While many changes have been made as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Delaware’s annual State of the City event was able to go forward as planned on Thursday, albeit in a virtual setting. Leaders around the city gathered on Zoom to discuss the year that was in Delaware, as well as to highlight what’s to come as life, hopefully, begins to return to some sense of normalcy in the coming months.
“The state of the city is strong and resilient, and I really emphasize both of those (words),” City Manager Tom Homan said at the opening of the presentation. “The strength of Delaware was exhibited on so many levels last year. Not only the city as an organization but the city as a community. Whether that was our school district, our health department, our social services agencies, or the county, we obviously all came together and are still dealing with what struck and shocked us a year ago.”
Homan said that because of all of the challenges the past year has presented, the city is emerging as a better community because of them. “Strength and resiliency are very, very important, and I think that’s the state of the city today,” he said.
Although the pandemic has altered the way city staff has gone about its work, Homan applauded the efforts of the staff to adapt to the circumstances, whether that was the Building Department conducting virtual inspections or the tax collection process of the city. He added that being forced to become more technologically sound with the various virtual platforms that have become so prevalent over the last year has been a “silver lining.”
Following a brief recap of the year that was, Public Works Director and City Engineer Bill Ferrigno spoke on the transportation projects in which every Delaware resident is sure to have an interest. Most notably, Ferrigno highlighted the progress being made on Delaware’s favorite traffic nightmare, The Point. Included in The Point project is the restructuring of the railroad bridge to accommodate four lanes of traffic, as well as road work east of the bridge.
“Right now, we’re just completing our stage two plans, and we’re ready to begin working on stage three plans, which essentially means final engineer plans on a project of this caliber,” Ferrigno said. “We hope to have that done by May or June.”
Ferrigno said the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has just started the property acquisition process, which is expected to take all of this year and even into 2022 to complete. Once that process is complete, he said all plans will be complete and the project will move forward to the bidding process.
“We’re shooting for, or aiming, at least, for late 2022 to mid-2023 to bid this project out,” Ferrigno said, adding that a project of that magnitude will take 2 to 2.5 years to complete once it is started. Estimated construction costs for the project sit around $29-30 million, half of which is just for the work on the railroad. In total, Ferrigno said the project will cost around $35 million.
“We’re making really good headway,” Ferrigno said. “There’s still a little bit of a gap in the funding, but we’re very confident that we will be able to start this project on time, as anticipated.”
Ferrigno highlighted some of the projects that were completed in 2020, a year in which he said the transportation department was busy even in the midst of a pandemic. Some of those projects included the widening of East William Street and the inclusion of a pedestrian bridge.
Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland discussed the construction of Delaware’s next comprehensive plan and the “Delaware Together” initiative used to put it together. “Delaware Together” consists of a 30-person steering committee, which Efland called “outstanding.”
Efland credited the committee’s ability to persevere despite their inability to meet in person, and he said the comprehensive plan is nearing completion. He said the goal for the group is to open the last round of public involvement on the plan this week, which will be held virtually on the comprehensive plan website.
“We have a plan that encompasses six broad goals drafted that range from economic development, housing, managing growth, building social cohesion, and equity within our community, leveraging our resources and infrastructure, and ensuring fiscal sustainability,” Efland said of the plan. “Among those goals, we have 59 objectives within those goals and over 230 action items in the draft plan … We are a complex, diverse, growing, and dynamic community. That’s our strength, that is our history, and that is our future. We look forward to bringing this plan forward to everybody and receiving comment…”
Mayor Carolyn Riggle said of the steering committee, the comprehensive plan, and the community’s involvement, “Some people might think it’s just another book that we’ll put together and it will sit on the shelf. This (work) has been going on for three years now, I think … So when we launch this last community involvement, please get involved. This is our vision and what we’re going to see for, hopefully, the next 10 years. We want to know that what we’re doing at the (Delaware) Planning Commission and at (Delaware) City Council is what our constituents want us to do … This will be our guideline as we continue to grow, as we continue to listen to developers on what they want to do.”
Community members who wish to learn more about the comprehensive plan and get involved with its development can visit www.delawaretogether.net.