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Biggest stories of 2019: Fairfield, Fairfield Twp. made moves for growth

The city of Fairfield is one of 25 modern roundabouts in Butler County, 24 of which are in the unincorporated areas of the county. The county has several more planned to be constructed in the next three years. FILE
The city of Fairfield is one of 25 modern roundabouts in Butler County, 24 of which are in the unincorporated areas of the county. The county has several more planned to be constructed in the next three years. FILE

Fairfield city and township looked toward the future in 2019.

The city reinvented its comprehensive plan named “Fairfield Forward” and started using that plan by hiring a company to evaluate the northern Ohio 4 corridor.

The township readied itself for its most likely last big growth spurt with big projects in 2019 and plans for big projects in 2020.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest stories of the year in the city and township.

Fairfield Schools buy land from township

Fairfield Twp. closed near the end of November a 32-acre, $1.3 million land deal with Fairfield City Schools for future development.

School officials said the 10,000-student school district, which draws students from Fairfield city and township, said the district couldn’t pass the “opportunity to purchase the land at such a reasonable price,” but reiterated multiple times there are “no immediate plans for the land.”

The land in the area can sell for more than $65,000 per acre, but the schools paid roughly $40,000 per acre for the land already with sewer access lines installed.

RELATED: Fairfield Schools pays $1.3M for 32-acre site in the township

Township and school officials had been working on the deal for months, which started with the township transferring 32 acres of land it owned in mid-August to the township’s Community Improvement Corporation. The land was part of the property formerly known as Graceworks.

The school district will pay for the land with an existing permanent improvement bond approved by Fairfield voters in 2014.

The money the township will receive will bolster its general fund, said Fairfield Twp. Administrator Julie Vonderhaar. It will also help the township maintain its Moody’s Aa2 bond rating, the third-highest credit rating a local government can receive.

The Butler County Engineer’s Office wrapped up the Gilmore Road/Hamilton-Mason Road roundabout two days early. It’s the 18th roundabout in the county, which gives the Butler County 24 in total. The county has several more planned to be constructed in the next two years. Pictured is Fairfield Twp. roundabout at Gilmore and Hamilton-Mason roads. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
The Butler County Engineer’s Office wrapped up the Gilmore Road/Hamilton-Mason Road roundabout two days early. It’s the 18th roundabout in the county, which gives the Butler County 24 in total. The county has several more planned to be constructed in the next two years. Pictured is Fairfield Twp. roundabout at Gilmore and Hamilton-Mason roads. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Roundabouts opened

Fairfield and Fairfield Twp. both opened new roundabouts installed to help with anticipated growth.

The city's roundabout at Gray and River roads is planned to address the anticipated traffic load River Road will bring on as the Furfield Dog Park opened and the development of Marsh Park, which will take years to happen.

“It is really more here for the future,” said City Engineer Ben Mann. “Marsh Park is going to take years and years to completely develop, and it’s going to be a while for the bike path that’s going to connect to the roundabout to connect to the dog park. But when it does, that activity is going to warrant this traffic calming device.”

RELATED: New roundabout opens, paves the way for Fairfield Twp. development (December 2019)

The township roundabout at Gilmore and Hamilton-Mason roads better aligns Hamilton Enterprise Park Drive but will calm future anticipated traffic over the next few years as hundreds of acres of land are developed.

Butler County Engineer spokeswoman Betsy Horton said relocating Gilmore Road to connect it with Hamilton Enterprise Park Drive reduces the risk for crashes during peak traffic flow.

“Simply realigning Gilmore Road and adding a traffic light would not have efficiently accommodated the future growth and development in Fairfield Twp., specifically on Gilmore Road,” she said.

Fairfield Twp. Fire Department opened its newest station in the spring of 2019 on Gilmore Road. ED RICHTER/FILE
Fairfield Twp. Fire Department opened its newest station in the spring of 2019 on Gilmore Road. ED RICHTER/FILE

Fairfield Twp. fire department moves

Fairfield Twp.’s fire station 212 moved out of the 19th century and into the 21st when it relocated from Tylersville Road to Gilmore Road.

For years, the township had to pay more money to order undersized ambulances and fire engines to fit into a hodgepodge of a fire station, which included part of a former 19th-century school building. It has undersized officers and sleeping quarters, and an uneven l driveway. The last update to that station was in the 1970s.

RELATED: This new Butler County fire station is a big improvement for its department. Here’s why.  (March 2019)

The new nearly $4 million fire station on Gilmore sets up the fire department “for the next 50 years,” said Fairfield Twp. Fire Chief Timothy Thomas.

“Right now, everything has its place. Everything is up-sized for capacity,” he said.

The station, which opened this past spring can house up to 10 on-duty firefighters and paramedics, though only six currently would be on duty out of Station 212. There are large storage areas to allow the department to make bulk purchases, large offices for officers and four 80-foot vehicle bays with 14-foot garage doors.

‘Fairfield Forward’

The city of Fairfield spent a year working on a revamped version of its comprehensive planned known as “Fairfield Forward.” Jacobs Engineering took the lead on the project, being paid $115,640, and $5,000 of that contract was funded through a grant from the Duke Energy Foundation.

The document address various topics, including land use and zoning, small area plans, housing and neighborhoods, transportation, economic development, public services, and sustainability.

One aspect of the plan is to address the northern portion of Ohio 4, which is experiencing blight.

The city contracted Dayton-based Market Metrics to study the area from Nilles Road to the northern corporation boundary.

The Fairfield Skyline Chili, at Dixie Highway and Hicks Boulevard, reopened Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, nearly one year after it sustained major damage in a fire. The building was torn down and rebuilt. RICK McCRABB/FILE
The Fairfield Skyline Chili, at Dixie Highway and Hicks Boulevard, reopened Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, nearly one year after it sustained major damage in a fire. The building was torn down and rebuilt. RICK McCRABB/FILE

Skyline reopens

Destroyed by a 2018 fire, Skyline Chili on Hicks Boulevard was rebuilt and opened at the end of September.

The reopening was much anticipated as people packed the restaurant that’s been at the corner of Hicks Boulevard and Dixie Highway for decades.

RELATED: Fairfield Skyline destroyed by fire reopens today, more than a year later (September 2019)

An attic fan sparked the fire in the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 2018, but owner Dennis Kurlas worked to find jobs for his employees at other Skyline restaurants. Most of them came back for the Sept. 23 reopening.

Kurlas celebrated the reopening with a couple of pre-opening events, including one honoring the first-responders who battled the blaze, and a fundraiser for the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League.

The second Bloodborne Infectious Disease Prevention Program in Butler County opened at Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital in mid-July, which included the second needle exchange program in the county. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE
The second Bloodborne Infectious Disease Prevention Program in Butler County opened at Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital in mid-July, which included the second needle exchange program in the county. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE

Needle exchange in Fairfield

The second Bloodborne Infectious Disease Prevention Program opened at Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital in mid-July, which included the second needle exchange program in Butler County.

The first started in 2016 in Middletown.

The prevention program is a partnership between the Butler County and Hamilton County public health districts, the city of Fairfield, the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board, and Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital.

RELATED: Butler County’s second needle exchange program in Fairfield targets ‘positive contacts’ (August 2019)

Butler County Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer said the exchange of syringes “is a carrot on a stick to get people in and to get those repeated touches.”

Bailer said the program has been transformed a dirty syringe from a public danger for the community (many are discarded in public places, such as parks) into a commodity.

The Bloodborne Infectious Disease Prevention Program’s van parked every Tuesday from 2 to 5 p.m. at Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital on Mack Road.

Pictured is the Fisher Body plant marquee at the corner of Dixie Highway and Symmes Road. it was built in 1946 and operated until 1987. It closed its doors in 1989. PROVIDED/UAW LOCAL 233 RETIREES
Pictured is the Fisher Body plant marquee at the corner of Dixie Highway and Symmes Road. it was built in 1946 and operated until 1987. It closed its doors in 1989. PROVIDED/UAW LOCAL 233 RETIREES

GM’s anniversary

GM’s Fisher Body Plant closed 30 years ago in 2019.

The plant was the city of Fairfield’s main source of income with thousands of employees going to lose their jobs. GM announced the closure in 1986, and the 2,500 jobs were to be phased out and the plant shut down permanently.

“It was a scary time,” said Tim Bachman, the city’s former development services director.

RELATED: The GM plant’s closure three decades ago put Fairfield on the brink. Here’s how it clawed back. (April 2019)

The auto parts stamping facility on Dixie Highway and Symmes Road closed in the first quarter of 1989, though its operations stopped in 1987. The 2,500 employees who worked at the plant when its closure was announced equated to 28 percent of the city’s income tax revenues, or about $1.7 million.

The city of Fairfield focused its efforts on growing and diversifying its business base as there was a lot of vacant land along Ohio 4 and Seward Road.