By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Saying goodbye to 2015, the Xenia Daily Gazette is reflecting on the top stories of the year. Staff chose the top five most community-impacting stories of the year.
It wasn’t an easy decision as there were many compelling stories that could have made our top five. But here they are:
5. Fireworks return. After going decades without fireworks, the Xenia sky was lit up in July courtesy of the Kevin Sonnycalb Memorial Fireworks Festival at Shawnee Park. An estimated crowd of 5,000 packed the park and thousands more watched from elsewhere. The festival featured three bounce houses, face painting, a fishing derby for kids and adults, a children’s bike parade and BRACA’s movie in the park, all leading up to Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks at dark.
The fishing derby and bike parade were also extremely popular. There were 55 participants in the derby and 39 kids in the bike parade. Organizers were so happy with the results that the event will return in 2016.
4. Karson the missing K9. A 3-year-old male Belgian Malinois named Karson escaped from the Clinton Animal Care Clinic in Wilmington, Dec. 23. Karson’s handler, canine officer Jerry Popp, lives in Xenia and when the search began Popp speculated that the dog “may possibly be trying to work himself home.” The search expanded into Greene County and in early January the pup was spotted near Xenia.
Since that day, search efforts and encouragements grew to include not just law enforcement officials in the area, but also community members, both locally and globally, according to Popp. Throughout the search for the dog, Facebook served as a community portal, as Popp took to sending out information there to the 23,000 who signed up to receive updates. Karson was found Feb. 22 and was back to work in March.
3. Doug Adams Stadium turf. A long-time dream became a reality when the Xenia board of education raised enough money to install artificial turf at Cox Stadium and rename it Doug Adams Stadium in memory of the Xenia alum who died in a bike accident. His parents, Edna and Armic Adams, set up a trust in his name and $250,000 from it to help kick-start the turf project. A $200,000 sponsorship agreement with Miami Valley Hospital helped provide more money and the school board raised the rest without using any tax dollars.
The project cost approximately $650,000; more than $708,000 was raised. Donations came in from all over Xenia, including more than $50,000 from the Wee Bucs football organization. Ground was broken in April and the field was ready ahead of scheduled. It enabled Xenia to host several post-season football games this past fall, helping pump money into the economy. The artificial turf has a 10-year warranty and will allow Xenia to host football and soccer tournament games and band competitions.
2. City facilities project. City council approved construction of a 24,000 square foot administration building at the corner of East Main and Whiteman streets and the renovation of the current city hall earlier in the year. The new administration building will house most of the city’s administrative offices, and will serve as the public’s nerve center to conduct business in an environment designed to promote excellent taxpayer customer service, with an eye toward efficiency, professionalism and overall convenience.
The revamped city hall building will allow the Xenia Police Division to expand its operation out of the basement. In addition to the police division, 911 dispatch, municipal court, probation, law department and victims assistance operations will all benefit from the added space.
The project will cost an estimated $7.65 million and with the anticipated 25-year debt service, will total approximately $11 million. The city issued $8 million in general obligation bonds to finance the project and will pay it back over 25 years. The majority of the money to retire the bonds will come from the general capital improvement fund. The rest will come from water, sewer and sanitation funds. The city is projecting enough in income tax collection to cover the debt service. There is expected to be an estimated $25 per year increase in water, sewer and sanitation for city residents to cover that share of the debt service.
1. Entertainment center/Inquiry. Creative Entertainment Concepts from Indianapolis came to Xenia City Council with a plan on how to use the vacant Fulmer grocery store building in Towne Square. David Beauregard proposed a family entertainment center and later hinted that a movie theater could occupy the vacant K-mart building.
In early 2015 councilmen John Caupp and Dale Louderback announced they accepted management positions with the entertainment center and theater and were planning on investing personal money in the project. That led city council to ponder whether the pair violated the city charter since they participated in past discussions about the project and they could benefit financially.
Council sent the case to the Ohio Ethics Commission and in July launched its own inquiry into the alleged actions. At the end of the three day inquiry, council voted that the pair did violate the city charter, but stopped short of vacating their council positions. Instead, Caupp and Louderback received public reprimand.
During the council meetings leading up to the inquiry, many residents spoke on behalf of the pair. Council chambers and the nearby courtroom was packed with residents during the inquiry.
Caupp and Louderback never signed contracts with CEC and did not invest money. The movie theater component was taken off the table by CEC due to lack of investors. The entertainment center, while still a go, was delayed as well. It is slated to open sometime in the fall, according to Xenia resident Dede Larson, who has become an investor in the project.
Just missing the cut
Two new council members elected; township fiscal officer investigated,later resigns; group formed to use Simon Kenton building.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.