AURORA – This year’s capital improvement projects and equipment will be worth about $17.9 million, with half of that – about $9 million – to be plowed into upgrades at the Central wastewater treatment plant.

"I have worked hard to improve infrastructure during my tenure," Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin wrote in her annual budget memo to Council, pointing out a number of projects completed in 2019.

"We’ve been exceedingly fortunate to benefit from a robust economy, which has allowed us to address infrastructure needs and added amenities with current revenue. We’re planning multiple projects in 2020, along with our ongoing projects in wastewater treatment and [traffic] signalization."

Of the $9 million targeted for Central wastewater plant improvements, the city expects $5.5 million to come from Ohio Public Works Commission funds. "We plan to begin engineering promptly for the first priority regarding sludge treatment," Service Director Harry Stark has said.

The mayor noted the fourth of the city’s 1920s era water lines will be replaced at an estimated cost of $1.75 million. Three more sections of 1920s lines still remain. Along with the water line replacement, East Pioneer Trail from Route 43 to the Beljon subdivision will be repaved at an estimated $618,000 ($309,300 in OPWC funds).

"We have avoided borrowing for those significant water line projects through 2020, after the city was initially projected to borrow as early as 2015," said Womer Benjamin.

Two stormwater improvements on the horizon are a culvert replacement on East Pioneer Trail ($375,000) and $100,000 set aside for the Geauga Lake area. A Lena Drive force main will be installed for about $424,000, with OPWC funds accounting for about $200,000.

Road repaving is expected to cost about $1.15 million in 2020. In addition to East Pioneer Trail, the library parking lot and some cemetery roads will be repaved.

Because the Routes 82-306 intersection has received an F rating from traffic experts, it will be widened and a designated left-turn lane northbound will be added. The cost is estimated at $300,000.

In the last five years, the city has installed about 1.5 miles of sidewalks, and $392,000 has been budgeted for more of them in 2020, including East Pioneer Trail from Route 43 to New Hudson, the west side of Route 306 in the historic district and from Route 306 to the Aurora Inn.

"Improvements at the former Hartman farm have created an incredible outdoor recreation facility, which was well-used in 2019," said Womer Benjamin. "In 2020, $386,000 is budgeted for a pavilion and paved parking, and $40,000, plus $24,000 in carryover from 2018, for tree arboretum enhancements."

Through November, the city has spent slightly more than $2 million on Hartman facilities, not including the land purchases.

The mayor has included $350,000 in the budget for a spray park at Kiwanis-Moore Playground. A payment of $160,000 for 91 acres the city has bought on East Mennonite Road to connect several city properties also is included.

Because the parks-recreation department is cramped for space at the former Margaret Harmon property on Page Road, officials are looking to possibly build a new facility near the Brown-Keidel Service Center. Design of the structure is estimated to cost $70,000.

Barn repairs at the Spring Hill property are set at $25,000, and the mayor said officials are still evaluating what to do with the house there. Demolishing it is a possibility.

The fire department will see some building improvements and new equipment, and a new carport at the police station is planned for an estimated $250,000. "An estimated $69,950 is proposed to complete our building security plan," said the mayor.

Womer Benjamin noted the city currently has 122 full-time employees, and population growth has brought about the need for one new full-time firefighter-EMT. "We have not added full-time personnel to the department since 2003 – managing with part-timers – but our runs have increased by 704 calls per year," said the mayor. "I believe an additional person is critical at this time."

With the part-time GIS technician handling an increased workload, Womer Benjamin proposes to make the position full-time at mid-year, and she said similar to union raises, non-union salary increases will be 2.5 percent, with a handful of exceptions.

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