Mayor: City looks to bring back events in 2021
TWINSBURG -- The COVID-19 pandemic slammed the brakes on many Twinsburg projects and events in 2020. Hopefully, 2021 will see the return of several of those events.
Mayor Ted Yates, in his State of the City address given at a Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce event Thursday morning, said this year's address was tough to put together. In other years, the mayor said, he generally highlighted the community events that happened in the city through the year, such as Rock the Park, the Memorial Day parade, many youth sports, the summer camps and Twins Days. Those events were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and many other programs and events were delayed and run on a restricted basis. The city's playgrounds were taped off and the Senior Center was closed.
"We lived in a world for a period of time like everyone else did," Yates said. "Twinsburg was a somber place last year. There were no big gatherings, that was the same in other cities, the state, the nation."
On March 9 of last year, the first three cases of COVID-19 were found in Ohio, Yates said. Shortly after that, Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency. Twinsburg switched from having staff in the city buildings to having many people working from home. The hardest part, the mayor said, were the layoffs that resulted from the economic uncertainties and shutdowns.
"The most difficult thing I had to do was call 46 people and let them know they were laid off," Yates said. "That was 20% of our full-time staff." He added the city was able to bring back most of them, but some positions were permanently eliminated.
In addition to the cancellations, there were delayed openings at facilities such as the Gleneagles Golf Course and the city's outdoor water park. Instead of a family Easter Egg Hunt, in 2020 there was a drive-thru event where families could meet the Easter Bunny and collect candy and other treats.
By May, things in Twinsburg started to slowly reopen, Yates said. Both Gleneagles Golf Course and the city's fitness center reopened with restrictions in May, and the water park opened in June, although with many changes. Yates said it was sad to see the water park quiet, but added that many municipalities did not open their outdoor pools at all over the summer. Youth sports practices also resumed, and the Senior Center sponsored outdoor events.
The service department "had a really challenging time" with maintenance needs around the city, Yates said, because the city did not hire any seasonal staff. In most years, the city hires about 15 people for the summer months to help the full-time staff. In addition, many road projects were delayed by the pandemic, he added.
Grants from the federal government to help cover COVID-related expenses for the city were a boon, Yates said. He added the city could be receiving funds through the American Rescue Plan Act, but how much was uncertain at this time. Initially, the city was told it would receive $3.7 million, divided over two years, in 2021 and 2022.
"The original plan did not include townships," Yates said. "But that will probably change. The townships have have been lobbying for some of the funding."
There were some highlights for 2020, Yates said. He commended the city's fire department for their work.
"These guys did a fantastic job keeping themselves healthy," Yates said, adding few firefighters had to isolate or quarantine due to the COVID-19 virus. Yates said the call volume for 2020 was actually about the same as 2019.
The city approved the purchase of a new, $800,000 fire truck, which will be delivered in the near future, Yates said. This truck will replace another engine, which is more than 20 years old.
The police department also has seven new hybrid Explorers, which has saved the city gas expenses, Yates said.
"Those driving them on the weekends are telling me that they don't have to fill up as often," Yates said.
Despite the pandemic, the city saw several businesses either come in or expand, including Safran, Pepprl + Fuchs, O'Reilly, Saffron, and New Adventures Early Learning and Child Development Center. Yates said that New Adventures was "still under construction on 91."
Cornerstone Business Park "is completely built out," Yates said.
"It's turned into this development we can be proud of," he said of the area, which was the former site of the Chrysler plant. "Does it bring in the same revenue the old Chrysler plant did? No. It brings in about a third. But it's far better than vacant land, and it's a development the city can be proud of."
Also, the city is 90% occupied, "which is good, but it does limit growth," Yates said.
Plans for 2021
For 2021, Yates said several programs canceled last year are expected to come back. Registration is now open for the city's summer camps, and there are plans to bring back Safety Town, which Yates said the city hasn't offered for a few years.
In addition, the city plans to bring back its popular Rock the Park concert series at Glen Chamberlin Park, 10260 Ravenna Road. The concerts are expected to start June 11. Tickets go on sale May 3, and the lineup of concerts was expected to be announced.
Another positive change, Yates said, was bringing on Chef Art Pour Restaurant Group to handle food service at the golf course and in the Aaron & Moses restaurant and banquet facility, last summer. The restaurant reopened in September. He said when the golf course was purchased by the city in 1995, there was talk even then of replacing the clubhouse on the property with a new facility. The city decided to open the clubhouse with a restaurant and banquet facility after getting feedback from residents about the desire to see more dining options in the city. The idea, Yates said, was to have the city do the food services in-house.
"In hindsight, that might not have been a good thing to do," Yates said. "The restaurant business is a high-risk business, and those who do it should be the ones to run it."
Matt Cellura, the president of the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce's executive board, said 61 people had registered for the State of the City address.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at email@example.com