I was born in Bucyrus in 1954 and attended Holy Trinity and Bucyrus Public Schools graduating in 1972. I attended Ohio State University and graduated with a BS in Business Administration in 1976. My wife is from Bucyrus, the former Gayle Knappenberger and we were married in 1977. As a young Bucyrus resident I worked at our family business in High School and, after college, was hired by F. and R. Lazarus in the buyer training program. I re-entered the family business in 1978 when we purchased a store in Kenton. I returned to Columbus in 1985 when we purchased a store in Dublin. My wife and I finally settled back home in 1993. We purchased and renovated the home of my wife's father, Dr. Robert Knappenberger on Plymouth Street where we reside today.
We have two daughters, Anne and Emily. Anne is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Virginia Law School and resides in Virginia. She is Married to Michael Hill. Emily is a graduate of Walsh University and works at FedEx in Green, Ohio. We have two grandchildren, Julianne and Jeff.
Mayor Reser Bi-Weekly Reports
The Mayor and Safety Service Director give bi-weekly reports to the Council. Below you will find PDF versions of Mayor Reser's reports.
Safety Service Director Wagner Bi-Weekly Reports
The Mayor and Safety Service Director give bi-weekly reports to the Council. Below you will find PDF versions of SSD Wagner's reports.
2023 State of the City
Mayor Jeff Reser
Delivered to Bucyrus Rotary Club February 28th, 2023
I would like to thank my Rotary colleagues for allowing me to present my final State of the City address to you today. This will not be a “farewell” address but a presentation on some of the events pertaining to the City during my time of service as well as an analysis of the important issues that will be addressed this year and also those issues that will be especially challenging to future administrations and to us as citizens. I began my mayoral service in 2014, shortly after the death of Mayor Roger Moore, and will be soon completing my ninth year as Mayor of Bucyrus. Even though this is my last State of the City address I still have about ten months in office and I promise you that our administration is not on auto-pilot for there is much to do. In fact, the last two years have been extremely busy and challenging--the most challenging of my tenure and I would like to make sure that many of the projects that have been in planning are either completed or well on their way to completion.
It has been a privilege to serve my hometown as Mayor for my term of office, which will be nine and a half years at the end of the year and, I believe that I will have been the third longest-serving mayor in the 202 years of Bucyrus history. In “mayor” years that is about 70 years of service! During my tenure, I have been challenged to use all my “people” skills that have been developed in owning a retail business. Having a background in business and finance has also been helpful. But, in case you don’t know this, the government does not work like a business. It works much slower and much louder. Everyone has an opinion now, thanks to social media. I do believe that we have achieved many of our goals able because of the staff at City Hall, in particular, SSD Jeff Wagner and Administrative Assistant Kelli Patterson who, in their own life experiences, brought creative skills to their positions that have made my job much easier. We have a great team and these two persons do not get nearly enough credit. In addition, Bucyrus is blessed to have a solid group working out of city hall including the Zoning, Income Tax, Council Clerk, and Utility office. These good folks work hard and care for the city and its future. I would also like to mention former council President, Sis Love, who was the first female mayor of Bucyrus and a great mentor and friend. I know that I will look back at the end of my service and realize that the success of an administration is a team effort in every respect. I was blessed to have a great team.
Allow me just a few minutes to reflect on the last nine years and then I will address the topic of my presentation which is the current state of the city. My goal as mayor was to make Bucyrus an enviable community when compared to cities our size and I believe that we have made progress in that goal. We have an attractive business district, our streets our clean and repaired, we have begun a tree program which was sorely needed and we have improved our crime rate which was too high at that time, primarily because our Police Department was underfunded due to lack of revenue. I was fortunate to have begun my term just as the one-half of one percent Safety Forces income tax levy was initially being collected which now brings in about $1.7MM per year. We were able to bring our safety forces back to full staff and were able to maintain full staff for several years. We saw a substantial drop in crime in Bucyrus due to the support of the citizens in passing the Safety Forces levy. We also have substantially upgraded our EMS service to the city.
I was also fortunate to have followed Mayor Roger Moore who had already begun the planning for two important projects—the water treatment plant and Schines Art Park. We were blessed to be able to finance the WTP at the perfect time of low-interest rates which allowed us to save our water customers over ten million dollars over the course of the loan. The water treatment plant was opened in the fall of 2017 and Schines Art Park was opened in the same year. Both projects were critical to Bucyrus. SSD Jeff Wagner and engineer Lyn Makeever’s vision to become a water supplier for residents outside the city has become a reality. Last year, we started the effort by bringing city water to Stetzer Road. This year, we are putting the shovel in the ground to supply water to the village of Nevada as well as Sulphur Springs and other areas, providing a clean, safe water source to areas in need. Water service to Oceola is also in the planning stages and should become a reality within the next year or so. Extra revenue from water sales reduces the financial burden of the payment of our water treatment plant on our residents and helps to slow future rate increases.
We are very proud to have completed Schines Art Park--it is a gem, unlike any other downtown park that I’ve seen. We are blessed to have maintained much of our historic district and have enhanced its beauty with the Art Park—and it gets a lot of use. I think back to the planning and construction and there were many challenges that we had to overcome but the effort was worth it. This couldn’t have been possible without the vision of Mayor Moore and our own Joe Armbruster.
The downtown business district sets the tone for the entire community. It needs to be clean, historically significant, and well preserved in order to be vital in being a source of jobs and housing. Above all, it needs to be a gathering place for our community, a source of pride, and the events that are held downtown have significantly increased since Schines Art Park opened with First Friday events, concerts, and movies to name just a few. It is important to keep the momentum going. Because of budget issues, we cannot look to the city to keep the momentum. I believe that it’s time to form an organization composed of downtown merchants and building owners to make sure that our business district remains vital. This committee would work with city leaders to establish building standards and recommend improvements and be able to apply for grants to restore and repair buildings.
More improvements are in the plans for the extended business district with the addition of Norton Bicentennial Park at the spot just north of the Sandusky River. This area has been in decline and is an eyesore. The Bicentennial Commission is working to improve the area and soon it will be a source of great pride to the community and a fitting way to honor our founders, Samuel and Mary Norton. I was thrilled with the community response to our Bicentennial celebration and we owe a debt of gratitude to the Bicentennial Committee, led by Kelli Patterson who has made a difference in our community—and they will continue to make a difference with their energy, enthusiasm, and love for Bucyrus. They could have easily disbanded and patted themselves on the back for a job well-done but they didn’t. I look for great things from this committee.
Last year we said goodbye and thank you to our long-time City Auditor, Joyce Schifer, who served the city for thirty years as Treasurer and Auditor. Kali Lewis was appointed as City Auditor by the Republican Central Committee and has filed to run for a full term beginning in January of 2024. There are no “schools” for city elected officials so please have patience with your officials as they learn on the job. The procedures and language of government are foreign to the private sector and it takes years to become comfortable with the position. Thank you for serving.
2022 saw changes at the helm of the Crawford Partnership with David Zak being hired to take the place of Gary Frankhouse. I met with David for lunch before he officially came on board and, as you already have seen, David is a gifted leader and we are blessed to have him leading our economic development effort. He brings over twenty years of experience but it is his attention to detail as well as his ability to listen that enhance his outstanding leadership abilities. David is fortunate to have an able and enthusiastic staff that cares about our community and brings talent and enthusiasm to the Partnership.
The Bucyrus Chamber of Commerce hired Averee Richardson to replace Jessie Furner. Jessie did an excellent job leading BACC and Averee continues that strong tradition of active leadership. Welcome, Averee. Averee announced last week at the Economic Forecast Breakfast that the BACC is now approaching 400 members!
I would like to change tack here and take the remaining time to look ahead to the future and some of the issues that concern me and should be addressed. The political situation that we are in is difficult due to the effects of social media and COVID, as well as the seeping down to our local level effects of national political turmoil. It’s a difficult time to serve in public office and many good candidates mention the same reason for not running for office, “I don’t want to get involved in that mess.” I understand that good folks don’t want to get involved in the turmoil but, it is not good for the city to have a lack of qualified candidates willing to lead. It’s because some of the candidates who are running for office are not running out of a desire for service. Several of our offices have no candidates from either party and, unless independent candidates step up, we will have a leadership vacuum. This will be unprecedented in our lifetimes. So please consider running for office. The city of Bucyrus has a long history of leaders willing to serve our community and we hope that this current trend is reversed. And the best candidates come from a background of service—either in serving as a member of our service clubs or by serving their church community.
Another concern is the lack of commitment to our Park system by elected officials. We were unable to fund the pool opening this year due to revenue concerns and growing expenses in the Safety Forces budget. We also cut out $400,000 in our building repair and maintenance line. The city leaders have done well in providing funds for Safety Forces but successful cities find funds for quality of life issues for our residents, too. I would suggest a small ballot initiative to put the parks on solid footing so we don’t have to close the pool ever again.
You have probably read about the issues with funding Safety Forces. COVID and the George Floyd fallout brought changes to the number of young folks interested in policing and we have struggled to maintain our staff for the last couple of years. And last year, we lost several officers to larger departments that have higher pay scales. So, we had to adjust our pay scale to attract and keep our staff.
We don’t have the same staffing issue in the fire department but bringing EMS into the department has brought financial challenges. Taking on EMS services has provided the benefit of a consistent level of professional service and our staff has received excellent reviews. But it comes at a high cost. We offered the Fire Department the same wage increase as the PD received but they rejected the offer choosing instead to go to mediation and Fact Finding. The lawyer who oversaw the Fact Finding session ruled that the FD would be given a 10 to 20% raise which was more than was requested by the FD union. Unfortunately, three city council members voted to approve rather than appeal and this significantly raised the payroll cost of the Fire Department by $300,000 per year. Last year alone we spent $550,000 in overtime costs (including pension) to provide EMS services. This is four times as much as we had two years ago when we didn’t provide EMS in our fire department. This figure would rise by $90,000 in 2023 if changes were not made. Last week, we reduced our MINIMUM coverage to four on duty. This does NOT mean that we have just four on duty at all times. This means that there will be four, five, or six on duty, depending on who is scheduled off. In the first full five days of reducing staffing, we saved about $10,000 in overtime and pension costs. Multiply that times fifty-two weeks and you can see the potential savings to taxpayers.
Let me address the staffing and taxation issue.
Most of the calls to the fire department are EMS calls and we average about six EMS calls per day. That is about once every four hours. Unfortunately, we cannot schedule when the calls come and sometimes there are two calls at the same time—about 15% of the time that happens. The vast majority of the calls come between 7 AM and 7 PM. Two personnel are required in each ambulance. It is a very expensive service that the taxpayer fund. I believe that there is a better and less expensive way to provide a high level of EMS services. I am suggesting that we develop a plan to hire part-time firefighters as well as EMTs to supplement our staff which will potentially save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime costs. Other communities do the same. It can be done but it won’t be done unless you speak to your council representatives to strongly consider this option. The fire union is against it as well as several members of the City Council. Veteran firefighters/medics cost between $150,000 and $200,000 per person, including wages and overtime, 24.4% pension as well as benefits. The best long-term option, however, is to institute a county-wide EMS service, joining forces with the cities and townships of Crawford County to make more efficient use of our tax dollars.
Growth in tax revenue has not kept up with the funds needed to provide safety forces to our community. On the revenue side, this is due to an aging population who do not pay income taxes and the increases of “work from home” jobs that do not pay income taxes if they live outside the city. Last year, we had over $200,000 in refunds to those who work from home and live outside the city. We also have more workers living in Bucyrus who work out of town and those workers pay their income tax to the cities in which they work. Fifty years ago Bucyrus was “self-contained” in that most everyone lived and worked in town. It’s not that way any longer. We must provide services to those workers who live in town and work out of town. So, in effect, the current income payers, those who live and work in town as well as those who live out of town but work in town foot the entire bill. Last year, during my State of the City address I urged City Council to make the tough decision to reduce or eliminate the out-of-town tax credit. This was not a novel idea. In fact, every other community (except one) in Crawford County and adjacent counties has enacted such legislation. Over half of the cities and villages in the State of Ohio have done the same. Elimination of the tax would have raised $1,000,000 in tax revenue. City Council was ready to reduce the credit but one member of the city council changed his vote on the final vote which now adds to the financial stress that we are facing. A .25% Safety Forces tax levy is on the ballot which would provide an additional $850,000 if passed. Voters will decide.
Let me finish with some of the obstacles for the growth of Bucyrus that will need a coordinated effort between the government, the Partnership, and private development to address and solve.
Like many other small towns throughout the State, we do not have enough builders. A recent housing study showed that we are nearly 100% occupied in apartment rentals and more are needed. Houses do not stay on the market long, even with rising interest rates. The city that finds ways to build apartments and houses will win the population battle.
Providing infrastructure is another critical issue facing the city. It has become prohibitively expensive to build new streets and subdivisions in the last few years. If we are to resume our growth then we need to work closely with County and State government as well as the Crawford Partnership to find a way to finance new infrastructure. The announcement of the Intel factory will spur growth in this area and we need to be ready. Bucyrus has a low cost of living, a great location, and plenty of utilities, especially water. I am confident that we will land employers that will benefit from our many attributes, including the workforce.
In closing, I am optimistic about our future. The good folks that have lived here presently and for the past 200-plus years have the mettle to face challenges—and there have been many--and I am confident that we will continue to do so. But we can’t make the mistake of looking for the solutions to our problems solely to the government. I urge you to research the issues and get involved. Consider serving your city by running for an elected position. We need good people like you to serve.
I would like to thank my Rotary friends for allowing me to present my final State of the City address to you today and also thank you for allowing me to be a member of such an important organization. The tenor and tone of any community are set not by the government but by its citizens, especially by the many service organizations and faith communities who work to make Bucyrus better. Why do we serve this way? We do it because we care, we do it as a “pay forward”, we do it because it is the right thing to do---following the words of the Gospel that charge us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Let’s continue to serve and call on others to do the same. Individually and collectively our beloved Bucyrus will benefit and continue to be a wonderful place to work, raise a family, worship, and serve others. May God continue to bless Bucyrus!
2021 State of the City
A mayor can certainly begin any State of the City address by stating that the previous year was like no other in the history of Bucyrus. This year that statement takes on special meaning because of the Pandemic of 2020. The previous year began as any normal year with residents dealing with snow and cold weather issues and our administration closely watching tax revenues. Early in the year we hear the term “coronavirus” but it was a distant threat—from way over in China. We watched anxiously as the virus spread quickly throughout our country and eventually made its way to Crawford County. Life as we knew it changed when the Governor ordered a shutdown of most offices and businesses in anticipation of slowing the spread of COVID-19. We have been dealing with the effects of the virus ever since March of 2020. Local cases started out slowly then peaked in May—the shutdown worked and had delayed the spread—but only delayed it. But that delaying move on the part of Governor DeWine’s administration bought time to distribute protective equipment and get our medical community ready for the effects of the virus. The summer months saw a low case load and we breathed a sigh of relief. Then September came and the cases soared and now are finally declining in February of 2021. So much has happened in the last year with testing and illness and hosptitalizations. Citizens were encouraged to social distance, not hoard toilet paper and sanitizer and, of course wear masks. Operation Warp Speed brought us vaccines which are being administered now and the early results are good. There is still much to learn about COVID-19. Variants are being discovered and we are not out of the woods as of this writing. Please keep up the practices that have helped keep us as safe as possible.
COVID -19 made life difficult for our business community. Retailers, especially restaurants, struggled to keep staffs healthy and remain open. The federal government passed the CARES ACT which provided relief through forgivable loans to small businesses and this has been crucial to keeping many of our local businesses open. Thank you to our local SBA banks and accounting firms who did extraordinary work in the application process. An additional PPP (paycheck protection) program was introduced in January and is now in effect for a narrower subgroup of small businesses which actually experienced large sales declines due to the virus.
City workers were also affected. PD Chief Koepke was our first city worker to feel the effects of COVID-19 and was very sick for two weeks. City Hall was closed for several months during the year as we attempted to slow the spread and keep our staff healthy. Numerous other city workers contracted the virus with varying degrees of severity. We were able to maintain a high level of services to the community and we owe a debt of thanks to our staff for their dedication and courage during tough working conditions. It was important to maintain our services and keep our parks open for the community and we did it—thanks to a dedicated staff.
Many important events were cancelled for fear of becoming “super spreader” events. Churches closed and then many reopened as the Governor lifted the closure order but maintained social distancing practices with smaller congregations. Many used Facebook for online services. Our hospital closed to visitors and prepared to be inundated with COVID -19 patients which didn’t occur until late in the year. Schools cancelled spring sports but allowed fall sports to take place with good results. Our beloved Bratwurst Festival cancelled for the first time in history with a promise that 2021 will be bigger and better than ever—we are holding them to that promise. As of this writing I am optimistic that life will begin to return to normal over the spring and summer months. There may be a “new normal” with continued mask wearing and social distancing as we wait to see the effects virus variants and the efficacy of the vaccines but the outlook is markedly improved since December—just two months ago.
Although we are still navigating through the pandemic I would like to take this opportunity to thank some folks who have more than risen to the occasion. Crawford County Board of Health is the first group that comes to mind. Led by Director Kate Siefert, the Crawford County Board of Health has performed incredibly well during the pandemic. None of us can imagine the stress level of being responsible for the health of tens of thousands of citizens but they performed their jobs professionally and with a high level of compassion. Now they are working even harder in providing the long-anticipated vaccines to our citizens—one shot at a time. Thank you also to Dr. Christopher Johnson for professional leadership during this crisis.
Avita Hospital deserves our thanks for their work in preparing for the effects of COVID-19. Executives from Avita developed a plan to treat a large number of anticipated victims and those numbers didn’t materialize initially. This came at a great financial cost to them but they never complained. We thank Jerry Morasko and the entire leadership of Avita as well as the hundreds of health care workers who cared for so many of our community members putting themselves in harm’s way.
Many other people and organizations deserve our gratitude. Our school systems had a difficult task educating our young citizens while keeping everyone healthy. Thanks to all teachers and staffs. They performed admirably. Retail workers, especially food service workers, deserve our heartfelt thanks. Where would have been without our grocery store workers who stayed on the job in a difficult time stocking shelves (especially with toilet paper) and keeping us fed.
First responders stayed on the job during the Pandemic. BFD and BPD both have experienced cases of the coronavirus but others stepped up to fill-in as needed and, so far, services were uninterrupted. Portsmouth EMS has had similar issues with staffing but has managed to keep Bucyrus served. Kirk Williamson and Jette Cander from Crawford County EMS were instrumental in coordinating supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks and were capable interlocutors between agencies. Let’s not forget our nursing home staffs for their dedicated service during a time where many of the deaths from COVID -19 took place in nursing homes. This surely had to take a toll on all involved. I also want to thank Wise Funeral Services and Munz-Pirnstill Funeral Home for their fine work during the difficult grieving process where traditional calling hours were not always possible.
I cannot forget to mention the wonderful work of our social agencies which stood in the gap created by massive layoffs in the initial time of the pandemic by providing meals and encouragement to an apprehensive population. Special thanks to Pastor Dan and Karolyn Rebon from Father’s Heart Healing Center, Deacon Julius Fritz from Holy Trinity Community Kitchen and Salvation Army leaders Ray and Connie Valdez. They would be the first to tell you that the Bucyrus community stepped up financially to help out—this couldn’t have been done alone. Corporate giving was exceptional and I would single out just a couple of organizations who stepped up early—Ohio Mutual Insurance Group and the Community Foundation, but there were many more who helped including our generous service clubs. Thank you.
In the early days of the Pandemic much my time was spent listening to White House updates as well as the daily briefings from the Governor’s office. I believe that we owe a great debt to the Trump Administration and the DeWine Administration for the tremendous level of communication that was given to us. This crisis was unlike anything we have experienced and we hope that the worst is past and we will someday look back on those who made the right decisions and offered courageous leadership. Our State and Federal leaders rose to the occasion in a very difficult situation and they deserve our thanks.
2020 was also a contentious political year—the most difficult in our lifetimes. The pandemic seemed to make everything more divisive and there was an incident in Minneapolis involving a resident by the name of George Floyd who was killed during an altercation with the Minneapolis Police Department. This incident set off a chain of events nationwide that protested the killing. Our own community saw a peaceful event in June that allowed those in attendance to show their concerns about issues with racism in our country and community. We were asked to examine our own views of race relations in Bucyrus and see where we can improve and be more inclusive to all. Over 100 in attendance marched peacefully down Sandusky Avenue to City Hall and back to Millennium Park. We were concerned about possible violence during the event since other communities across the country had confrontations during their protests. Ours went off without any confrontations and we breathed a deep sigh of relief. Thank you to our county law enforcement for their presence.
Let’s now turn to the business of government which continued in 2021 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. I will go over some of the major projects that we worked on in last year.
Way back in the 1970’s, the City of Bucyrus was notified by ODNR of serious issues with the deteriorating dam at the Pines Reservoir. The cost of repair was put on the ballot and voters rejected it. Our administration was given a warning by ODNR of penalties that would have been assessed if the issue was not addressed. Pines Reservoir was no longer a safe water source and it had been disconnected from our water lines. The estimated cost for repair to the dam was over a million dollars. ODNR approved our plan to drain the reservoir and breach the dike so that it would not be a threat in case of a break in the dam. I am happy to report that the 40 year-old issue is now rectified and ODNR signed off on the project in November of 2020. It is good to have this project off our backs and we are continuing discussions about the future use of the former Pines Reservoir.
2020 was a busy year in the City with regard to our Consent Decree with the Federal EPA. Work continued in the southeast section of Bucyrus and Groups 1, 2, and 3A were completed. We are working with our engineering firm, Arcadis, who is now developing a report to present our progress to the Federal EPA and work toward a plan for the next cycle.
New Engineering Firm
Makeever and Associates, Inc. were chosen as the new engineering firm for Bucyrus, replacing Brandstetter and Carroll, Inc. We owe a huge debt to BCI for their work with the separation program, mill and pave program, and in obtaining important grants for Bucyrus. Makeever and Associates hit the ground running and have many good ideas to maintain and improve our city streets and other services to our residents.
Safety Forces Leadership
2020 saw a changing of the leadership guard in our Police and Fire Departments. Long-time Chiefs Dave Koepke (PD) and Jay Keller (FD) retired after many years of dedicated service to the City. We thank them for their leadership and wish them the best in their new endeavors. Captain Neil Assenheimer was sworn in as our new Police Chief and Captain Chad Schwemley continues as acting Fire Chief.
New Fire Equipment
We were able to replace a fire truck that was thirty years-old in 2020. Engine One was brought in to service in the fall and will serve the citizens or Bucyrus for many years. We also were able to purchase a new ambulance in anticipation of providing EMS service to our citizens later in the 2021. Our current ambulance is a 2010 model and the new model is a state of the art vehicle and was purchased with funds from the federal CARES Act which saves the citizens of Bucyrus over $300,000.
Congress enacted the CARES Act to provide relief to states, counties, and cities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Strict guidelines were in place for the use of the funds. We used our funds for enhancing the safety of City Hall by installing many touch-free doors and in our restroom facilities. Funds were also used to reimburse the City for time off for City workers who were stricken with COVID-19. Other uses of the CARES Act funds were for our new ambulance (see above) and for enhancing safety for our utility and income tax offices. Personal Protective Equipment was bought through the funding and we also are replacing commercial water meters to become radio-read meters thereby reducing exposure for our City meter readers. Touch free improvements are being made to the pool house. Crawford County officials released funds to the Bucyrus Chamber of Commerce who distributed funds to city businesses in the form of grants
General Electric Sale
Long-time employer, General Electric Lighting Division, was sold to Savant, Inc. in July. Savant began aggressively hiring new workers which was a very good sign. However, at the time of this writing, GE Lighting is in negotiations with the IUE-CWA union after announcing the closing of the LED line. We are very concerned that losing the LED line will not bode well for the future of the plant in Bucyrus since LED is the lighting of the future. We hope and pray that the negotiations will be fruitful and GE Lighting will continue the long history of quality work right here in Bucyrus.
Bucyrus Precision Tech
Bucyrus Precision Tech was the original tenant in Ohio Crossroads Industrial Park and they announced plans to close in the summer or 2021 affecting about 100 workers. BPT has been an asset to the community and we are saddened by the closure. They will be missed.
Economics and Tax Revenue
The shock to the local economy began in March with the ordering of business closings by Governor DeWine. We anticipated a very difficult 2020 with as much as a 20% reduction in tax revenue due to the many business closings. The Governor allowed businesses to reopen in May and this move had a positive impact on our tax revenue. Although we did not meet our 2019 revenue or achieve our 2020 goal we saw revenues better than we had anticipated in the early days of the pandemic. Our reduction in revenue as compared to 2019 was about 2% and this translates into a loss between $100,000 and $150,000. Many of our employers have “help wanted” signs out. This is good news and bodes well for the City. As part of the CARES Act the government provided Paycheck Protection Loans (PPP) to eligible businesses with the intention to become a 100% forgivable loan. The program was very successful and put many workers back on the job. In addition, the State of Ohio developed many programs to help small businesses which were beneficial. Our business community has weathered the storm pretty well. Sadly, we have lost a few businesses during the year but were fortunate to have others replace them. Family Video was replaced by Dollar General. Burke’s Outlet replaced Gordman’s.
Popular grocer, ALDI purchased the Bucyrus Motel--Otto’s Dining Room on East Mansfield Street. We have been working with ALDI for several years in bringing a store to Bucyrus and we are thrilled that it has come to fruition. Many city residents shop at ALDI in Mansfield and Marion and were very happy to hear the news. Thank you to City Attorney Rob Ratliff and Zoning Administrator Landyn Hill for working closely with all the parties involved, including Township officials in achieving the annexation of the property. Well done and welcome Aldi!
Water Line Expansion
We continue our efforts to expand City water service to rural areas. City Council approved a rate change that will facilitate expansion to Nevada which is projected for 2023. We are waiting for approval for expansion to Stetzer Road which will begin shortly after approval is received. The interest from Stetzer Road residents has been strong. The redundant water line on route 98/Plymouth Street from the water treatment plant to the City limits is out to bid and should be completed this year.
Access Channel and Communications
Veteran Access Channel coordinator, Gary Hess resigned in 2020 because of health issues. We hired a veteran Bucyrus City worker, John Rostash to replace Gary and become our City communications director. John is a valuable asset to the City and has already made great strides in improving equipment (CARES Act funded) as well as our website, YouTube and Facebook pages. We pride ourselves on being transparent and making our media efforts interesting and informative. Congratulations and thank you to Gary Hess for your service and welcome back to Bucyrus, John Rostash!
We celebrate our Bicentennial in 2021 and we have been planning for this year for several years. Our year-long celebration is intended to focus on the history of Bucyrus beginning with the settling of the Norton family on grounds near the current court house in 1819. Incorporation was achieved in 1821. Many events are scheduled including the “Bratwurst Drop” on May 1. Founder’s Weekend will be over the 4th of July. Lots of other fun things are planned by Bicentennial Coordinator Kelli Patterson, Legacy Chair Randy Fischer, and Events Chair Rhonda Rowland, along with many dedicated Commission members and volunteers. Stay tuned for a fun year.
COVID-19 has delayed some of our events but certainly not eliminated them. A legacy project is in the works—Norton Bicentennial Park just to the north of the Sandusky River on Sandusky Avenue. This area is in the FEMA flood way and the best use for this are will be a green space. We are currently raising funds to make this park a reality in the coming years. It will honor our founders, Sam and Mary Norton. I highly recommend viewing the Bicentennial website—www.Bucyrus2021.com which has lots of good information and a place to donate to this worthwhile project.
Quality of Life Issues
Our Administration’s top concern for many years has been in stemming the population decline and this is not a short-term project. Population decline has reduced our tax base and we have been seeing the effects of stagnant tax revenue growth in the last four years. The effect of slow growth is felt in the ability to provide the same level of City services and we have been able to balance our budgets by carefully watching expenses and by not replacing workers.
We have been laying the groundwork for growth by investing in the Crawford County Partnership which works closely with employers and potential employees to match up skills. The Partnership is also our economic development agent and has been very busy in efforts to attract new employers. Citizens have invested in our streets by renewing the Streets Levy and we have established a tree program to help replace the loss of hundreds of shade trees in our parks and streets over the last generation. All of these and more efforts are aimed at retaining and attracting residents—especially young families and we have had success in the important 20-29 age group. Every year (except last year due to COVID-19) I have met with area high school students to make a sales pitch on making Bucyrus a great place to live and work.
There is one area that has been frustrating for our Administration and that is in our City park funding. My hope has been that we would be able to carve out part of our tax revenue to fund park staffing, repair, maintenance, and improvements. Due to flat tax revenue we have not been able to achieve that goal. Parks are critically important in attracting young families and are used by all ages. Aumiller Park had large crowds last year with the addition of Kiwanis sponsored Pickle Ball Courts and the addition of Michalek Family Woods. The swimming pool opened in June after being closed for a year for major repairs. Our citizens want and need good parks in order to maintain physical and mental health. Our collective health as a thriving community depends on accessible park but it has been a financial struggle to improve or repair our parks. We always have to borrow funds or raise funds from businesses or residents to allow us to make any major changes. I would like to change that by asking voters to approve a small income tax levy to be used for quality-of-life improvements to our park system that residents will be free to use.
A Parks Income Tax Levy would allow us to fund a Parks Director, who would have programs during the year, add playground equipment, repair existing equipment, and add restrooms and also provide funds for walking and bike paths. We have an excellent park system but we cannot be satisfied but must continually improve our offerings to our residents. I am requesting that you refer to Committee the possibility of putting a .0125% income tax levy on the fall ballot. This levy, if passed, will raise approximately $350,000 per year and will cost the average household less than one dollar per week—for the entire household! This small investment will ensure that every citizen regardless of age or income will be able to use any of our parks 365 days per year.
Downtown Business District
We have an attractive Historic Downtown Business District and we need to maintain and improve its character to ensure that it remains attractive and vital. Schines Art Park stage was installed in 2020, a generous gift from the North Central State Foundation and the Cathcart family which owns Bucyrus Railcar Repair. The formal dedication ceremony is scheduled for this summer. Schines Art Park is an important part of the renewal of our Downtown District. I am working on a proposal to add green areas to our business district to make it more attractive.
There is one major headwind that should be addressed. The proposed minimum wage increase to $15 will, in my opinion, devastate our small businesses. The bill that is in Congress would cause the loss of 1,400,000 jobs (OMB figures) and I expect that most of the job loss to be felt in rural areas like Bucyrus. The cost of living in Bucyrus cannot be compared to larger (especially east coast) areas. We need entry-level jobs for our young folks and for part-time workers, which currently pay $10 to $12. Speaking as a small business owner, the competitive nature of retail business will not allow for the raising of prices to offset higher payroll costs. The beneficiary of a $15 minimum wage will be big businesses like Amazon. The victims will be small business owners and workers who will lose their jobs. At the time of this writing, Senator Brown is in favor of the increase to $15 per hour and Senator Portman is against the increase and I ask you to reach out to Senator Brown (who is from Mansfield) to reconsider the effects of such a large increase will have on his hometown and our town.
We have a top notch team running the Administration for the City of Bucyrus with SSD Jeff Wagner, Kelli Patterson, Landyn Hill, Greg Travis and John Rostash. Rest assured that we work diligently and effectively to spend tax dollars wisely, promote business, attract new businesses and work with our partners in the private sector who add so much to the quality of life. We pledge to work tirelessly to prepare Bucyrus to be a one of the premier small towns in Ohio and beyond.
Lessons Learned in 2020
Celebrating the Bicentennial provides us with a time to reflect on the history of Bucyrus and the effort and bravery that it took to get us to this time in our City’s history. We have weathered much as citizens in our history—at least two pandemics—economic depressions—wars and political divisions but we have found a way to persevere and come out stronger. 2020 has been exceptionally challenging but it could have been much tougher and many people deserve to be thanked and I have mentioned only a few in this address. Try to imagine the thousands and thousands of good folks who rose to the challenges that were faced in the past, beginning with the Norton family. Life has never been without challenges but our citizens have shown time and time again that they have what it takes to get through whatever comes their way and this is what makes Bucyrus a special place. Yes, we have seen divisions nationally and some even locally but those divisions will cease and we will be stronger for our trials.
God has richly blessed Bucyrus during the first 200 years of existence with fine citizens who care about others and want to make Bucyrus the best that it can be. We pray that we continue our history of cooperation and we especially pray that our history of putting first others will thrive—this is the building block of any successful community. We pray that we may help to raise up good citizens in our families, churches, and schools who understand that progress and peace are not automatic but need to be guarded faithfully and passed on to the next generation.
As we say goodbye to a difficult year we thank God for the many blessings and for lessons learned. We look forward to the fruits that those lessons will bear in respecting others and in building a loving community that will grow and prosper and be welcoming to all. May God bless Bucyrus in its next 200 years!
Mayor Jeff Reser
February 16, 2021