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In Dayton, Pier Project Moves Forward as Mystery Development & Fiscal Concerns Loom

The city council allocated up to $21,000 for a comprehensive plan to be developed around the proposed pier project on the riverfront.

The project was suggested by a group of citizens in July and is modeled after a similar project in Maysville. Woolpert and KZF submitted bids to conduct the comprehensive plan and their proposals were similarly priced. Each company has worked on similar projects in the Ohio Valley region.

"This will allow us to go after grant funding," City Administrator Michael Giffen said of the comprehensive plan. Whom to award the bid to was not decided as the city will counter to see if the bid prices can be modestly reduced. The $21,000 would come from the city's economic development budget and the plan would include public meetings and other work that would need to be facilitated prior to design.

"We kind of think of this project as a pocket park area of Riverfront Commons where there may be more amenities, a monument, a little more access to the river," Giffen said. City council offered its unanimous blessing.

One of the project's original supporters, resident Catherine Hamilton-Hicks, thanked the council for its support, the second consecutive meeting in which blessings were offered to the pier plans, but she expressed concern about a mystery development hanging in the air above the city. "I don't want us to be in the dark," she said.

"We're waiting for this developer to come in and say he wants a meeting," Mayor Ken Rankle said. The mystery developer and his mystery development have been referenced multiple times at recent council meetings and the project would be another big one on the riverfront.

"It's been a month since we've had any interaction," Giffen said, adding that the developer sent some materials representing its work from around the country. "They're developing their plan and don't want to share with me or the mayor (yet)."
 
"It's an impressive portfolio but any developer that comes to the table will show you an impressive portfolio."
 
Rankle said that the night before, he ran into the developer who was with Dave Imbolden, the developer of Manhattan Harbour, the city's luxury home development on the riverfront. "We're waiting like everyone else," Rankle said.
 
Another big development in Dayton would be a boon to the city's troubled financial state. The city council unanimously approved the property tax rate of 4.45%, representing no increase for the third straight year. 
 
"It makes no difference which department it is, but every year we're taking more out of our surplus and we can't keep doing that," Rankle said. "I attended the fire board meeting. We have fire trucks that need to be replaced. The fire board said they're under-funded. We've got to start working on a game plan to raise that money. I don't have a solution. The rate we're going, something is going to have to give. It's either going to be services or personnel."
 
The value of existing homes in the city is low, but the newer construction projects will boost that. Just not soon enough, Rankle said. "These are all great developments that are going to help our grandkids," he said.
 
"Well, the fire department is going to help us every day by saving lives," Councilman Jerry Gifford said. 
 
"I agree with you but we have to find a way to pay for it," Rankle said. The mayor said that the city should be working on plans to buy property in its industrial zone so that larger lots can be created to attract larger businesses to the city. "We have to have four or five different lots together," he said.
 
Councilman Virgil Boruske said that the city could lure four or five smaller businesses to disconnected lots, and that would be equivalent to one larger business.
 
Dayton is a hub community, offering companies "a leg up" on government projects, Rankle said. That is one benefit of industrial businesses locating there. But space is limited now. "One or two lots together won't support a business," the mayor said. "It all takes dollars, that's all I'm saying. There are a lot of dollars needed and right now, no one has the solution, and that includes myself."
 
Councilwoman Cathy Volter argued that the Campbell County Property Valuation Administrator (PVA) may be incorrect on the values of real property in the city. "Let's meet with them and see how we can get our valuation up without hurting the property owners that much," she said. "I think our properties are worth a lot more than what's being taxed."

Rankle said he met with PVA five years ago about this issue while Giffen said a meeting was held with PVA two months ago that also include the Dayton Schools superintendent.

"I just don't think higher taxes makes this city more attractive to live in," Councilman Bill Burns said. "Do I have the answer? No, I don't. But we can't keep raising taxes and raising taxes."

"I'm not in favor of raising taxes either, but in order to pay for services, we have to find the money somewhere," Rankle said. 

"I don't want to pay any more taxes than anybody else does, but I want to make sure we have the services we need," Volter said. "I'm willing to hold for one more year and see what kind of business we can bring in and meet with PVA."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Catherine Hamilton-Hicks addresses Dayton City Council on Tuesday night/RCN