The Jon Peterson Memorial Plaza will be dedicated between 117 and 145 North Union Street in Delaware at 2 p.m. on May 5, it was announced during the Delaware County Board of Commissioners’ annual State of the County event held Tuesday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Africa Event Center in Powell.
Peterson was the Delaware County treasurer, a former county auditor, a former state representative, and a retired pastor of the Zion United Church of Christ. Known as an advocate for people with special needs, Peterson was remembered by those he worked with as being a “gentle soul” and a “servant-leader.” He died unexpectedly Oct. 10, 2019, at the age of 66.
“We have been trying to think of a fitting way to honor his memory and have found one — the pedestrian pavilion between the Hayes Building and the courthouse will be named and dedicated as the Jon Peterson Memorial Plaza,” County Commissioner Gary Merrell said near the end of the morning’s presentation. “This beautiful space has become a real gathering spot for our employees, and the windows of the treasurer’s office overlook it.”
Merrell also spoke about two building projects involving county facilities.
The former Delaware Area Career Center North Campus will become the new Byxbe Campus, with construction expected to be completed in the fall of 2021. It is named after Moses Byxbe, founder of the city of Delaware. The site will include offices for the county engineer, code compliance, county sheriff, OSU Extension and Regional Planning Commission. Merrell described it as a “one-stop shop” for economic development and a win-win in repurposing the campus and putting the disparate buildings the departments were previously housed in back on the market.
The other project is the renovation of the county’s Historic Courthouse at 91 N. Sandusky St. in Delaware. Merrell said the renovation should be finished this summer, and the commissioners will move there on the first floor, along with other county departments. He said the fireplaces will be retained, but won’t be used. In addition, landscaping will make the Veterans Memorial garden more prominent.
“Enhanced customer experience starts with facilities,” Merrell said.
County Administrator Michael Frommer introduced the three commissioners.
“We want to be nationally recognized in county government,” he said. “Delaware County is an amazing place to work, live and raise a family. The real magic is when we collaborate. Delaware County is an amazing place because of all you do.”
Among the county’s community collaborations, Commissioner Barb Lewis spoke about three that are currently contributing. The Delaware County Housing Coalition brings together organizations such as the United Way of Delaware County and Andrews House to overcome discrimination and affordability. The Delaware County Pre-Hospital Care System Advisory Board is charged to govern the protocols and standards for all Emergency Medical Services, and speed up response times.
Lewis said the Stepping Up Initiative “provides proper recovery treatment and healing for non-violent offenders with mental health challenges.” The idea is to reduce recidivism for these inmates, and one of the Initiative’s programs has lowered incarceration rates from 58% to 32%, Lewis said. By leading people from jail to recovery, those fewer inmates, their families and county taxpayers all benefit from Stepping Up, she said.
Stepping Up includes more than 50 hours of weekly programming for those who need it.
“To instill hope and spark change, we also host motivational speakers, such as retired NBA player Lawrence Funderburke,” states a handout provided by the county.
Commissioner Jeff Benton said county residents are benefiting from being in one of the premiere communities in central Ohio through smart growth. He said the county is working to seek a better balance of residential and commercial development, having more county residents work in the county, and seeking higher-paying jobs in specific sectors.
Benton singled out the Delaware County Agricultural Society and efforts to “mold the fairgrounds into a premiere destination.” Among the projects is a covered horse arena, which would allow there to be equine events throughout the year.
“The Little Brown Jug brings attention to the fairgrounds every September,” Benton said, “but our plans for the future will bring attention to the entire fairgrounds all year.”
Other economic development tools, such as the Delaware County Finance Authority, are paving the way for growth in the county, Benton said. Key projects include Creekside in Orange Township, the Berlin Business Park, the former Sunny Vee Nursing Home and the Evans Farm new urbanism community, as well as work in Harlem Township and Ostrander, and studies on routes 23 and 3. Benton also cited Westar and DHL Headquarters in Westerville (but still in Delaware County), and Marzetti’s test laboratory in Lewis Center as success stories.
“We are becoming a home for businesses that are not afraid to innovate,” Benton said. “Together, we’re making a difference, and it’s exciting to be part of it.”
As for infrastructure, there is a $39.1 million capital budget for roads and bridges in 2020; and the regional sewer district has a $14.6 million capital budget, a handout from the event states.
With the State of the County being held at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Africa Event Center, Zoo President and CEO Tom Stalf welcomed guests with historic news — two cheetah cubs have been born via in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer into a surrogate mother at the zoo.
“There are 7,000 cheetahs in the wild,” Stalf said. “This is a species that was doomed until yesterday.” The zoo, which draws more than 2 million visitors annually, “is doing something every day to save the planet,” he said.
Every seat at each table included a single-sheet flier with a photo and profile of county employees. For example, one featured Melissa A. Schiffel, Delaware County prosecutor.
“My duty is to protect the citizens of Delaware County by enforcing all related criminal laws and to provide legal representation to various county agencies and townships as needed,” Schiffel’s flier states. “What’s most satisfying about my work is seeking justice for victims and protecting the most vulnerable victims in our county — our kids.”
Nearly 200 people, representing some of the county’s movers and shakers, attended. The event also featured several short videos about Delaware County and included the tagline, “It’s where you should be.”
“We felt that video is a very effective way to reach the public and help them better understand the wide variety of services that county governments provide,” states Delaware County Director of Communications Jane Hawes in a press release. The videos are available for viewing on the Delaware County website at https://co.delaware.oh.us/state-of-the-county-2020/.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.