Liberty Twp.’s 2018 focus: Expanding its commercial footprint

Most of Liberty Twp.’s spending priorities for next year center on infrastructure planning and economic development to expand its commercial footprint and services to the ever-growing township.

The proposed budget for 2018 is $27.2 million for all funds and $17.2 million for operations against $27.1 million and $16.6 million in revenues, respectively. The township is expecting a $23.7 million total carryover — cash, investments, everything — from this year. That fund balance is projected to drop to $6.5 million by 2024 as anticipated projects — like the potential Millikin Road interchange and a new fire station — are completed.

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“We built up some of our reserves because we have some major projects,” Liberty Twp. Trustee Christine Matacic said. “A lot of infrastructure projects coming in three to five years that will be happening. That is one of the reasons we have such a large reserve.”

The township plans to fund a $20,000 engineering study for a pedestrian bridge over Ohio 129 — the township is also finding out the cost to make it a full bridge that can handle cars — linking Liberty Center and Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Campus. It is one of several pedestrian friendly projects the township is considering, so it can attract mega businesses like Amazon — Liberty Twp. has made a bid for the online retail giant’s second U.S. headquarters — and others.

Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell said one of his goals for next year is to better market what Liberty Twp. has to offer businesses. He said in the Amazon bid the company was looking for things like nearby airports, qualified workforce, walkability, parks and other amenities that the township has.

“The number of people within a five-mile radius is huge, these are the things people want and we have it, we need to let others know we exist…,” Farrell said, adding a recent developer’s demographic study is key. “They ran the demographics in the one- three- and five-mile radius, and when they saw the number of people, the average salaries, they were salivating.”

The study showed the average income for households within a five-mile radius of the Liberty Way interchange is $120,094, and 2,551 households earn $250,000 to $499,000 annually.

Liberty Twp. Trustee Steve Schramm said he wants to build into the budget an online feature that would allow developers to see things like the demographics and other information that would showcase the township.

“I’d like to see some more budget dollars thrown into having a cookie cutter type access for developers to get to us,” Schramm said. “To find demographic information, school information, properties available, local owners to contact even… I think we’re missing an opportunity to kind of shine in that world.”

Matacic said she wants the township to get started on the Bethany Road widening project sooner rather than later, which could add some dollars to next year’s budget for design and engineering.

“ … I think because of that being our growth corridor area for commercial it is going to be very important. If we’re going to get Cox Road extended, we’ve got to get going on Bethany Road,” she said. “Be ahead of the ballgame on that one.”

A new fire station or stations, continued work on an administrative building and community outreach efforts were other goals the trustees listed.

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As for the budget itself, the Fire Department — expenses there consume 41 percent of the total budget — also has the biggest single ticket item on the budget, a new $275,000 ambulance which will also be outfitted with a hydraulic cot for $40,000. Liberty Twp. Fire Chief Ethan Klussman said the lifts are cheaper than injuries his people can sustain transporting people who weigh hundreds of pounds.

The fire department and sheriff’s outpost also may get mobile data terminals at a cost of $62,000. Klussman said they are “behind the times” electronically and they need the equipment for safety reasons.

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“It gives us the ability in real time to get the information from dispatch,” he said. “With the dispatch always increasing in their call volume, sometimes we don’t get that information from them on a timely basis. Sometimes there is a dangerous situations at addresses we put in that don’t get relayed across that our crews will see on a timely basis.”

The trustees expect to vote on the spending plan Dec. 19.

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