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Giffen Hired as Dayton's City Administrator, City Explores Marina Options

DAYTON — It was an evening of firsts for Dayton City Council and city staff at Tuesday night’s meeting, as they convened for the first time at the Dayton Independent Schools’ central administrative office, and former Main Street manager Michael Giffen attended his first meeting as Dayton’s new City Administrator, replacing Dennis Redmond, who resigned from the position on January 1.
 
At last month’s council meeting, Mayor Ken Rankle cast the tie-breaking vote to approve the meeting’s relocation to the Board of Education conference room located at Clay Street and 3rd, after months of overcrowded meetings in the tiny council chambers on Sixth Avenue. Tuesday night, council heard the first reading of the amendment to Dayton’s code of ordinances, declaring the space as Council’s official meeting location.
 
Despite doubling the seating capacity for spectators, Tuesday’s meeting was still a full house. “Standing room only,” said Ben Baker, Dayton resident and candidate for City Council. “Imagine if this were at the old room.”
 
The relocation marks another notch on the bedpost of the city’s close partnership with its school system. “We won’t have a city without schools, and there can’t be schools without the city. It’s an important relationship,” Rankle said.
 
The first order of business in the new space was for Council to approve Michael Giffen as the city’s new Administrator. A committee of seven made up of council members, city staff, and community leaders, including the mayor and council members Jerry Gifford and Cathy Volter selected Giffen from a pool of over twenty candidates. Council approved the appointment unanimously, and Rankle added, “We felt more than anything that Michael knows a lot about the waterfront and other upcoming projects."
 
Giffen, no stranger to Dayton City Hall, originally joined the staff to do code enforcement work before spending nearly four years as Dayton’s Main Street manager.
 
Among a number of ongoing projects Giffen has inherited, he says his first order of business will be working with Council on a plan to pay off debt the city has accrued from its ownership of Dayton Marina. The city has owned the marina since its construction in the 1980s, but within the last year the city’s potential partner for managing the marina has backed out of those plans. This resulted in leaving the city with approximately $80,000 in unpaid utility bills. 
 
Giffen has spent the last several months working to sort out those logistics, and Council discussed Tuesday night whether or not the city should sell the marina. Council moved to continue searching for a tenant to lease the property until the city can pay the back bills and sell the marina.
 
Looking forward, Giffen is setting his sights on continuing efforts toward revitalization, and to him that means making Dayton a desirable place to live or own a business. “Dayton used to be a city with 10,000 citizens. Today, there are 5,000,” he said. “Not many communities in an urban core have an opportunity to bring people back."
 
He pointed to two projects in particular for which, as Main Street manager, he successfully procured grant money, and are now imminent. The first is an Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) grant for widening the sidewalks in Dayton’s business district, and the second is a Safe Routes to School grant for improvements to Dayton Pike. 
 
“We need to set up Dayton to be a safe, walkable community in the urban core,” he added. “With these new development opportunities, we have that chance. That is my goal."
 
Written by Pat LaFleur, RCN contributor
 
Photo: Giffen (right) and Mayor Rankle/RCN