The Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its 12th annual State of the City event at SourcePoint on Thursday. A who’s who of Delaware’s top business leaders and officials gathered to hear Mayor Carolyn Riggle and City Manager Tom Homan address the room on what’s in the works for the city in 2020 and beyond.
“Every year, this proves to be a great audience, and we’re thrilled to be here today,” Homan said in his opening statement. Unlike previous years, in which a PowerPoint presentation would serve as the guide to the event, Homan and Riggle presented an 18-minute video featuring many of Delaware’s leading officials and highlighting Delaware’s current state and what’s on the horizon.
“2019 was a momentous year in the history of our city of Delaware, and we begin 2020 with positive energy and high hopes,” Community Affairs Coordinator Lee Yoakum opened the video by saying.
The video began with reflection on 2019, which included Delaware being named a “Great Place in America” by the American Planning Association and the long-overdue honoring of Rutherford B. Hayes with a statue in downtown Delaware.
Riggle said in the video a record number of new jobs — 450 total — were created in 2019, which equates to $19 million in payroll.
With all the positive momentum Delaware has created, Yoakum said the city’s population is estimated to be around 43,000 residents, an increase of 24% and 8,000 new citizens over the past decade. He said the city has more than doubled in size since 1990.
“Great community, safe city, healthy economy, and effective government. It’s on these four pillars that we based our efforts in 2019 and focus going forward in 2020,” Homan said.
Updates on the Delaware Police Department to address the growing Delaware community included the reestablishment of the assistant police chief position “to allow for better distribution of the administrative workload,” and the addition of a full-time service coordinator to partner with Delaware-Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services.
“We’ve spent time working with our partners in those service agencies, but this is (a) full-time (position),” Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski said, adding that if they can get to the root causes of crimes, a deeper impact can be made.
As for the Delaware Fire Department, six paramedics are being hired who will be dedicated to risk reduction. The community paramedics will work 12-hour shifts during peak demand times and, according to Yoakum, will be responsible for “more than 1,000 special needs, high-risk, and high-demand residents.”
“This is an exciting period for the Delaware Fire Department as we continue to become one of the most proactive agencies in central Ohio,” said Fire Chief John Donahue.
With the Delaware population continuing to grow each year, residential growth continues to be a critical component of Delaware’s future. Yoakum said strong residential development across the community made last year “the highest overall permitting year of all time with more than 700 residential permits issued for single-family homes, condominiums, and apartment communities.”
“Demographics are playing a key role in changing the marketplace here in Delaware, in central Ohio, and Ohio in general,” Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland said. “With baby boomers and millennials coming into the housing market, we need to provide a variety of housing options for everybody.”
In addition to the new neighborhoods being developed in Delaware, Yoakum said the maintaining of existing neighbors requires the buy-in of all residents to abide by the city’s enforcement codes, which helps all parties involved. To that point, Efland said the city will go to greater lengths in 2020 to ensure residents are in good standing with those codes.
“In 2020, we’re going to take code enforcement even more seriously throughout our community,” Efland said. “It’s going to be its own standalone division with two full-time officers who can respond to property maintenance code and zoning issues.”
Of course, perhaps the most notable issue facing Delaware is the transportation challenges, particularly with The Point. William Street is currently being widened, and Yoakum said the project is on schedule for completion this year. The widening of the street will include the addition of a center turn lane that will significantly reduce the back up of traffic that plagues motorists every day.
Yoakum said most of the $6.4 million project is being paid for with state and federal grants. The city, he said, is contributing $1.1 million dollars to the project.
Following the video, Homan and Riggle fielded various questions from the audience, including the city’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, the airport, and the need for dedicated workforce development centers in Delaware.