A growing Sunbury, an upcoming ballot issue, and a canine program were the topics of discussion at the recent Sunbury/Big Walnut Area Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly membership breakfast.
“Things are really picking up,” said Mayor Tommy Hatfield at Royal American Golf Club in Galena. “I have heard from other people around the state that aren’t as blessed as we are to be in an environment where people and businesses continue to want to come to our community.”
Among the “hot topics,” Hatfield said, was a proposed new interchange off of Interstate 71.
“ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) is expected to provide their finding of no significant impact to the Federal Highway Administration from an environmental perspective in August,” he said. “That will give the green light for that to take place. It’s been a long time coming. Funding is still a big part of when that’s going to happen. Right now, it’s expected to go into engineering in 2018, with a 2020 opening. That schedule could shift a little bit. That’s going to be a very important part of not only Sunbury, but the region.”
As far as what’s happening in the village, Hatfield mentioned 150 apartments near Sunbury Plaza, which will open mid-2018, and the Sunbury Meadows development.
“That’s another 500-600 homes,” Hatfield said. “We’re excited about it, not only from the growth perspective, but from the variety it will add to our community. A big part of what makes our community great is more businesses.”
“We’re all interested in the future of our community for our businesses,” said Dr. Jeff Willoughby of Sunbury Chiropractic Center by way of introduction. “The future of our community is going to be in our schools.”
“We’re in the third year of our 2020 vision,” said Angie Pollock, Big Walnut Schools Superintendent. “We want every classroom by the year 2020 to be at a high level of this vision.”
Pollock said the district is working on a partnership with Otterbein University in Westerville to connect classrooms with local businesses.
“We really try to keep our focus on creating a great experience for our kids, teaching them the skills they need to be successful in life,” she said. “We realize our kids are growing up in a world that’s very different from the one we grew up in. They need to be able to problem solve, communicate and to think creatively and collaboratively.”
Continued growth in the area means higher enrollment and more space needed for students, necessitating going on the ballot in November for a new high school.
“We’re not looking at building a Taj Mahal with fireplaces and marble columns like some other districts might have,” Pollock said. “We’re looking at a building a typical high school that will look like our middle school and General Rosecrans Elementary in terms of the types of materials in there.”
If voters approve the combined $108 million bond issue and 1.25-mill permanent improvement levy, the district would also build a new elementary school, with middle school students moving to the current high school. The middle school would become the intermediate, and the current intermediate would become an elementary. In addition, security would be improved at the entrances.
Academically, Pollock said the district did improve in several areas at a higher rate than the state’s standards.
“Just like the schools, our operational needs are growing,” said Officer Craig Landis from the Sunbury Police Department. “We’re at the point where we feel we need a canine program.”
The department would like to acquire a German Shepherd to search for narcotics and track suspects or a missing person, Landis said. It would cost $10,000 to $12,000, with more than half that amount spent on training this September and October.
“If anyone would like to donate, they can make checks out to Sunbury Police Department Canine Fund,” he said. “If we do not hit our goals, those moneys would be separated and returned to people who donated.”
Kevin Kline, assistant fire chief of BST&G Fire District, said the station handles Sunbury, Galena and Berkshire and Trenton townships. He said that a station remodel was being completed, and because of a May levy passage, the district is in good shape for another five years.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth as well,” Kline said. “We have about 1,000 runs a year for fire and helping Delaware EMS.”
For more information about the chamber, visit www.sunburybigwalnutchamber.com