City council candidates talk about future of WCH


By Jennifer Woods - jwoods@aimmediamidwest.com



The general election on Nov. 5 has five people running for three seats on the Washington Court House City Council: Jim Blair, Jim Chrisman (running for reelection), Jason Gilmore, Kathie Oesterle and Kendra Redd-Hernandez (running for reelection).

The Record-Herald supplied questionnaires either through email or on a printed document. Answers were collected, organized and then split into four articles. The following is part two of the collected answers:

4) For those whom have already served on council, what three things are you most proud of during your time on council? What have been your biggest challenges?

Chrisman—Took over Washington Union Township Cemetery and we have made a lot of improvements with the help of some organizations in town. With the help of citizen groups, we got a levy passed to replace a safety building that was over a hundred years old. With the help of citizens, we got an additional income tax passes to increase our safety forces and were able to eliminate some property taxes.

Redd-Hernandez—I am proud to be a part of creating the Economic Development Director position filled by Chelsie Baker, adopting the Downtown Building Maintenance Code, which is gradually being introduced, and the re-creation of Main Street Fayette (MSF) which organizes the downtown events and activities. The biggest challenge is understanding that implementing change takes time. It’s a work of heart.

5) What neighborhood do you live in?

Blair—Fairgrounds/ golf course.

Chrisman—Blackstone Street and Gregg Street.

Gilmore—I live on the south side of Washington Court House, on Cherry and S. North Street in my 19th century brick home with my dog, Chole.

Oesterle—I live in the Storybrook expansion on Duffy Drive with my husband, Ron.

Redd-Hernandez—I own an 1889 Victorian home in the Milwood District, two blocks from where my mom grew up and about four blocks from Cherry Hill. I love my neighborhood.

6) Where are your favorite places to spend time in our town?

Blair—Roosters and the walking trail

Chrisman—High school sports mostly and The Willow Restaurant, along with several other good restaurants.

Gilmore—Some of my favorite places to spend time in Washington Court House are the Farmer’s Market, Chrisman Park and Dog Park, anywhere downtown or catering venues in town.

Oesterle—I love spending time biking on our cycling paths along the creek, at our local restaurants and downtown at our local businesses.

Redd-Hernandez—Well, I have a 10 year old son so I spend a lot of time at sporting events at the YMCA soccer fields, the WCHCS gymnasiums and the Little League Baseball fields. I also enjoy dinner out with friends at many of our locally owned restaurants. And we are looking forward to spending time at the new Splash Pad next summer.

7) What does Washington Court House 10-20 years in the future look like to you?

Blair—I envision the completion of our walking trail all the way from the YMCA to the trail head at Robinson Road. I would like to see Paint Creek deepened to allow for kayakers to have a place to enjoy their sport. Building upgrades must be a priority, and the strip mall out by the hospital needs to be revitalized. Don’t just pour resources into the downtown, but also remember there are ample opportunities for improvement and expansion in our outskirt strip malls. An example would be that the old Wendy’s building has set vacant for too many years and the mall behind it has a dismal occupancy rate. Has the city tried to work out something with the mall owner? Being an outsider, I cannot say what has been or not been done, but something “needs” to be done. Revamping and restoring current business buildings thereby attracting businesses would be what I would like to see in the future.

Chrisman—I hope bigger and better.

Gilmore—I see our city being the shining city on a hill for our region. I hope with new views and ideas on Council we will be able to push forward with these aggressive goals of bettering our city and children’s futures. Of course, never losing its hometown feel, but also expanding its population size. We cannot continue to stay stagnant and just shift the tax burden around. Since 2010, we have seen zero increase in population—in fact a decrease of 50 people. Whereas, London, Ohio has seen nearly an increase of 500 people.

Oesterle—I see it with its continued small town feel but one that has progressed with our current technological revolution. This is one reason I have called for us to look into electric car charging infrastructure for our downtown and green infrastructure, and by the way, this infrastructure is something we have already begun. The city already has solar panels at the water department and went to LEDs in the downtown lighting. It is simple, affordable measures that we must take to keep up with the rest of society. We must reinvest in our parks and recreation options. Many have asked, “How will we pay for that?” From recent improvement levies and grants, I believe we will be able to accomplish this goal without any tax increase. We must investigate options where we can save our residents money and increase the affordability of living in the city. Many cities our size and in our region like London and Chillicothe have accomplished goals like this by having city-wide recycling and sanitation-programs that from our outreach have been wildly successful and popular.

Redd-Hernandez—Imagine our beautiful blooming pots, lighted trees and brick embellished sidewalks. Families strolling the streets, browsing in windows and laughter abound. Storefronts are filled with services, restaurants and retail establishments. There is a waiting list for apartments above the storefronts. Our industrial park is thriving. Housing is booming. And the word on the street is Washington C.H. is the place to live with safe streets, friendly neighbors, great schools and a thriving economy.

8) Are we doing everything we can to attract new business to the city?

Blair—No. The current contract with the firm the city has hired to attract new business to downtown WCH has not been successful. I have attended many committee meetings along with city council meetings but haven’t been able to find the steps or who the city is using to bring in businesses to our industrial park.

Chrisman—We hired Buxton for help in identifying new business, hired Chelsie Baker as our economic director and we have a couple of downtown committees that also have been a great help. Everyone seems to work together for economic development, including the county.

Gilmore—No. One—I would like to implement a more equitable enforcement of the zoning and building code of the city. There should be no grey area in this codification, the law should be black and white and enforced accordingly. Two—I would like to have a new economic development firm do an economic study and analysis for the city to see what we should do to bring in high paying jobs. We missed out on McKesson, and I want to know why that is. Further, working to create tax incentives for businesses to seek Washington Court House out. Three—I want to see the city increase its role in urban renewal projects (selling blighted lots to be redeveloped) in order to increase property valuations and attractiveness to build homes in the city.

Like I previously stated, we missed out on McKesson just this month. A few years ago, it was Honda. What will it be next? We need to have a new economic analysis and learn where we are failing as a city and work to improve. I believe creating a more tax friendly market will create more competition between cities like Circleville, London, Xenia, Chillicothe and us.

Oesterle—No, and that is just a fact. Why did the Menards plant and now McKesson decide on Jefferson Twp. (Jeffersonville) over our industrial park? Well, that is a question for the city manager and current council. The workforce that will employ those plants will not all come from Jeffersonville, so that is a mute argument, and McKesson already has a plant in Washington Court House, so again, why did they choose Jefferson Twp. over us? I speculate that not enough was done in terms of economic development and tax relief to make Washington Court House competitive enough for them to pick us.

Redd-Hernandez—In 2018, the City hired Buxton Analytics to guide us in attracting the right kind of new business to the area. We have solicited multiple businesses that match our demographics. We have used their services for every prospect looking at Washington C.H. Again, bringing a new business requires time. Currently, the City has quite a few prospects that are considering Washington C.H. for expansion or as a new location.

https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2019/10/web1_CityBuilding-1-1-1.jpg

By Jennifer Woods

jwoods@aimmediamidwest.com