McGowan Addresses State of City

St. Marys Mayor Pat McGowan spoke at Tuesday's Kiwanis Club meeting
By: 
JAKE DOWLING
Managing Editor

St. Marys Mayor Pat McGowan finished his state of the city address after rolling out his mayor's report during Monday's city council meeting and again during a St. Marys Kiwanis meeting on Tuesday.

McGowan rolled out his goals for 2019, while also commemorating accomplished goals in 2018 during his two-day tour and of the list of goals the mayor had, a few stood out, including managing the city’s finances, pursing new business and industries, upgrades for the electric department and restoration efforts of the Miami-Erie Canal and reservoir mill.

KILOWATT TAX

McGowan opened his list of goals talking about managing finances, which is especially important considering the Kilowatt Tax.

In a press conference in November, McGowan and several local mayors gathered to voice their support of the tax, which cooperatives tried to impact with House Bill 143. The bill deals with defining a self-generating electric distributor and allowing for that distributor to be exempt from paying the kilowatt hour tax. McGowan said the tax brought in $875,000 to St. Marys’ general fund.

“This year, we saw 25 percent of the kilowatt tax get moved from the electric into the general fund, which helps our city out immensely,” McGowan said on Monday. “Since 2018, the general fund has been under serious attack from our economy and now we really have the general fund where it needs to be. I don’t know if it will ever be rebuilt back to where it was previous to 2008, but it is healthy now and we are able to have a cushion.”

McGowan also brought up unfunded federal mandates that the city has been dealing with in the last year and making it harder to piece together this year’s budget.

“There is a mandate that is going to cost $400,000 that we have to fund and that we have to do,” he said. “So we were able to take some funds from the general fund and transfer that into water (the city’s water fund) to cover it.”

PURSING NEW BUSINESSES

McGowan touched on the growth of business St. Marys has enjoyed, citing industries such as the American Manufacturing Solutions (AMS) buying the old Kmart building on state Route 703, Celina Tent occupying the recently closed Kmart at the St. Marys Squares shopping center and Kosei Aluminum Company purchasing AAP in December.

“Our economic development department really hit a home run this year in that American Manufacturing Solutions took over the old Kmart building,” he said. We all know what happens there, it is a busy, busy place and it is always full and they are looking to expand. The shopping center will not only be used for light manufacturing, but it will also be made into a retail center. 

“The Owner of Kosei, Mr. [Shunkichi] Kamiya, said the facility will be expanding in late 2019 or early 2020. That expansion will bring on more employees and the manufacturing floor will expand by 40 to 50 percent to what it is today.”

McGowan said Kamiya cited the quality of labor force in St. Marys and the city’s electric infrastructure were the two leading causes of locating Kosei to St. Marys.

 

MIAMI-ERIE CANAL AND MILL

Rounding out the rest of McGowan’s goals were the canal and the mill. 

McGowan updated council that negotiations with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to accept ownership of the Miami-Erie Canal collapsed in December in large part because of the annexation block Noble Township put on the city. The mayor said an estimated $10 million was needed to restore and clean the canal. With that in mind, McGowan thanked Rep. Craig Riedel (R-Defiance) for his support in the city’s cleanup efforts.

“It is a difficult position for Mr. Riedel to take because this issue does not gain a lot of traction with federal and state officials,” McGowan concluded.

McGowan added that Poggemeyer Design Group is searching for money to develop and make improvements to the canal towpath in a continuation of the city’s efforts to improve the canal lands.

The final big goal McGowan had was restoring the reservoir mill, which now has an opportunity to move forward with the recent land acquisition the city received from the state. McGowan said the city received verbal approval to spend $1 million for the restoration of the mill. 

Deconstruction and reconstruction cannot start until there is written approval, which is expected this year. McGowan said he hopes construction on the mill moves forward by as early as June.

ELECTRIC INFRASTRUCTURE

The electric departments infrastructure improvement also took its first steps in 2018. Phase 1 of the electrical gird upgrade took place in 2018 with the installation of new Allen Bradley controls in generator No. 7 and design of the Tomlinson Substation in 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2019.

McGowan said this is one of the two biggest projects the city is taking on this year — with the construction of a new water treatment plant being the other — and has been in the works since late 2012. Phase 1 is nearly completed, with phase 2 and 3 still on its way.

“We have this all planned out,” he said. “I feel reliable utilities — water, sewer, electric — you have to provide those to the residents of the city, commercial accounts and the industrial accounts. If you don’t, your city is doomed for failure.

“I don’t like to spend money, but you have to spend money on your infrastructure and keep your systems up to date.”

McGowan cited the investment the city took on upgrading generator 7 — noting that equipment and the generator itself has not been updated in more than 75 years — costing $180,000, but the city received a $800,000 credit off its electric bill from American Municipal Power (AMP) because of the upgrade.

“We invested in $180,000, received an $800,000 credit and all of that goes back to the residents of the city,” McGowan said. “We had to put additional money toward the generator, but fixed just about everything. It’s almost like a new piece of equipment. We put a lot of money on it but we definitely got the payback on it.”

DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION

McGowan closed his speech saying the biggest goal for 2019 is the revitalization of the downtown area. 

He cited Bellefontaine as a example of the growth that city has taken in the last few years and the kind of growth St. Marys needs. 

“These young entrepreneurs in Bellefontaine stepped up and I wish we could find some people in the city of St. Marys that had a vision,” he said. “And it takes a young group with a vision to do something great like this like a brewery or restaurants. Our downtown would be perfect for all of that.”

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