The first of five “Moving Delaware Forward” open houses took place last week at the main branch of the Delaware County District Library.
City staff discussed potential street maintenance projects and future road connections with citizens during the two-hour session.
City Council is proposing raising the city’s income tax rate from 1.85 percent to 2 percent, which would generate $2.2 million a year. The funds would be used for resurfacing, maintenance and improving parking; local road connections; and big-ticket projects that require additional state and/or federal funding.
The rate increase would have to be approved by voters.
“We’re in the outreach phase right now, just trying to meet with as many community groups as we can,” said City Manager Tom Homan, who attended the open house. “We’ve met with an number of home owners’ associations, some civic and fraternal organizations, getting feedback from the public so that when council begins the reading process in June, we’ll be better informed about the program, and have it right.”
Homan said the “Moving Delaware Forward” plan addresses congestion, safety and response time for the city’s fire and emergency forces. For example, improvements at Valleyside Drive would reduce times to Willowbrook at Delaware Run from 4 minutes to 1.5 minutes; and a 2-minute reduction into Carson Farms.
Another area that is part of the plan is reducing congestion at The Point of routes 36 and 37.
“That is huge,” Homan said. “Of all the projects we talk about, that one resonates most with the public because everybody experiences that, versus some of these other new connectors, that not everyone is as familiar with.”
In a handout, the city has said that “a bypass will require significantly more funding than a levy can generate.” However, council member George Hellinger said building a bypass so trucks can avoid the downtown is a comment he frequently hears.
“Are you willing to pay for it?” Hellinger said of a $40 million bypass. “You’d have to enact an additional tax just to pay for that. Then you have to get the money to maintain it. If the people want that, maybe we can present that. It would be nice if we could do an a la carte, and if you want the combo package, this is what it costs.”
Hellinger said he wants to get as much information out to the public as possible, so they can make an informed decision during the election.
“Everybody’s just fed up with traffic,” he said. “If you grant us the funding to do this, this is what we can do, and we’ll have to prioritize the projects.”
In a 2015 survey, more than half of the respondents said there was a congestion issue in Delaware, and one in four said the condition of local streets was a problem.
While Homan said it was too early to tell if voters would support a tax rate increase, he said citizens have been appreciative that the city has a transportation plan.
“In terms of the ask, I think it’s reasonable, and will improve living in the city of Delaware, getting around the city of Delaware, and getting through the city of Delaware,” he said. “At some point, the traffic not only negatively impacts the residents who live here, but it also impacts commerce that comes through Delaware. We have to look at this from an economic development standpoint. You start affecting businesses because you’ve got congestion and delays, that impacts location decisions.”
For more information, visit delawareohio.net or call 740-203-1010.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.