-million. Meanwhile in 2017 the State completed expansion of the I-70 and Route 310 overpass and interchange to serve this growing area in Etna Township.
The County Government survived a ransom ware or cyber-attack in early February of 2017. Hackers attacked the County’s business computer network and encrypted or locked-up critical files, and demanded some $40-thousand equivalent in bitcoins as the ransom amount. The County Information Technologies staff resisted the threat, and using multiple back-ups were able to rebuild and restore the government network and services over a two week period, in large part. The attack is believed to have come from off shore and no arrests
were possible in the crime. The County continues efforts to strengthen its network and protections to avoid future incidents.
The County’s Land Reutilization Corporation or Land Bank facilitated the demolition and transition of several dozen derelict properties throughout the County in 2017. The Land Bank works to spur redevelopment and return sites to productive use. An example (see photo left) was the removal of underground tanks and demolition of the abandoned Millennium Gas Station in north Newark at Waterworks and Mount Vernon Roads. This cleaned up an eyesore in this developing commercial area, and the reconditioned site is now for sale.
In November 2017 construction was completed on improvements to Hudson Avenue, Mount Vernon Road and the Mount Vernon Road Bridge over the Expressway. This $9.2-million project was coordinated by Newark City and the State, with funding from the LCATS which is Licking County Metropolitan Planning Organization. Both Hudson Avenue and Mount Vernon Road are now two-way (north and south) from downtown, and the Expressway bridge is rebuilt and wider!
The drug crisis continues to take a toll in Licking County. In response the County joined a multi-state coalition of government
entities bringing lawsuits in federal court against the makers and distributors of opiate drugs that have deliberately flooded the nation with addictive pain pills for the past decade. The cost is measured in trillions of dollars in thousands of lives lost and ruined by drug addiction, and thousands of children left without parents.
In Licking County the number of children in foster care has more than doubled in the past two years due to addicted parents either dead, in prison or unable to be found. In November local voters stepped to the plate and approved an additional one mill levy to pay for the care of more than five hundred abused and neglected children. Just in Licking County the cost of over children abandoned by the drug epidemic is in excess of $8-million per year.
As I wrap up 2017 just a few other quick mentions. The County has selected a new building to be leased at the Port Authority site in Heath for its new 9-1-1 Center. The transition is underway and will be complete in 2018. A new bus operations vendor was selected by Licking County Transit. M-V Transit will begin operating the County fleet the first week in January, with the promise of improved operations. The County Law Library, at long last, was moved to a better location in 2017. This free public resource is now located on the second floor of the Main facility of the Licking County Library System on West Main Street in downtown. The County agreed to receive the top and sides of the former downtown gazebo in a move to save and restore the structure. It will be reconstructed at the County owned Children’s Home Park in east Newark at no cost to taxpayers.
And that is a look back at 2017 and a look ahead to the new year!
A Reminder for Dog Owners – It’s Dog Tag Time
State Law requires all dogs (over three months of age) to display a 2018 dog license. The fee is $15 per dog and January 31st is the deadline to avoid a penalty. If your dog gets lost a license is the fastest way to contact you. It’s also immediately visible to anyone who finds your dog. People are more likely to approach a licensed dog.
Dog tags are $15 on-line at Licenses can be purchased from one of these convenient locations in the County…
Locations include Petplex and Z’s Village Market in Buckeye Lake; Granville Milling Company in Granville; the Licking County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center, and the County Humane Society in Heath; Shull’s Hardware in Johnstown; Licking County Auditor’s Office, Glenn’s Market, Granville Milling, and Pet Supplies Plus in the Newark area; All Tails ‘R’ Waggin, Pataskala Center Auditor’s Office, and True Value Store in Pataskala; and D & L Grain and Feed in Utica.
Some Tips from County Recycling As You Un-Decorate
Licking County Recycling would like to remind you to recycle your gift packaging, unwanted lights, and Christmas trees.
Your paper and cardboard packaging, boxes, wrapping, etc. can be recycled at the Licking County Recycling bins ... there are 26 locations throughout Licking County! Help us out by breaking down your boxes.
Your cut tree can be put in your backyard and used as wildlife habitat (the rabbits and birds will love you for it) or you can recycle your tree at any of the five businesses listed below…
1. Elm Recycling - 1242 Mt. Vernon Rd., Newark 740-366-3340
2. Hope Timber - 2135 W. Main St., Newark 740-522-6558
3. Hope Timber & Pallet - Newark, 740-344-1788
4. Kurtz Brothers - Rt. 37, Alexandria, 740-739-4637
5. The Compost Farm - Alexandria, 740-924-4202
• Please remove all lights and decorations before recycling. Most of these companies grind up the trees for mulch or compost.
A Couple of Notes from the Ag Community for 2018
Owners of agricultural land in Licking and Knox Counties, whether you are new here or a long timer, are invited to attend a free land owner’s seminar on Tuesday, January 30th at 6:30pm in the cafeteria at Utica High School. A number of agency representatives will be on hand to detail funding opportunities from local, state and federal sources. Representatives from the County Auditor’s CAUV Department, Farm Credit of Mid America, Farm Service Agency, NRCS, Licking Land Trust, OSU Extension, Soil and Water, and U-S Fish and Wildlife will be on hand.
And, looking ahead to March 2018, plan now to attend the annual Farmer’s Share Breakfast. This is an opportunity to come and meet farmers in your community, and support the production of locally
grown food. This will be Saturday, March 10th from 8:00 till 10:30am at Newton Elementary School at 6645 Mount Vernon Road.
Come and enjoy the breakfast of pancakes, omelets, sausage and all the fix ins – which will be served for a donation. Funds raised will be used to send local children to Licking County 4-H camp. A number of educational activities and give-aways are planned.
Finally, as we enter the cold and clear month of January, think about some moon gazing! According to John Switzer who writes the ‘From the Stump’ column for the Columbus Dispatch, the month of January 2018 will see two full moons. (This photo of the December 2017 ‘full moon’ was taken as it shined over the restored and Christmas decorated County Courthouse).
January’s ‘full moon’ will happen on this Monday, New Year’s Day, January 1st. This first full moon of the year is called the ‘wolf moon’ because in the days of yore, this is when packs of hungry wolves came near settlements in search of an easy meal. Settlers had to protect their livestock during this harsh time!
The second ‘full moon’ in January happens of the final day of the month Wednesday, January 31st. Then in February there will be no full moons, which happens rarely, as February has only 28-days, less than a moon’s complete cycle.
Feel free to forward this e-mail in any direction you would like, and let me know the e-mail address of anyone who would like to be included on my Update Newsletter list. I can also be e-mailed at, and my desk phone number at the Commissioner’s Office is 740-670-5118.
Best Wishes for 2018 …
Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb
Tim Bubb, Commissioner