By Will E Sanders
PIQUA — Piqua City Manager Gary Huff welcomed a crowd of approximately 100 members of the community to the State of the City Address on Wednesday morning at the Fort Piqua Plaza and began by using a quote he recently came across to describe his feelings regarding the city.
“City managers should get goosebumps about the cities where they work,” Huff said, and added in his own words that “all of us in the city should get goosebumps.”
A crowd of more than 100 people attended the annual address, including city commissioners, county commissioners and, among others, city employees, which Huff remarked were “the ones that make it all happen.”
During the 45-minute address Huff delivered and reviewed the 2013 goals and accomplishments and put a spotlight on the 2014 outlook across Piqua at the event, which was sponsored by the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce.
Huff began by complimenting the many assets, both natural and man-made, the community offers, from the plaza where the address was given to the city’s winding bike path, John Johnston Farm and Edison Community College.
“What a great beauty we are,” Huff said. “This is a tremendous community.”
Running down a long list of 2013 accomplishments, Huff spoke of the Piqua hospital demolition, which was paid for in part by a $2 million grant, and the process of turning the grounds over to the Piqua City School District for the future completion of a new school facility, Piqua Central Intermediate School.
Thanks to $345,000 in funding, Huff also spoke on the Wayne Streetscaping project, and noted how such improvements can lead to a better downtown district, saying “it is extremely important to have a good-looking and viable downtown.”
While on that topic, Huff said the East Ash Street/U.S. Route 36 Beautification project has come along, despite the winter where snow covered up much of the progress for the public to see. Huff called the project “one of the great things about this community.”
Turning his attention to parks and recreation, Huff said he was more than pleased with the variety of upgrades within the city’s parks system, consisting of the new community garden plots; the Piqua Skate Park, which was completed last March; the pickleball courts located at Mote Park; and the volunteer park rangers program, which has cut down on vandalism and graffiti.
When it came to technology, Huff said the city’s $1.7 million high speed fiber project is state-of-the-art and that Piqua was “one of a few places in the area that can offer this.” Huff also said the new fiber possibilities could be an extra incentive for businesses to come to Piqua.
In the realm of public safety, Huff told the audience how much a $1.03 million SAFER grant has brought six new firefighters/paramedics to the Piqua Fire Department.
Huff said in 2013 the city completed the Storm Water Master Plan, Phase 1, and either replaced or repaired approximately 50 storm basins.
Other important accomplishments mentioned by Huff included: the renovation of Canal Place, the waste water treatment pilot study that was performed, the city’s government academy, Fountain Park Bridge accessibility; and neighborhood enhancements.
As for economic development in the city over the past year, Huff said “we have had a great year. Several new businesses have opened up and others are coming.”
Huff then discussed a set of projects and developments that are underway in the city, beginning with the Riverfront District Redevelopment, which the city has received $450,000 in grants for so far.
“If we make this happen you will see things in the city that you have never seen before,” Huff said, who noted the redevelopment project could bring tourism to Piqua.
Huff also mentioned the Safe Routes to School program and the $495,000 grant that helped put the project in place. Through the program pedestrian walkways and traffic will be improved at or around schools.
In addition, Huff also said the County Road 25-A, Phase II, reconstruction between Country Club Lane to Looney Road has come along smoothly so far and will continue into the spring.
Huff said street paving throughout the city in 2014 will also be a major focal point.
“In case you haven’t noticed, we have some potholes,” Huff said. “The last two winters have taken a tremendous toll. … We will put more into paving streets than any other time in our past. You will see a lot of paving.”
Other projects taking place this year include the city’s first handicap playground, which the city has received a $20,000 grant for; the Employee Health and Wellness Clinic, which employees can use for free and has a yearly savings of $750,000; the continued progress on the water treatment plant plan and replacing the city’s current, 90-year-old water facility; the new housing construction at the Deerfield Subdivision, which was purchased by Cornerstone Construction; and a planned dog park.
Will E Sanders may be reached at 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.