EVERYONE PARTICIPATES … Montpelier Mayor Steve Yagelski was sharing some thoughts at the Economic Development and Strategy Committee Public Meeting which was held on Thursday, March 25, 2021 at Drop Tine in downtown Montpelier. From left to right are Committee members who reported – Melissa Ewers, Nathan Thompson and Chris Kannel, along with Mayor Yagelski and Village Manager Jason Rockey.
By: Rebecca Miller
The Village of Montpelier, Ohio has been progressively pushing the growth and lure of their village. For many years they have worked hard to do whatever is necessary to draw people to make Montpelier their home.
On Thursday evening, March 25, 2021, the Village Council’s Committee for Economic Development and Strategy (EDS) held a public meeting at Drop Tine, to update the citizens on what has been accomplished, what is being done, and the hopes for the future. Mayor Steve Yagelski stated that this may be the first time, but it will definitely not be the last as he hopes they will be doing this twice a year from now on.
After introducing the three council members who make up the EDS Committee – Chris Kannel, Nathan Thompson and Melissa Ewers, Yagelski turned it over to them for a detailed report to those who turned out for the meeting. Thompson began by sharing about the Completed Infrastructure Projects. (BTW, infrastructure means “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (i.e. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise”).
Thompson spoke about the Main Street Reclamation since 2016, stating that the total project was a repaving project that cost $652,589.24. The village received a DCBG Grant for that in the amount of $285,000 and an OPWC Grant for $325,000. In 2018 and 2019 they did resurfacing streets to the tune of $154,218.
In 2020 the Wood Drive Reconstruction was completed in September, costing a total of $249,908, with $200,000 of the Permissive Tax Funds from the county paying for that. The balance was paid from the Tax Capital Improvement Fund.
The Solar Field was completed in November 2019. The village purchased 10.5 acres for $50,000, paid $6,166 for Witness Testing, $7,064 for a detailed Load Study before it could be energized and made some upgrades to the Steuben Substation for the connections to the Solar Field at a cost of $58,740.
The CSA project is one that had to be done as it is mandated by the EPA, but is never thought of again, Thompson said. It was finished up in September 2020, cost over 2 million dollars, financed by a zero interest 20 year loan to do a major Sewer separation.
The private property hookup for each house on the property was $346,214 and was paid from the Sewer Tax Capital Fund. Extensive street repaving was also part of this project, with which they are pleased.
AMI metering system has been put in at a total project cost of $249,908 paid from the Light, Water and Sewer Funds. It was completed in 2020 and allows the village to read meters from a computer in the office making it more efficient. (One hundred water nodes still need to be changed out through coordination with property owners because those meters are in basements.)
This past year, and completed in March 2021, the village invested $434,119 in a new Pump Station and Inflow Sewer Replacement at Randolph Street. An OPWC Grant of $175,000 was received and the rest was paid from the Sewer Capital Improvement Fund.
The village has invested 4.7 million dollars in all of these Infrastructure projects combined. $985,000 of that was in grants. The rest of the money came out of specific Capital Improvement Funds and some was with OWDA zero interest loans. People are encouraged to check at the office with Nikki Uribes for details.
Melissa Ewers spoke about the Amenities projects. Storrer Park Bathrooms were put in at a total cost of $80,876, with a CDBG grant for $44,045 and the remainder paid via the Park Fund.
The Splash Pad, which has been a big success, was completed in July of 2020 at a total cost of $342, 965, paid for by a secured note for $300,000 which will be paid down by $50,000 per year from the Park Fund.
Security Cameras have been upgraded at Municipal Park in 2019 for $1798, at the Splash Pad (2020) for $972, and at Storer Park in July 2020 for $1073. The FEMA Fire Fighters Grant, in the amount of $128,354, allowed the village to purchase new SCBA’s and facemarks for the Fire Department with a 5% match from the village.
The equipment ended up costing less than originally quoted so the total cost was $129,556.49. This project was completed in August 2020.
Chris Kannel took it from there, to share about the vision they have for Montpelier and to report on the current projects status. He spoke about the conversation going on in the community about what Montpelier needs. It is agreed that the village needs Housing and Work Force.
There is a desperate need for workers to fill the positions at the manufacturing businesses. Kannel clarified that the “Council and the Village Administration cannot bring houses or people into Montpelier.Those are completely out of our control. The only thing that we can do, as government is to facilitate an environment that encourages housing and work force growth. We can only set the stage. We cannot actually do those things.”
He went on to report on some specific things that have happened since 2003, when Montpelier was recognized as having the “Best Municipal Water in the World”! The VOM (Village of Montpelier) also has some of the best sewers in the world, “but that won’t generate new housing.”
They are participating in every possible thing that the county is doing to promote people coming to Williams County. Montpelier was the first village to join up with WEDCO in their assessment of what is needed. In 2017 VOM instituted a 15 year Tax Abatement for residential housing improvements.
In 2019 they have Phase 1 of Abbey Meadows, the first housing development in the village in years. They have participated in the conversation in every way possible to encourage housing in Montpelier.
In a written report which was given out to anyone who attended the regular Council meeting on Monday, March 22, 2021, it states, “VOM seeks to expand outdoor recreation and active transportation facilities in order to encourage an environment that is attractive for businesses to thrive and for people to live.
This objective is supported by numerous studies and the experience of communities in the region demonstrating development and economic growth related to outdoor recreation and active transportation facilities. In the spirit of our community’s past, as a regional RAIL transportation hub, VOM seeks to become a regional ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION hub.”
Kannel explained that active transportation is any means of getting somewhere without a car, such as trails, paths, sidewalks, etc. “We want to create an environment where people want to live,” Kannel said.
The formation of the Committee for the Economic Development and Strategy came about because the need for growth needs to be focused on “all the time.”
Current projects that are working toward this creation of an environment that will make developers want to build houses in Montpelier, include the CSO Phase 7 which is coming soon; Brown Road Turn Lane in from of the schools; Iron Horse Trailhead Park/Junction Park/Trailhead park event space/ stage, green space, benches, trailhead, keeping part of history from the buildings that were demolished, anticipated completion this year; a Bike Path Connector that is 10 feet wide between the Wabash Cannonball Trail on Cty. Rd. 13 to Main St./Airport Rd. Intersection was started in 2019, along with NORDA, with anticipated completion in 2021; Storrer
Park Basketball Court which is planned to be finished this year; Iron Horse River Trail is in stage 2 for Environmental Surveys; Wabash Cannonball Trail is meeting up with NORDA; and the St. Joseph River Habitat Protection Project.
The big question has been, “Why more Parks?” Studies show that four things will attract homebuyers to the community. Developers know that Outdoor Recreation will draw people and so they look for those things when deciding where to build housing.
Kannel mentioned a community that put a new street (four lanes divided) with bike lanes and a paved walkway through a corn field. When they finished that road, “instantly Housing developers were building homes there.”
The second thing that outdoor recreation and active transportation will do, is they make the worth of homes near them rise in cost. The OR and AT also draws people to the businesses in the community. All of the businesses in downtown Montpelier will have more customers.
They also attract new businesses. The annual study done by Consultants Forum found that the fourth thing listed of what will draw new businesses is Quality of Life and in those items are Outdoor Recreation and Active Transportation. He reiterated that as they council cannot make people move there, the only thing they can do is create the kind of place to which they would want to move.
He spent some time speaking about all the trails in Northwest Ohio, Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan that can be joined together and are being worked on presently.
Future Projects that are being considered include a Veteran’s Memorial Trail, Troop Banners for veterans and active service hung through the village, NorthSouth Bike Route on Platt Street, Labeling and decorating crosswalks for Safety, continuing to Identify Village assets, and making a Safe Route to School from the Municipal Park all the way to the Rec Center.
Kannel pointed out that they are actively continuing to work on the infrastructure of the village, but as those are not the things that will draw people to Montpelier, they are working hard to add anything to the village in the area of Outdoor Recreation and Active Transportation.
He spoke of 122 acres of conservation land that could potentially be connected with the village and would attract not only homebuyers and work force, but tourists as well.
This project would be purchased with 100% of grant fund money, none from the village, and Black Swamp Conservancy is going to do all the work as they believe in this project so much.
The vision for the property is that the St. Joseph River Habitat and watershed will expand the trails and lift the village into a different potential. “We just don’t feel like we can pass this up,” Kannel said.
As a community with an older, smaller population in Williams County, they need to be asking, “What do the 20 somethings and families with kids want to live in?” Kannel said. “We HAVE to look past asking what do we want and ask what do Millenials want.”
Mayor Yagelski commented, “One of the things we do here is we have a plan. We kind of know what we are doing for a few years ahead and we involve the development heads in this plan. They know what is going to be needed and they, as well as our treasurer Nikki, are on top of knowing the needs and providing for those infrastructure expenses.
They are very aware of the needs of the village and we want to keep explaining that to the public.” He shared that one of the reasons they did not get a grant was that residents did not take time to give the feedback needed via a survey. He encouraged residents to Please fill out surveys when you get them as it is utilized to get benefits for the village.
Resident Roger Thorp asked a few questions about some of the finances and expressed his opinion that having these meetings is a great idea to address public concerns. He shared that “As long as I can remember, where would you build new houses? Where else could you build them?”
Kannel shared about a map that shows all the vacant land in Montpelier and including Abbey Meadows there are over 50 acres inside the village limits. The council hopes that this land will become available for building new homes. The second part of land is 120 acres, adjacent to the village, if it becomes available.
“With the 15 year tax abatement there is an enormous incentive to build,” Kannel added. Information on that is available at the village office. Many of the owners have not been approached, but those lands are possibilities.
More discussion was held about what the village offers with “great schools, excellent school facilities, documented best water in the world, excellent library, excellent park facilities and the best sewers in NW Ohio and yet we do not have what will draw people to buy the land.”
The importance of trails and what it has done for Whitehouse, Ohio and Ft. Wayne, Indiana was covered again. The job market was mentioned again as well as some conversation about the Industrial Park and the need for employees.
A housing study of Williams County showed that with low unemployment the county could add hundreds of houses over the next few years.
The meeting was ended a few minutes after 8 p.m. and discussions continued for another twenty minutes. It was obvious that this public forum twice a year will be welcomed by the residents
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org