Batavia has had a banner year

John Thebout
By John Thebout

The Village of Batavia will celebrate the 200th year of its incorporation next year, and the Village Council and I are determined to make the bicentennial year a celebration of new beginnings.

The past year saw major strides for Batavia as we worked towards a renewal of the Clermont County seat. We have begun collecting revenue from our annexation drive, and planning is underway for physical renovations. For the first time in several years, the village finances make the prospects of renewal realistic.

Village government is not our only agent of renewal, as businesses have made investments that show visible results.

Towne Construction Services has renovated the property at 500 Kent Road, which it will share with TowneScapes, both of which are Towne Properties subsidiaries. That site is a landmark for the village and had been idle for several years.

Donald Saylor bought the Anstaett Auto Service property at 549 W. Main Street next to the Dollar General Store. Mr. Saylor is expanding parking for Dollar General and is remodeling the building for retail use.

Mario Reyes has opened La Bamba Restaurant at the corner of North Riverside and Main Street. The Mexican restaurant fills a void left by the closing of Snappy Tomato Pizza and joins Grammas Pizza, Moon-Lite Chili, and Batavia Station as restaurants in the village, as well as Domino’s for carry-out service.

Auto Temp, Inc., has continued to thrive in the industrial park on Kent Road. A leading manufacturer of tempered automobile glass, Auto Temp celebrated its 20th year in 2012. Founder Bernard A. “Bernie” Fassler died August 30 at age 76, and the company and the Village of Batavia have agreed to rename Kent Road beyond Roudebush Lane in his honor.

The Village of Batavia has taken the initiative on planning for new development, contracting with community planning consultant Ron Miller for a land-use plan and preparing to revise the zoning code. Miller, retired director of the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission and an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, enlisted his class of graduate students in preparing the first element of the plan, titled “Batavia’s Third Century Initiative: A Strategic Community Plan for the Village of Batavia, Ohio.” Miller and his 17 candidates for master’s degrees and one doctoral candidate collaborated in bringing information together and proposing ideas for development that serves residents’ needs, preserves the historic character of the village, and promotes prosperity.

The big project in the works is reconstruction of East Main Street, along with North Fourth Street and South Second Street. We will work against the clock to design the project and get financing and approvals in place so we can have it ready for our bicentennial celebration in 2014, but we are also being realistic and cannot project a schedule yet. If completion by the summer of 2014 looks impossible, Batavia may wait to rebuild Main Street until late 2014 and 2015, but we are still hoping for a third-quarter 2013 start.

If we cannot schedule the whole project for 2013 and early 2014, Batavia plans to move ahead this year with the Second Street and Fourth Street portions.

The village has begun engineering planning, and we will have open meetings for public input as we develop the design. Preliminary plans call for widening sidewalks on Main Street, improving the lighting, moving the utilities off the main course, and reconfiguring travel and parking lanes. The overall cost is expected to be from $4 million to more than $5 million.

Last year opened with the transfer of operations of the water and sewer utilities to the Clermont County Water Resources Department under a three-year contract with the village. Although the village is proud of the Batavia Water and Sewer Department, the small scale made operating costs high, and the village faced millions of dollars in required upgrades to the sewage treatment plant in the coming years. As the contract progresses, the county and village will assess whether to make a permanent agreement or for the village to resume some or all of its utility operations.

The first year of the contract operations went smoothly, with few problems for customers or for the county and village. In January we expect the county system to begin diverting the flow to the Middle East Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant, idling the Batavia plant, but keeping it ready for operation. The change should save money and eliminate odors from the Batavia plant.

Batavia’s annexation of 277 acres along the State Route 32 corridor on the east side of the village took effect Dec. 13. The annexation brought Batavia High School and the government offices on Bauer Road into the village.

The annexation was the third to take effect since Oct. 1, 2011. Combined, the annexations have added 1.05 square miles to the village area and bring the total village land area to 2.64 square miles, an increase of 66 percent. The annexations did not add any resident population.

The annexations are expected to increase village revenue from the 1.0 percent income tax by more than $500,000 annually. The village will experience increased costs for road maintenance and police protection.

In the latter part of 2012, the Village Council agreed to restore a third employee for the Batavia Road Maintenance Department and to hire two part-time police officers, supplementing the three full-time officers, including the chief, and two other part-time officers. The Batavia Police Department also has auxiliary officers.

After accounting for added costs of operations, the village should have $300,000 or more annually to commit to additional capital improvements, and we are working to increase that amount.

Batavia Village has paid off its debt for rebuilding West Main Street. The village paid off the $664,030 in outstanding bonds in full in December.

The village borrowed $900,000 in 2004 for reconstruction of West Main Street, renewing most of the debt several times. The most recent renewal was for $825,000 in November 2007. The 2007 bond issue was for 15 years, callable after 5 years.

With payment of the final $664,030, Batavia entered 2013 free of general-obligation debt. The utility department still has some debt, but that is not general obligation debt, and the department has more case reserves than debt.

A team of village residents and supporters met December 11 to begin plans for the 2014 Batavia Bicentennial. Participants agreed to propose names to manage fund-raising, finances, events and publicity at their next meeting, which will be January 16.

All in all, the Village of Batavia completed 2012 in the best shape we have seen in many years. We are ready to start 2013 with a new spirit of success and progress, and we look forward to beginning our third century in 2014 as one of Ohio’s premier county seat villages.

John Thebout is mayor of the village of Batavia.