2020 State of the Township

2020 State of the Township
Posted on 12/30/2020

2020 State of the Township

Presented 1.04.20

Every year brings change. But the year 2020 brought changes beyond our wildest expectations. Collectively, we could not have imagined a year ago that a global pandemic would impact many major decisions made by residents, businesses and public organizations.

For Washington Township, this has meant working daily to adapt our services to a changing landscape. Although Township offices were closed to the public during the spring Stay at Home Order, our services were up and running then and throughout the year. Many in our organization adapted to working from home as we answered zoning and development questions, responded to public works calls, and communicated via social media, web site and e-newsletters. Trustee and other boards continued to meet, but online rather than at our government center.

We also moved ahead with an update to our Township branding. At the heart of the brand refresh is a new logo that conveys a contemporary outlook and honors the Township’s long heritage and proudly independent thinking. A new tagline, “Welcome to More,” was selected to reflect the depth and breadth of what the Washington Township community offers: top ranked schools, award winning parks, libraries and rec center, thriving neighborhoods, and premium shopping, dining and entertainment, along with abundant community events and activities. Besides being an invitation to experience these many aspects of Washington Township, “Welcome to More” is our promise that we will always provide a high-quality experience for residents, businesses, and visitors.

Naturally, our safety services remained uninterrupted throughout the year and were even more important to our community. Both firefighters and sheriff’s deputies dropped off meals to emergency room staffs at local hospitals and helped Centerville City Schools deliver 3,000 meals weekly to students who qualified for free and reduced-price meals.

Our fire department adapted its already safe practices to meet the needs of a pandemic while also continuing its annual routine of checking hydrants and hosting blood drives. Fire staffnew fire hires members also continued their professional education, with three on our command staff earning the designation of Chief Fire Officer, a distinction that places them in an elite group of 35 chief officers in Ohio and 1,500 worldwide. With six CFOs and a total of eight credentialed staff members holding 12 credentials, our department now has more Chief Fire Officers and credentialed staff than any in Ohio. These accomplishments reflect a sustained dedication to excellence and professional development and we’re exceptionally proud that our staff has made this investment.

Meanwhile, Publics Works staff continued to keep streets in good repair and emergency vehicles operational. Nearly eight miles of road were resurfaced as part of the Street Improvement Program, which included 23 residential streets and Normandy Lane. In addition, work to stabilize the road base on Seton Hill Street from Wellesley Waysuper saturday to Whipp Road was completed by late summer. By coordinating base stabilization and resurfacing with water main installation by Montgomery County, we were able to save taxpayer dollars and minimize inconvenience for motorists.

As our sheriff’s deputies continued to fulfill their critical front-line roles, our residents supported their efforts by approving the replacement of a 2.3-mill police services levy. Because the levy is continuous, it provides a reliable funding source that enables decisions about revenue to be driven by community needs rather than a pre-set expiration date.

In July, the Washington Township Substation announced an innovative Crisis Intervention Team approach that is helping local deputies respond to calls involving a mental health or drug-related crisis. A mental health specialist is riding with our CITdeputies and providing follow-up casework. This approach helps people with mental disorders or addictions access medical treatment rather than be placed in the criminal justice system and it connects people to the help they need.

We are extremely proud to be on the cutting edge of police practices that address national concerns about policing. We’re equally proud that our sheriff’s office already had many strong programs in place, including IMPACT, a citizen-based committee that identifies community-based solutions to problems associated with implicit bias; a use of force training and review process; a formal complaint process; wireless microphones and dash cameras; and training in crisis intervention, implicit bias and racial profiling.

From a development standpoint, residential construction remained strong in 2020. Of particular note was the Township’s newest residential project, Washington Glen. Approved by trustees in May, the development of 255 single-family homes on Yankee Street will expand the system of multi-use trails in the south end of the Township. Its landscaped entrance at Yankee Street will include a traffic signal with turn lane improvements.

With travel on hold for many people, 2020 turned out to be a popular year for home projects, with 512 permits issued for decks, fences, pools, sheds and other accessory structures. This reflects an increase of 42 percent compared to 2019. Residents also continued to maintain their property with some beautiful results. A total of 14 outstanding properties were recognized in October with Beautification Awards. Fortunately, some of our services required only modest adaptation to meet changing needs during 2020. By July, Super Saturday was up and running again, with two services offered – document shredding and drug drop off.

In October, residents were invited to participate in National Fire Prevention Week with behind the scenes tours of our five fire stations and the distinctive apparatus and equipment kept there. This year, tours were virtual and live action videos ran the gamut; from climbing the 105-foot ladder truck at Station 41 to extinguishing a real fire at the training tower.

Also in October, our annual Business Breakfast was presented in a new way. Networking with Township staff was conducted virtually and a Business Box was sent to participating businesses. Inside was a gift card to a Township business, randomly assigned raffle prizes, and a flash drive pre covid SICSA openingpresentation featuring Township updates, resources from Business First, and an interview with the CEO of Ritz Safety about what it’s been like to shift operations to meet the needs of a world-wide pandemic. Although many small businesses were among the hardest hit by the pandemic, their generosity during this time was unwavering. Every bit helped, whether it was staying open to provide essential products and services, procuring protective equipment, donating hand sanitizer and disinfectant, or dropping off meals for safety services staff.

Our Recreation services, more than any department, faced a series of complicated challenges due to the pandemic. I’m happy to say that these were met with creativity, adaptability and with safety at the forefront. In the spring, all recreation programming was postponed due to the shutdown. During that time, some offerings continued online, with staff leading fitness classes and water safety instructors showing students how to practice their strokes at home.

Rec staff called all of its members 65 and older, more than 3,000 people, to check on their welfare. They also delivered meals to seniors while Town Hall staff members repaired the elastic bands on thousands of N95 masks. Jeff Gray, whose STAR Program was recognized early in the year with the Annual Award for Innovation in Local Government from the Ohio City Manager’s Association, continued to monitor the welfare of more than 100 vulnerable senior residents who are served by the program.

In late May, the Rec Center began the process of reopening responsibly. Rec’ing Crew: Summer Edition offered ten individual camp sites as part of a modified camp/youth care program with smaller numbers, masks and social distancing. By the end of June, senior transportation resumed and the pool re-opened by appointment. After a successfulsummer camp summer with these limited offerings and a variety of safety measures in place, fall classes introduced youth sports, fitness, adult leagues, youth leagues, aqua fitness and theater into the mix.

I’d like to add that the involvement of our citizens and community groups has remained strong throughout this most unexpected year. Even as teachers and administrative staff retrofitted their method of instruction, Centerville City Schools took time to donate cleaning supplies to the Township. Neighbors stepped up to help vulnerable residents obtain essential items for their households, made donations, and helped in hundreds of other ways.

Resident participation also was strong when it came to standing up and being counted in the 2020 Census. In total, 84 percent of unincorporated Township residents completing the census compared to 71 percent statewide and 67 percent nationally.

Finally, I’d like to stress that management of taxpayer dollars continued to be in the forefront of our minds this year. For instance, an Ohio Bureau of Workers Comp grant helped to purchase new Stryker cots for our medics and a $225,000 Ohio Public Works Commission grant split between the Township and the county offset the cost of our Seton Hill project. Additionally, the Fire Department received a $260,909 grant from FEMA to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatus. And our Finance Department has received yet another unqualified financial audit, the highest rating presented from the Auditor of the State. This shows that we continue to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and that our accounting practices are thorough and exact.

As we look toward the new year, we are hopeful that we will once again be able to offer our popular community events such as the Firefighters Ice Cream Social and the Community Cruise-In with MCSO. Our fire department was poised this past spring to introduce a new Stop the Bleed program and make enhancements to its CPR classes, so be prepared for these improvements to take place when we get the green light! We’d like to thank you for your support as our service delivery evolved and also for your support of others in our community. It is our honor to serve you in good times and, especially, during times of challenge.