Top Stories: Xenia’s highlights of 2013
William Duffield Staff writer
XENIA — It has been an interesting year here in Xenia. As the staff of the Xenia Gazette was putting together its top five stories of the year, there was so much from which to choose.
There was a contested election which saw the results of one school district’s levy not known until weeks after the vote while residents said no to a city-wide income tax in Beavercreek. Mark McDonnell retired after 13 years as the Greene County Health Commissioner.
And Downtown Xenia’s facelift began with a rejuvenation program that included work from Downtown Xenia Now and a winning entry in Sherwin Williams’ Main Street Makeovers.
There was also a shooting outside the gym at a Xenia High School basketball game that led to the arrest of a Springfield man. Little Art Theater in Yellow Springs received renovations and Jamestown became the location of a new emergency facility through Miami Valley Hospital.
Xenia’s X*ACT opened a wonderful new art center in the lobby of its theater, giving artists an outlet for their work.
Beavercreek’s long struggle with the placement of RTA bus stops near the Fairfield Commons Mall ended when the city council there agreed to put the stops in various locations around the mall.
Here are the top five stories, from five to one:
5. CENTRAL STATE SWEARS IN FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT
WILBERFORCE — Central State University made history March 7, holding the inauguration ceremony for President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, Ed. D. — the university’s first female president.
Words from Xenia Mayor Marsha Bayless, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, past and present colleagues and even Bill Cosby were read during the historic event.
Bayless, a CSU alum, said the City of Xenia and CSU share a long history and the partnership between the two entities is essential to each of their successes.
“On behalf of the City of Xenia, we wish you (Jackson-Hammond) a great future, and God’s blessings in your future work,” Bayless said.
Beatty, who began her term Jan. 3, is the first CSU graduate to serve in the United States Congress. She presented Jackson-Hammond with a proclamation from Congress, but didn’t read the proclamation during the ceremony.
“I think that the words in CSU’s Alma Mater say it better,” she said. “Builder of Women to be, we build for thee in heart and mind.”
Cosby encouraged Jackson- Hammond to take the university back to its “Old Central Spirit” in a letter written after she took office in July of last year. He said that the university played a big role in his transition from a boy to a man and influenced many of his friends growing up near Philadelphia.
“If it was good enough for their ancestors, it’s good enough for them,” he wrote.
Dr. John Garland, Esq., CSU’s immediate past president, served the university for 15 years before stepping down last summer. He welcomed Jackson-Hammond Thursday morning, giving her his complete support.
“It is clear to me and everyone here that you are committed to CSU,” he said. “Students: Embrace the vision and direction President Hammond is putting forward.”
Garland said that this occasion brought him back to the CSU campus for the first time since he left his presidency. He and his wife relocated to Washington in June, but he said it was great to be back.
Jackson-Hammond serves as the eighth president of CSU since it legally separated from Wilberforce University in 1947.
“When I came here, I was greeted by many people who wished me well and spoke of the rich history of what was,” she said. “I invite those well wishers to join us in what is and what will be for CSU in the 21st century.”
Jackson-Hammond said she will serve as president with fierce determination and will continue to represent CSU as a vital part of Ohio’s education.
“With your help, I will preserve, protect and progress CSU,” she said.
4. SUPERVALU WAREHOUSE SOLD
XENIA — The SuperValu Warehouse, left empty since the duties of the enterprise were shifted out of state in 2012, has new owners and, the city of Xenia hopes, new life.
Developers Chris Semarjian and Stuart Lichter have purchased the warehouse, formerly operated by the grocery industry leader, located at 1003 Bellbrook Avenue, for $4.3 million. The 522,000 square foot facility includes large scale dry, cool and freezer storage.
Their SuperValu Warehouse acquisition was made by Xenia Bellbrook LLC.
Xenia officials are very pleased with the sale of the property, expected to bring jobs into Xenia.
“We are excited about the sale of the former SuperValu warehouse and we look forward to working with the new owners to bring opportunities to Xenia,” Xenia City Manager Jim Percival said Friday. “I believe that the warehouse is a great asset and its location should make it very attractive.”
“This is great news,” Xenia Councilman Dale Louderback said. “I am confident that this company will find a suitor for this building and bring some good paying jobs to Xenia.”
Alan Liming, the president and CEO of the Xenia Area Chamber of Commerce, said he, too, is optimistic.
“With the new owner in place, I feel optimistic that the property will be actively marketed and we will get a viable tenant to provide an economic boost to the community,” Liming said.
Semarjian and Lichter are both known for their ability to purchase large scale facilities and repurposing the buildings and sites for new tenants. Their interest in southwestern Ohio will continue to provide more jobs, economic growth and vast opportunities for both businesses and individuals.
“We are very pleased with the acquisition of this building and the offerings that come along with it,” said Semarjian. “We have already begun the marketing efforts that show much promise for several tenants to naturally occupy this facility.”
According to a release from the Semarjian’s Industrial Commerce Limited stated that adaptive reuse plans offer potential businesses who need temperature controlled storage and distribution. The building includes 300,000 square feet of dry storage, 100,000 square feet of refrigerated space and 80,000 square feet of freezer space.
“We are confident that there will be many businesses who require this rare and valuable space,” said Semarjian. “It is a natural transition for companies who would prefer a reuse rather than the cost and length of time that it would take to create this space from inception.”
As with other projects in southern Ohio, it is their goal to purchase underutilized corporate assets and repurpose them into vibrant new projects. In the end, it will not only breathe new life into the existing buildings, but add jobs, economic growth and opportunity for Xenia.
“We are excited about the chance to once again work in southwestern Ohio and continuing to execute our core business plan of repurposing corporate amenities,” said Lichter. “We will continue to work with community leaders in the city of Xenia as we find qualified tenants who in turn, will provide jobs and further economic promise.”
Semarjian and Lichter have several high profile projects in the Miami Valley, totaling well over 7 million square feet. The groups southwestern Ohio projects include the acquisition and redevelopment of the General Motors Moraine Assembly Plant, Ford Motor Batavia Car Plant, Emery Air Freight/UPS Center at the Dayton International Airport, Cooper Tire and Delphi Automotive Campus. All are recognizing rebirth based on their vision and commitment.
“We look forward to a continued strong interest in this great area,” said Semarjian. “Our business model of adaptive reuse and investment in existing properties will continue to provide further opportunities and growth in this area.”
3. FURLOUGHS AT WPAFB
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The 13,000 civilian employees at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base were expected to receive furlough notices. Secretary of Defense Chuck Nagel announced a time-line for civilian furloughs and reduced the number of days off from 14 to 11.
“This is good news for our civilian employees here at Wright-Patterson AFB. It is unfortunate that we must do furloughs, but it is an improvement that Department of Defense was able to reduce the number to 11 from the original 22,” 88th Air Base Wing and Installation Commander Col. Cassie Barlow said.
The DoD notified Congress in February that it planned to furlough civilian workers for up to 22 days by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. In March, that number was reduced to 14 and then to six in August. These furloughs were a result of the nearly $40 billion in automatic 2013 defense budget cuts known as sequestration.
Fewer than 100 employees at WPAFB, including medics and firefighters, were exempted from the furloughs.
2. XENIA GETS NEW CITY MANAGER
XENIA — City Manager Jim Percival announced his plans to retire at the end of January after a 30 year career in public service of which nearly 23 years were served with the City of Xenia. Assistant City Manager Brent Merriman was named to take over after Percival’s retirement.
“Because of Jim’s exceptional dedication and loyal service to our community, he takes with him a piece of Xenia’s history; his intimate knowledge of many years of City initiatives, projects, and events,” Mike Engle, Xenia city council president, said. “Xenia’s operations under Jim’s leadership have been rock-solid, steady, and sure. I’m very thankful for Jim’s many years of service to our community and wish him and his family all the best as he embarks on a new chapter in his life.”
Percival came to the city in Jan. 1987 as the Assistant City Manager after serving as the Assistant Accounting/Budget Manager for the City of Springfield. In May 1999, Percival was appointed City Manager. He later accepted a position with the City of Clayton as the Director of Service and Economic Development but was called back to his hometown to take over the reins once again and finish out his career as City Manager with the City of Xenia.
“I have truly enjoyed serving the citizens of Xenia,” Percival said. “Xenia is my home and a community that I love.
“I believe there are many great opportunities for our city both in the short and long run,” he continued. “The mayor, city council and staff are as good of a group of people that I have ever had the pleasure to work with in my entire career and I know that they are poised to take advantage of the opportunities to make Xenia a great city.”
Xenia will not have much of a transition problem as the new city manager takes over Feb. 1.
“Our city is extremely lucky to have an internal candidate like Brent who can take over the reins and continue Xenia on a course of fiscal stability, strategic planning, economic development, and overall excellent service delivery for our citizens and visitors,” Engle said. “Brent’s integral involvement in the day-to-day operations and leadership of many city initiatives has earned him the respect of council, city staff, community members and other government agencies and partners.”
Merriman began his career in public service with the Ohio Department of Mental Health, Office of Quality & Strategic Planning, immediately following his graduation from Bowling Green State University with a bachelor of arts in political science. As Assistant for Special Projects and Initiatives, Merriman represented the agency in the development and project management of statewide initiatives, advised executive leadership on strategic planning practices, and served as liaison between the ODMH and consultants, other state agencies, advocacy groups, and the community.
Since joining the Xenia staff, Merriman has served as acting city manager, acting human resources director, and during the economic downturn, stepped in and assumed the duties of the director of public service in addition to maintaining his responsibilities as assistant city manager.
“Over the past seven years as assistant city manager, it’s been my pleasure to get to know this community, and I’ve come to appreciate the resiliency and traditional values of its people,” Merriman said. “My family and I are proud to call the Xenia area home and we look forward to being a part of all that Xenia has to offer.
“Our community will face many challenges in the years ahead, but I remain confident in the promise of Xenia, and I am encouraged by the devotion and determination of city council and city staff to ensure a prosperous future,” he continued. “We will capitalize on the good work already done, and we will move forward with a renewed focus on service, leadership, and positivity. I believe abundant opportunities are on the horizon for Xenia, and city leadership will need citizen input and participation to achieve all we can for our community.
“It is my humble privilege to be afforded the opportunity to serve the people of Xenia as their next city manager.”
Merriman will be sworn in as city manager at the Feb. 13, 2014 council meeting.
1. XENIA SCHOOLS TO GET NEW SUPERINTENDENT, BOARD
XENIA — The Xenia Community Schools district will be looking for a new leader as the district announced a separation with Superintendent Dr. Deborah Piotrowski. Board vice president Lee Rose also announced her resignation.
Those changes come on top of the recent election that saw two incumbents voted out of office, leaving William Spahr and re-elected board member Dr. Robert Dillaplain as the lone returners from the current board.
Both departures are effective Dec. 31.
In the separation agreement with Piotrowski, the board agreed to be on paid leave from Dec. 31 until the end of July.
Rose stated she wasn’t “a politician nor will I ever be a politician” in announcing her resignation.
“I am leaving (the board) for many personal reasons,” Rose said. “But, as always, I hope and pray for the best for the children and community of Xenia.”
As part of the separation agreement between the board and the superintendent, the district will continue to pay Piotrowski through July 31, 2014, including benefits, and moving expenses through July 2015.
The agreement also limits who can talk to any potential employers about Piotrowski, eliminating anyone on the next board except for Spahr.
In 2012, the group Voices for Xenia Community Schools petitioned for Piotrowski’s removal, citing a lack of confidence and a failure or refusal to perform her duties.
According to an Oct. 31, 2013 story in the Findlay Courier, Piotrowski was one of 10 applicants for the Findlay City Schools superintendent position. When that district trimmed the list from 10 to five candidates, Piotrowski did not make the cut.
A special board meeting will be held Monday, Dec. 16, possibly to name an interim superintendent. The board’s organizational meeting will be held Jan. 6 prior to the first regular meeting of 2014.
Contact William Duffield at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-372-4444 ext. 133.
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