Debate continues about Hamilton streets levy: What they’re saying

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Stunning aerial view of downtown Hamilton

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Larry Skirvin, 60, moved back to Hamilton’s West Side in 2005 partly because it was a less expensive place to live than Liberty Twp.

He likes what he’s seeing in Hamilton, and is pleased with new shops opening downtown and along Main Street, and other improvements in the city.

But he says he knows a lot of older city residents, many from the church he attends (North Fairfield Baptist Church in Fairfield Twp.) who are having trouble with rising costs and taxes.

For that reason, he said he has become an opponent of Issue 1, Hamilton’s street-repair levy, which will be on the ballot March 17. He has started encouraging people via Facebook to vote no.

“A lot of elderly people, they stay here to live in the city of Hamilton because it is very reasonable to live here, with property taxes and city utilities,” he said. “But some of the people I’ve talked to, they’re already concerned because they live off $600, $700, $800 a month, and we just recently had a utility increase.”

He said he does see the need for improved roadways.

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“I’m not disagreeing,” he said. “Our streets are in great need of repair. I mean, I don’t think anybody could argue that when you drive through the city.

“I don’t know what the right fix is. I just would like for them to look at this a little bit harder instead of always coming back to the taxpayer on this, because this is Hamilton, it’s not West Chester.”

Jack Whalen, the volunteer leader of the citizen effort on behalf of the street levy, said he has looked closely at the city’s budget and spoken with officials about it.

“The city does not have the money,” Whalen said. “They’re operating basically under the same budget, general fund, that they had 10 years ago.”

The city has very little room in its budget, other than cuts to core services the people want, such as police and fire personnel, and other staffing that already has been reduced over the past decade, Whalen said.

“Hamilton City Council is putting this on the ballot based on what we hear as council members at city functions, city council meetings and Plan Hamilton meetings,” Mayor Pat Moeller said.

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“We have, and we continue to look, at other ways to fix our streets. Hamilton has done I think a good job in being creative, but the need is so great that this is a way to streets that needs to be put in front of our citizens.”

He noted Hamilton and other cities have lost local-government funding they used to receive from the state.

Half Hamilton’s streets are in poor condition, and “that’s a lot of street mileage,” he said, The city has used Ohio Public Works grants “very well — we’ve leveraged it the right way to get as much as we can out of each dollar,” Moeller said.

Five other Issue 1 facts:

  • The proposed 10-year, 3.9-mill levy, would generate generate $3.1 million per year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $136.50 per year, or the owner of a $75,000 home $102.38.
  • Hamilton has about 250 miles of streets, and 550 miles of lanes on those streets, because some have three or more lanes. It would cost an estimated $150 million to bring all Hamilton's streets back to good condition.
  • Each city neighborhood will be able to choose which streets should receive priority funding in its area if the levy passes.
  • People seeking more answers can go to the levy advocacy site, and ask questions there.
  • City officials chose a 10-year period for the levy to give voters confidence in the program — if voters aren't satisfied with what they've seen in a decade, they won't renew it.