The Delaware County Board of Commissioners spoke to nearly 200 county residents Tuesday morning at the Nationwide Conference Center during its annual State of the County address.

Commissioner Barb Lewis, board president, said the year’s theme is “Smart Growth.”

Commissioner Jeff Benton said the board believes smart growth is protecting the county’s current assets, while investing in the future and managing growth according to plans and long-term goals.

“In short, we find smart growth is growth that occurs because of private sector, commercial investment that diversifies our tax base and creates high-skilled employment in the county, while maintaining a high quality of life,” said Commissioner Gary Merrell.

The board provided some statistics as to where the county ranked in the state and the nation:

• The mean household income is $126,348 — No. 1 in Ohio and ninth in the nation

• Home ownership is 81.2 percent — tops in Ohio

• Residents with a bachelor’s degree (53.8 percent) — No. 1 in Ohio

• Unemployment rate of 3.5 percent — second lowest in Ohio

• Property-tax delinquency rate of 1.02 percent — tops in Ohio

• Healthiest county in Ohio and 12th healthiest in the nation

• Residents that donate to charities is 89.6 percent — tops in Ohio

“The people who live in Delaware County care about their neighbors,” Lewis said. “We see it in a wide range of agencies and programs like People In Need, United Way, and the Stepping Up Initiative which aims to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses and incarceration to get them on the road of recovery.”

Lewis said the county continues to maintain an Aa1 bond rating with Moody’s and a AAA bond rating with Standard and Poor’s.

“At last count, that puts us in the company of only 80 counties in the U.S. out of more than 3,000 to hold that distinction,” she said.

Merrell said the county values its 335 miles of roads and 378 bridges entrusted to the county engineer’s office.

“In 2019, we will spend $9.6 million on roads and bridges operations and maintenance,” he said. “Plus another $40.4 million on capital improvements.”

Merrell added there has been $128 million in planned capital improvements identified over the next five years, “for which we are leveraging another $100 million in state, federal and local funds.”

Merrell said the county has a long list of road improvements scheduled for 2019:

• Widening Home Road/state Route 315 intersection

• Widening and improving South Old 3C Highway

• Completing the first half of the Home Road extension east of U.S. Route 23

• $2.8 million in countywide road resurfacing

• $800,000 in grants to local townships and municipalities with road and bridge needs

Also during the yearly address, Benton discussed the 500 miles of sewer lines, nine treatment plants, and 27 pump stations in the county. He said the county will spend $5.8 million for operations and maintenance with another $12.6 million going to capital projects this year.

Lewis addressed the county’s low crime rate, which she attributed to the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office.

“The excellent news is that overall crime rates have been relatively flat,” she said. “Where we have seen increases, they occur in the nonviolent category like forgery and bad checks.”

Moving forward, Merrell announced that the I-71 southern interchange at U.S. 36/state Route 37 will soon begin construction.

“We are pleased to share the news that the Northgate developer is currently finalizing zoning for a multi-family development along Wilson Road, south of Tanger Outlet located inside the Village of Sunbury,” he said. “The revenues expected to be generated with this development will allow the first phase of the new interchange to move forward.”

Merrell said construction is expected to begin sometime in 2020 or 2021.

The board announced a new economic-development initiative, DelCo Ready, to streamline the process of land development for landowners looking to attract commercial businesses to purchase their properties.

“As part of the DelCo Ready program, the county and the Delaware County Finance Authority takes on many of the initial costs and activities associated with site development,” Lewis said.

The board announced name changes for several county buildings soon to be repurposed as part of the county’s restructuring process.

The former Delaware County Courthouse located at 91 N. Sandusky St. will be called “The Historic Courthouse,” and it will house the county’s Board of Commissioners, Veterans Service Commission, Economic Development, Fiscal Services, Communications and Human Resources.

Once the commissioners vacate the old Carnegie Library, it will become a secure facility housing the 9-1-1 Center, Emergency Medical Services Department and Emergency Management Agency. The facility will be known as “The Carnegie Building.”

Also, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Administrative Offices, Engineer’s Office, Regional Sewer District, Code Compliance Department, Delaware County Regional Planning Commission, Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District, and the OSU Extension offices will all move to the Delaware Area Career Center North Campus once it’s renovated in the spring of 2021.

The campus will be known as “The Byxbe Campus” in honor of Moses Byxbe, the founder of the city of Delaware.

“The Delaware County Historical Society has described Byxbe as a ‘man of exceptional energy, courage and drive’ whose work attracted high-caliber settlers’ to the area,” Lewis said.

The commissioners also took a moment to address the “elephants in the room” — emergency medical services (EMS) and Planet Oasis/Arcadia.

As for the Delaware County EMS, Merrell said the county collaborates and shares the cost with other county entities, which include IT services, regional sewer district, 9-1-1 center, the engineer’s and prosecutor’s office, and facilities management.

“On Feb. 7, we authorized the formation the Delaware County Pre-Hospitalization Care System Board of Directors whose purposes is to develop joint solutions for the future of emergency medical services throughout Delaware County,” he said. “We look forward to the work this board will perform on behalf of all our residents and visitors.”

Benton addressed Planet Oasis/Arcadia. He said the two groups have filed their dispute of ownership in court, and the board has not seen any plans that would enable the project to break ground.

“When and if progress is made by whichever party deemed by the courts to be involved, we assure you that all the issues that we have control over, roads, sewers and platting, will be addressed,” he said. “We will expect whatever is built on the site to meet (county) requirements.”

The Delaware County Board of Commissioners present the State of the County address to approximately 200 people Tuesday at the Nationwide Conference Center in Lewis Center. Delaware County Board of Commissioners present the State of the County address to approximately 200 people Tuesday at the Nationwide Conference Center in Lewis Center. D. Anthony Botkin | The Gazette

By D. Anthony Botkin

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Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.