Continued progress toward construction of a city pool and a nature trail will be 2017 highlights for the City of Wauseon, the mayor said Friday.
Looking ahead in the new year, Kathy Huner also sees continued economic growth and a continued battle against the local opioid drug scourge. She’s confident the city will persevere in retaining its positive foothold.
Huner is especially enthusiastic about energizing the community pool project. It suffered a setback last year when bids to renovate the city’s existing pool house, built in 1941, exceeded expectations. The project’s developers had determined it was less expensive to renovate the building than to raze it and rebuild.
Huner said one of her disappointments as mayor last year was not being able to move forward with the project. She said the engineers have since tweaked the plans by rethinking piping, removing a family restroom, and downsizing aesthetically-pleasing features that weren’t mandated. Fencing around the pool has been downgraded to chain link.
“We are moving forward right now to put out the bids,” Huner said.
She said problems arose last year after the city, anticipating a quicker start time for construction, limited the time project bidders had to respond. “That right there was a mark against us,” she said.
In 2015, voters passed a five-year, 2.6-mill levy to generate $290,000 annually for the pool’s construction and operation. Wauseon closed its original pool in 2009 due to its deterioration.
Huner’s only other major disappointment last year was the delay in completion of the long-anticipated Linfoot Street renovation. Complications and state transactions led to a later reopening date.
“I can only thank the residents and businesses on Linfoot Street for being so patient,” she said.
Looking ahead, the mayor expressed excitement over a Wauseon Rotary Club project to create a nature trail behind Homecoming Park. The idea was pitched in 2015, and the club is currently working to raise funds.
“It will be an amazing trail once it’s done,” Huner said.
She also gave high marks to continuing downtown revitalization, saying, “To see the businesses opening up – it’s so nice to see night life downtown. What I’ve always wanted to see as mayor is for downtown to wake up, and it is. I see some good things happening with our businesses. People are buzzing.”
The City Council is on board with promoting the city, and Huner has received feedback from other communities about the city’s economic growth.
“When they’re talking about Wauseon on the outside, that’s always a positive for our city,” she said. “When you see these small businesses popping up in town, I think that’s a good sign of economic growth. It’s kind of nice to see Wauseon stepping out of the box.”
And citizens are following a trend of purchasing existing homes. House sales in the city have increased.
One dark note for the new year is the city’s remaining battle over the proliferation of illegal drug use, specifically opioids like heroin. Huner said public education about illicit drugs has been boosted by Police Chief Keith Torbet, who brings valuable information back from drug summits he attends.
“It’s here, and it’s not going to go away soon, so we need to keep proactive with it,” she said of opioid abuse. “It’s growing, so we have to be diligent. I see that as something the whole nation is working on. “I just don’t now what the answer is because it’s such an ugly addiction.”
Still, Huner prefers to concentrate on the positive aspects of life in Wauseon, and said 2017 is rife with promise. She credits her administration, city employees, and the city council with making positive things happen.
“I’m excited to see what 2017 is going to bring for Wauseon. I see people stepping up,” she said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.