PIQUA — The city of Piqua will be receiving the gift a statue honoring Congressman William M. McCulloch and his contributions to the civil rights movement, it was announced in a special presentation during the Piqua City Commission meeting Tuesday evening.
McCulloch, who had a law practice in Piqua, served for five terms as a U.S. Congressman and is well-known for his efforts in securing the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
James F. Dicke II, who is from New Bremen and is chairman and CEO of Crown Equipment, will be donating the statue to Piqua. Crown Equipment is a privately-held company owned by the Dicke family.
Wes Edwards, attorney at Crown Equipment Corporation, and Mark Manuel, also of Crown Equipment, discussed how the donation came about, noting Dicke’s admiration for McCulloch after working with him in the 1960s.
Dicke worked for two summers in McCulloch’s congressional office in Washington, D.C., between the time of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Edwards said.
Dicke campaigned to have a statue of McCulloch as Ohio’s second statue at the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol Building. They came in third place when the state decided to replace its statue of William Allen, the 31st governor of Ohio, with one of Thomas Edison in 2016.
“Jim continued to do everything he could to rekindle this great legacy of Bill McCulloch,” Edwards said. Dicke approached Edwards with the idea of donating a statue of McCulloch to the city because they already had a bronze casting of McCulloch. Edwards then contacted local attorney Mike Gutmann, who helped Edwards get in contact with City Planner Chris Schmiesing, and the process began.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm, and we were really grateful for that,” Edwards said.
Architect Dan Freytag of Freytag and Associates, Inc. went over the statue’s design and future location across from the Piqua Public Library and Fort Piqua Plaza in the McCulloch square.
“The statue is not facing toward the Fort Piqua building, it’s facing east, and that was done purposefully to look back at Washington — taking on Washington — looking back toward that,” Freytag said.
In an artistic rendering of the proposed statue, there are series of steps that could be utilized as seating that lead up to the pedestal for the base of statue.
“We thought it was a tremendous idea, especially to acknowledge the great individual that William McCulloch was,” City Manager Gary Huff said. “We’re very, very appreciative of the offer to put the statue in.”
Commissioner Kris Lee said he was excited about the proposed statue donation when he spoke with Huff about it.
“No discussion in my household on the Civil Rights Act is ever complete without William McCulloch being spoken about,” Lee said. “We always talk about him. It’s just exciting that this coming. We appreciate your hard work and your guys’ effort in bringing this to us. I can’t wait to see it.”
Commissioner Bill Vogt said that not far from where the McCulloch will be is a statue of Don Gentile, who flew P-47’s and P-51’s in World War II for England and the United States.
“Bill McCulloch was a hero to everybody,” Vogt said. “What a tribute to that man.”
Vacant house to be demolished
The recent vacant house fire on the 200 block of East Main Street was also a topic of discussion during the commission meeting, during which city officials said that structure will be demolished soon.
During public comment, Bradley Boehringer of Piqua asked if the city was doing anything with the vacant houses in Piqua and suggested requiring owners to register the vacant houses with the city and to properly secure them.
“It creates a blight on our community that we don’t need,” Boehringer said.
Commissioner John Martin asked when the recently destroyed East Main Street house will be torn down. Huff said that the city has a contract ready to demolish the house.
“Is there any way … that we can go after, like, back taxes for the cost of getting the house torn down or any other issues like that?” Martin asked.
City Attorney Stacy Wall said that the city has sent notice to the owner of the vacant home about the need to demolish the structure.
“There’s a notice that was going out today to the property owner indicating demolition was imminent and the property owner has five days to take down that property. If not, the city would take action,” Wall said. “There’s also a proposed agreement for repayment of the cost of the demolition.”
Huff said that he and other city officials have met with County Commissioner Jack Evans to discuss vacant houses. The county has the ability to foreclose vacant houses on back taxes owed, and the city discussed having the county transfer those properties to the city to either re-utilize or possibly demolish them.
The city is waiting to hear back from the property owner of the vacant house on East Main Street on the status of their proposal.
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