CIRCLEVILLE — The Circleville City Council Strategic Planning Committee met to discuss several topics including the tree commission, the charter, city website, parks and the railroad.
Sheri Theis, committee chair, said the tree commission has been meeting and they’re looking for places to plant trees.
“They’re planning a tree planting event this fall and they’re looking for places that would be best and working on education,” she said. “They’ve created tree tags downtown to let the community know the value of the trees.”
Theis said the commission was looking for new applications and had four people at the meeting who came to the meeting to meet with the committee.
“When I looked at the applications, I thought ‘wow we’ve died and gone to heaven,’” said Tom Duvall, council member and a strategic planning committee member. “I have never seen a group of people who were so imminently qualified, who cared and are willing to volunteer.”
Each of the applicants, Laura Swizter, Roman Cline, Lisa Wiseman, and Mark Fouch each introduced themselves to council and gave some information about their backgrounds and history and took some questions from council.
Cline also spoke before the committee about the railroad. Cline lives a half a block from the railroad tracks.
“If you live in Circleville, you understand the trains,” Cline said. “I know everyone knows the challenges of the roadway and the concerns it’s causing in our community.”
Cline spoke about safety and how the railroad bisects Circleville and can effectively cut the town in half walling off first responders from safety forces, namely fire service, in the north.
“The state and the warehouses are benefitting substantially from these rails but our community is not,” Cline said. “We’re a throughway and there’s a lot of traffic and it’s only going to increase.”
Cline, citing an election year, said the matter should be put in front of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine so the state can help carry some of the cost of the proposed multi-million dollar grade separation that will allow traffic over the railroad when a train is on the tracks.
Cline said the new warehousing is great for the economy but it’s creating a lot of noise.
“It’s only going to get worse and relocating the train is not cost effective,” Cline said. “Nobody in their right mind wants to tolerate that type of noise constantly.”
Cline said as a remedy implementing a quiet zone would help with some the noise, especially from train horns.
“We need to look at the big picture and implement some quiet zones,” he said. “The clickedy-clack of the trains is not that bad but the horns the blow all through the day and night. We all hear it. If you live near the tracks it’s a nuisance. It drives out people from the community and keeps people from the community.”
In a quiet zone, Cline explained the horn on the train would only blow if the train’s operators felt the conditions were unsafe such as fog or an obstruction but on a “normal day” it would not blow.
“I would shoot for the moon and try to get it reduced as much as we can,” he said.
Theis suggested Cline meet with the mayor since he’s heading up the grade separation project. Tom Duvall, council member, building on that suggested the item be on the committees agenda on a continuing basis.
“One of our goals is to have council and the mayor working closely together and I think this is an awesome opportunity,” he said. “Right now I know that words are words but I think we can start the process. I think if we get control of the sound people in Circleville will be very happy. I vote to start and for continuing.”
Caryn Koch-Esterline, committee member, suggested the railroad matter be at the top of the list for the strategic plan, which is currently being drafted.
“It is a deterrent for people moving here and for the rehabilitation of homes up and down Court Street from the south to the north,” she said. “It’s very important.”
Under old business the committee provided updates on the charter, which is on the ballot on Aug. 2.
“[Every household] who is a registered voter will receive a letter in the mail showing the complete charter so there’s no question what is in it,” Duvall said.
Thies said on the subject of the city’s new website, a developer has been hired and the new website should go live in the next few months.
“It’s designed to be more responsive to the citizens so they can go online and do the things they can do now but the current website needed to be updated, streamlined and better organized,” Theis said.
Theis also talked about Ted Lewis Park and the changes. The new restroom and mechanical building are going up and the sidewalks are laid out. Theis read from a response she received from service director Jim Stanley.
“The construction scheduled shooting for the beginning of August to have all the buildings and splash pad operational,” Theis said. “Once that happens the only things remaining are the plantings and landscaping. The playground is slated to be finished by August but that depends on the equipment arriving on time.”
Theis said the landscaping and large trees will be put in in September since it’s better for the trees. Thies said Stanley would provide more updates after a planning meeting next week.
“It’s excited to see this happening, we’ve been working on this for a long time,” she said.
On the subject of Barthelmas Park, Theis said with six diamonds parking has been a problem during baseball and soccer seasons.
Theis said service crews cleaned out the newly acquired property to the south of the current park and created a new parking area with a road that serves as overflow parking.
“Closer to Kingston Pike they created a walking path so people can park there and walk to the soccer fields so they don’t have to walk all the way down,” Theis said. “I spoke to Circleville Youth Baseball and they’re thrilled to have extra parking. This was their number one problem and the service department has addressed them.”