By Scott Halasz
XENIA — As 2016 comes to a close, we take a look back at Xenia’s top five stories.
5. Man sentenced to life in prison
Fairborn Michael D. Lancaster, 65, was sentenced to life without parole plus 31 years after being found guilty in September on six charges including rape, a felony of the first degree; gross sexual imposition, a felony of the third degree and illegal use of a minor in a nudity-oriented material or performance, a felony of the second degree.
The charges date back to July 2015 when Lancaster was indicted by a Greene County Grand Jury for alleged crimes against an adolescent girl, the daughter of his adopted son’s girlfriend.
The crimes took place in Xenia Township.
Lancaster received life without parole for the rape; three years for the gross sexual imposition; and seven years each for four counts of the illegal use of a minor in a nudity-oriented material or performance. He was also ordered to pay for court costs but was not levied any other fine. Court records show Lancaster filed an affidavit of indigency.
4. Xenia councilmen exonerated
Xenia City Councilman Dale Louderback and former Councilman John Caupp were cleared of any wrong doing by the Ohio Ethics Commission regarding their alleged participating in a proposed entertainment center.
The case was sent to the commission by city council last year after the two announced they had accepted job offers with Creative Entertainment Concepts, which was leading the development of the proposed entertainment center and movie theater in Xenia Towne Square.
Louderback and Caupp subsequently declined the employment but were found to have violated the Xenia City Charter by council after an inquiry into their alleged activities, which at the time included possible personal financial investments.
The commission met Aug. 1 and determined its “investigation found insufficient evidence to support violation of any ethics laws. The investigation found that Louderback and Caupp did not accept the positions offered by Creative Entertainment Concepts (CEC).”
3. County to end water agreement
The long-standing water agreement between Greene County and the City of Xenia will come to an end when the current contract expires in 2018. The two entities had a 20-year contract, under which the city sells water to the county, which supplies water to Cedarville, Wilberforce and Shawnee Hills.
In late August, county commissioners informed city leaders that they will not renew the contract and will instead construct their own system and tap into the North Beavercreek system. That set off a series of negotiation attempts, with the final proposal coming in the form of a 5-year extension submitted by the county which included a 3 percent cap on rate increases and no surcharge.
The city rejected that, bringing to an end what were sometimes less-than-cordial negotiation.
The county pays an average of around $650,000 annually to the city for the water and because of its own rates for the service areas and leakage which is higher than the industry standard of 15 percent, operates at a deficit averaging $154,308 annually, according to officials. The county pays a 50 percent surcharge and had asked for a reduction to 20 percent. The city would lose about $100,000 in revenue under that scenario.
The county will spend about $5.5 million for its own system.
2. City administration building opens
The 24,000 square foot city administration opened at the corner of East Main and Whiteman streets in October after about a year of construction. It features many upgrades from the current city hall including a more professional looking tax and utility payment area, larger conference rooms and a larger, more modern council chamber.
The new building also allowed to city to consolidate most of its department to one location. The current city hall is being renovated to allow the cramped police department to expand out of the basement and occupy the first floor as well. The municipal court will remain at city hall.
Some residents, and a couple councilmembers were against the new building, saying the city should spend the money on other projects. Councilmember Dale Louderback and proposed putting an advisory question on the ballot, asking citizens if they wanted a new building or not. However, it did not garner enough votes from council.
The total cost of the project is about $8 million, which was financed for 25 years.
1. School levy fails
Xenia voters turned down a 3.9-mill bond issue to allow for the construction of a new high school/middle school complex. The levy failed by about 800 votes. Had it passed, it would have generated $2.4 million annually for 37 years to pay for the construction.
The total cost of the project is approximately $64 million and the Ohio School Facilities Commission had pledged nearly $29 million to help fund the project. That money goes away after 12 months.
The bond issue and construction were deemed necessary because the current buildings are old and need many repairs to bring them up to code and to hold the projected student population, which is growing yearly. The OSFC recommends replacement over renovation because the cost to renovate is at least 66 percent of the cost to construct new.
Evaluators identified several issues including lack of fire suppression systems, water-damaged ceilings, building infrastructure that cannot support modern educational technology, rusted and collapsed pipes with failing shut-off valves, unreliable heating systems, and numerous issues with ADA compliance.
The district has already take steps to have the levy placed on the May ballot.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.