City pool in need of $3M repairs


Commission hears presentation on outdated city pool

By Sam Wildow - Miami Valley Today



Statutory versus charter

During the Piqua City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Bill Jaqua of Piqua spoke on his initiative to gather signatures to place a petition on the November General Election ballot to abolish the city of Piqua’s charter and to adopt the general statutory form of city government under the Ohio Revised Code. Jaqua discussed how his proposed changes to the city’s government would allow the city to elect a law director.

“In a statutory system, we would elect one, and the reason that’s important is because in Piqua, our county is run by what they call the ‘Troy mafia,’ and most of the attorneys know what that is,” Jaqua said. “There’s a small group of Republicans who run this county and they appoint the judges … They decide who’s in the political offices.” Jaqua went on to say, “They throw us a bone once in awhile and we get a judge” or another “insignificant” position.

“Piqua used to be a power center,” Jaqua said. He said the city’s current charter makes it difficult for the city commissioners or the law director to aspire to a political office held in Miami County’s county seat, such as for county commissioner.

“Our charter government is not a launching pad for that,” Jaqua said. He said the charter has cost Piqua “a lot of political power.”

Later during public comment, Joe Wilson of Piqua, who is also a former Piqua city commissioner, addressed the question of whether Piqua should remain a charter city or become a statutory city. Wilson advocated on behalf of the city’s charter government, saying it would introduce partisan politics to the city commission. Commission elections are currently nonpartisan in Piqua. Wilson said this will cause people to vote for whoever is Republican or Democrat.

Wilson also said switching to a statutory system would give unequal representation with the city on the commission with the addition of new at-large seats. The commission is currently made up of five representatives, one from each ward in the city of Piqua.

Wilson used the example of the 5th Ward, which sees higher participation in local elections. He suggested the 5th Ward would potentially have more people participate and try to join the commission than the other wards of the city, after which the commission would have more representation from the 5th Ward on the commission than any other part of the city.

“I think there’s more of a chance to have an unbalanced representation within the city when you don’t have an equal representation like we have now,” Wilson said. “I like the idea of having five equally-represented people up here representing five equally-represented population zones.”

After Wilson was finished speaking, Jaqua shouted from his seat about wanting a town hall and about the lack of participation the commission has seen with having candidates run for office.

“The fact of the matter is there’s four of you up there … you ran unopposed,” Jaqua said. “We had one guy decide who the mayor was.”

Lee gave Jaqua recommendations on who to go to in order to possibly hold a town hall discussion, noting this discussion was Jaqua’s initiative and not the commission’s. Lee said he is neutral on this point, saying he was not against it and not for it.

“It’s your point to prove,” Lee said.

PIQUA — The Piqua Municipal Pool is in need of over $3 million worth of repairs, and the city’s Park Board brought these concerns before the Piqua City Commission during its regular meeting on Tuesday evening.

“It’s past its prime,” Eddie Harvey of the Park Board said about the city’s pool, which is over 30 years old.

The pool’s 2020 fund estimates include $49,000 in revenue; $223,051 in funds transferred from the general fund; and $272,051 in expenses. The expenses include $86,461 in labor and benefits, as well as $185,590 in operations and maintenance. This budget is just the cost needed to open the pool, but the pool needs over $3 million-worth of improvements.

“The pool needs to be replaced,” Harvey said.

Harvey showed the commission a slideshow of damaged concrete, rust damage, peeling pool paint, and cracks in the pool.

The largest cost of those needed improvements, which are not included in this budget, would be replacing the main pool, which would cost approximately $2.5 million. Other improvements would include repairing or replacing the concrete deck, upgrading the filtration system, installing new dive boards, replacing the roof, and repairing and repainting the steel slide structure.

Harvey said the city’s daily admissions are “cheaper than anybody else” around and the membership costs are comparable to other nearby cities, but the pool’s attendance has decreased from approximately 19,273 attendees in 2008 to approximately 8,829 attendees in 2019. Harvey noted the 2019 season did face additional challenges due to rain and a lifeguard shortage.

Harvey suggested coordinating with the schools to see what children might like to see, such as a splash pad instead of a pool or a splash pad to go with the pool.

During public comment, Marcia Garrett of Piqua said she shared a petition with City Manager Gary Huff last year with approximately 100 signatures she gathered in a week advocating for the city to keep the pool open.

James Verhotz of Piqua also spoke on behalf of keeping the pool, saying it brings a “sense of community,” as well as noting it is for the community’s children.

“I think our kids need that,” Verhotz said.

Leah Berry of Piqua suggested having trained volunteers fill in to help with the lifeguard shortage. Human Resources Director Catherine Bogan said the city has tried to create additional incentives to get lifeguards to work for the city, such as offering more pay for lifeguards already trained.

Jey Roman of Piqua also advocated on behalf of the pool, saying he is in favor of keeping the pool even though he does not have kids and does not swim.

“It is important to have these things because it does build a community,” Roman said.

Commissioner Kazy Hinds addressed any rumors that the commission had already made a decision on whether or not to keep the pool open, explaining that the city has not yet made a decision. The pool is also expected to open this year, but the following season is still up in the air.

“We want to hear from the public,” Mayor Kris Lee said. “We want to figure this out.” Lee noted two possible options to save the pool, such as a committee to raise private funds for the pool or to have a levy.

Later on, Hinds and commissioner Cindy Pearson also said the pool situation came down to having funds to fix it, both speaking optimistically about the community finding a solution.

“This is a very giving city,” Hinds said.

“I think this community comes together when there’s a need,” Pearson said.

Lee scheduled a commission work session to be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 27 to discuss the pool. The meeting will be held in commission chambers on the second floor of the municipal building, located at 201 W. Water St., Piqua.

Community events discussed

At the end of the meeting, Lee discussed how the commission attended the “Call to Duty” ceremony held last Saturday, where the Ohio National Guard honored approximately 160 soldiers from the 1487th Transportation Company who will soon depart for a year-long overseas deployment in support of U.S. Central Command operations.

“It’s sad to see you go, but we will welcome you back,” Lee said.

Lee said how he spoke with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine at the ceremony, who asked Lee what the needs of the community were.

“One of the first things he said was, ‘How can I help you? What’s going on?’” Lee said. Lee said he brought up the need for jobs, and DeWine directed Lee to the OhioMeansJob.com website, which Lee said had a posting for over 200 jobs in the Piqua area.

Lee also said he received a thank you from the city of Troy Mayor Robin Oda for the Piqua Police Department’s help in responding to the city of Troy during the recent January tornadoes that affected the city of Troy.

“In times of need, we’re going to be there for them, and they’re going to be there for us,” Lee said.

Lee also discussed how he participated in a video being submitted for HGTV’s Home Town Takeover series, an entry being organized by Natalie Young of Piqua. Awesome Piqua chapter of the Awesome Foundation also contributed a $1,000 grant to this project. Entries selected by HGTV’s Home Town Takeover series will be featured in the show, where the downtown will receive a “facelift.” For more information, visit hgtvhometowntakeover.com.

Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathy Sherman also gave a presentation on the premiere of “The Last Full Measure,” which featured a story on Piqua native and pararescue specialist William Pitsenbarger. Sherman said the movie opened to 617 theaters nationwide, making $1.1 million on its opening weekend. Sherman said Piqua’s Cinemark location made eight times the average amount the rest of the theaters in the country did with that movie. Sherman also commented on the premiere event held for “The Last Full Measure” at the Miami Valley Centre Mall, where the movie’s director and producers, as well as retired U.S. Army soldiers, took part in recognizing Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice.

“They were amazed at the honor paid to them,” Sherman said.

The commission also approved a number of items on its regular agenda, including a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement to fund the extension of Scarbrough Drive approximately 390 feet; excess liability insurance for combustion turbines; excess liability insurance for the city’s dams and water, wastewater, and electric utilities; and a wage increase of 2.5 percent for the city’s non-union employees to match the cost-of-living increases the union employees negotiated.

Commission hears presentation on outdated city pool

By Sam Wildow

Miami Valley Today

Statutory versus charter

During the Piqua City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Bill Jaqua of Piqua spoke on his initiative to gather signatures to place a petition on the November General Election ballot to abolish the city of Piqua’s charter and to adopt the general statutory form of city government under the Ohio Revised Code. Jaqua discussed how his proposed changes to the city’s government would allow the city to elect a law director.

“In a statutory system, we would elect one, and the reason that’s important is because in Piqua, our county is run by what they call the ‘Troy mafia,’ and most of the attorneys know what that is,” Jaqua said. “There’s a small group of Republicans who run this county and they appoint the judges … They decide who’s in the political offices.” Jaqua went on to say, “They throw us a bone once in awhile and we get a judge” or another “insignificant” position.

“Piqua used to be a power center,” Jaqua said. He said the city’s current charter makes it difficult for the city commissioners or the law director to aspire to a political office held in Miami County’s county seat, such as for county commissioner.

“Our charter government is not a launching pad for that,” Jaqua said. He said the charter has cost Piqua “a lot of political power.”

Later during public comment, Joe Wilson of Piqua, who is also a former Piqua city commissioner, addressed the question of whether Piqua should remain a charter city or become a statutory city. Wilson advocated on behalf of the city’s charter government, saying it would introduce partisan politics to the city commission. Commission elections are currently nonpartisan in Piqua. Wilson said this will cause people to vote for whoever is Republican or Democrat.

Wilson also said switching to a statutory system would give unequal representation with the city on the commission with the addition of new at-large seats. The commission is currently made up of five representatives, one from each ward in the city of Piqua.

Wilson used the example of the 5th Ward, which sees higher participation in local elections. He suggested the 5th Ward would potentially have more people participate and try to join the commission than the other wards of the city, after which the commission would have more representation from the 5th Ward on the commission than any other part of the city.

“I think there’s more of a chance to have an unbalanced representation within the city when you don’t have an equal representation like we have now,” Wilson said. “I like the idea of having five equally-represented people up here representing five equally-represented population zones.”

After Wilson was finished speaking, Jaqua shouted from his seat about wanting a town hall and about the lack of participation the commission has seen with having candidates run for office.

“The fact of the matter is there’s four of you up there … you ran unopposed,” Jaqua said. “We had one guy decide who the mayor was.”

Lee gave Jaqua recommendations on who to go to in order to possibly hold a town hall discussion, noting this discussion was Jaqua’s initiative and not the commission’s. Lee said he is neutral on this point, saying he was not against it and not for it.

“It’s your point to prove,” Lee said.

Reach the writer at swildow@aimmediamidwest.com. © 2020 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.

Reach the writer at swildow@aimmediamidwest.com. © 2020 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.