Piqua City Commission authorizes selling Bennett school site


By Haylee Pence

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PIQUA – The Piqua City Commissioners met on Tuesday to authorize a single resolution, which involved the sale of the land at 625 S. Main St., where the former Bennett Junior High School was located.

Currently the lot is vacant, but if sold to the prospective buyer, GF Bailey Company, the lot would contain eight new dwelling units similar to the houses currently around the lot. The current units are typically two-to-three bedrooms, two-story houses. Therefore, the new units will reflect those styles.

GF Bailey Company’s Founder and President Tim Forbess commented, “I love Piqua. It has good values, good connections, and good family values,” going on to say that Piqua is similar to his home town growing up.

He also stated the goals of the company include “finding disinvested areas and investing money to provide something new and dramatic and exciting” and by providing “a living experience that is welcoming and enriching.”

Then the floor was opened to the public and was filled first by Joe Wilson, founder of Neighbors Helping Neighbors in Piqua. He wanted to inform the commissioners and the public of the goals that had been set for the organization, which include three painting projects and three landscaping/cleaning projects for houses throughout Piqua. Wilson encouraged commissioners and the public to donate, either donating time through volunteering or through monetary donations or supplies for volunteers.

The next public comment was from Larry Hamilton, local historian. Hamilton informed the commissioners and the public that his building, the Randolph and McCulloch Freedom Struggle Complex, hosted the most recent Piqua Association of Churches (PAC) meeting. He also discussed concerns relating to Ohio House Bill 327, which is summarized to “prohibit teaching, advocating, or promoting divisive concepts,” according to the Ohio Legislation Summary page for Ohio House Bill 327. Hamilton’s concern is that many schools will be teaching a censored version of history, including international, national, state-wide, and local history.

Following this, the commissioners entered into a work session where the annual water and sewer rates survey was discussed. Last year’s survey information was given to the commissioners, which also involved a comparison of Piqua’s rates to other local cities and Miami County overall. This information will also be available to the public by the end of the month. Some changes to the analysis and presentation of last year’s data including graphs. According to the representative that presented this information, previous survey results were not available to the public, which is something that they wanted to change moving forward.

The next discussion in the work session was the city’s Transportation Plan. The plan involves classifying a hierarchy of streets and rerouting semi-trucks to better accommodating streets while maintaining a quick route through Piqua. The plan also includes additional bike networking to connect to the current bike path and other parts of town while ensuring safety.

Then, they discussed possible changes to Looney Road to increase safety and traffic quality. Currently, Looney Road is a four-lane road with no center turn lane or bike lanes. The proposed change involves the road becoming a two-lane road with a center turn lane and a bike lane on each side. If this change is enacted, the speed limit would decrease to 35 mph.

Patrick Gibson, director of Business Operations at Upper Valley Career Center (UVCC), then informed the commissioners that the UVCC has undergone an inspection and have designed proposed changes to the parking lots, school bus area, and other parts of the school to help increase traffic flow. The reconfiguration involves creating more entrances for specific types of transportation, such as buses, student drivers, and parent pick-up/drop-off areas, as well as additional parking.

Chris Schmiesing, the city’s Community and Economic Development director, then discussed potential changes, addressing concerns in downtown Piqua related to traffic, parking, appearance, and pedestrian availability. Schmiesing has had discussions with inspectors about addressing the concerns, and the inspectors have determined that narrowing the street could reduce speeding throughout downtown. According to the inspectors, there is a considerable amount of parking available compared to other cities. The initial changes to downtown include removing planters and delineators, utilizing other means to ensure a right-turn only on Market Street, curb extensions for easier crossing at Main/High/Market Streets, and change the Main/High Street intersection to a four-way stop.

The next discussion was for the proposed roundabout at Looney Road and County Road 25A. The presentation focused on comparing putting in a roundabout or a more functional traffic signal in order to increase traffic flow and safety. A grant has been received for about $1.3 million which would leave around $850,000 of the project to be funded by the city. Another grant of $400-500,000 would help offset the cost which is being sought out. The comparison concluded that the roundabout would be more costly in the short-term, but also better increase traffic flow and safety, while a more functional traffic signal has the potential to incur costs in the long-term and not as significantly impact the traffic flow and safety.

Resident Joe Wilson discussed doing a comparison analysis between Garbry Road before and after the implementation of the roundabout by looking at the crashes that have happened there while factoring in the volume of traffic. The commissioners agreed that an analysis of the benefit of the roundabout for safety concerns would be beneficial.

The final discussion was about utilizing various types of resurfacing to increase cost efficiency to reach more roads. Currently, the city is able to “touch” about 3-4% of the roads within the city limits. By altering the type of resurfacing depending on the need of the roads, the city could touch about 51% of the roads. The increasing cost of materials is impacting the city’s ability to fix roads, and this change could help balance the increasing costs, according to City Manager Paul Oberdorfer.

The meeting and work session are opened and available to the public.

Mayor Thomas Fogt and Commissioner Kazy Hinds were both absent from the meeting and the work session.

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