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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Wilder Firehouse Update, Park Ground Breaking, Street Lighting

Wilder Mayor Robert Arnold and other city officials wore Hawaiian shirt and other summer clothes to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Wilder City Center Park. (photo courtesy city of Wilder)

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

It was a busy month for the city of Wilder as officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the city park project, finalized the financing of the firehouse project, began replacement of lighting on poles throughout the city and explored the idea of creating a Tax Increment Financing District.

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Official start for the city park project

On October 13, the city held a groundbreaking ceremony and celebration for the city park project. The park, located on the city building property, will cover approximately three acres and will feature an expansion of the existing playground and the addition of a splash park, sports court, sand volleyball courts, a concession building with restroom facilities, two additional shelters with tables and grills, as well as a lawn event area.

Fire station work and financing

Work was underway in October for the new Wilder fire station. At the October 7 city council meeting, City Administrator Terry Vance announced that geopiers were in place, and the construction company was pouring the concrete footers for the foundation.

At the November 4 council meeting, Vance explained recent finance issues for the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) contract for the work. The good news, he said, was that the entire project will come in at just under the six million dollars planned for the project. However, none of the items included as alternates to the initial plan (additional improvements) were included.

Vance explained that these alternates could be revisited at a later date with money saved from the project or from other places, and that any one or all of these could be separate projects with other contractors.

With a GMP, a certain amount of money is set aside for contingencies, and there is a good chance, if all goes well, that some of that money can be used for the additional items later. The items that didn’t make it into the project included upgrades to the council chamber room, the police department bathrooms, the exercise room, as well as a second shelter and archway in the back of the building.

As part of the process, changes were made to the plans to keep it within budget, and every aspect was examined for cost savings. For example, Vance noted that a plan to purchase new playground equipment was taken out, saving $175,645. Instead, city officials will meet with the Miracle Play Equipment company who provided the current equipment to see if it can be refurbished and a rubber mat put down.

The city will also look at using pre-cast stone instead of real stone for some of the exterior work. If officials decide to do this, it will result in a savings of about $11,000. The cost of two steel countertops for the firehouse, about $17,000, was taken out of the project. These can be added back later with monies set aside for furnishings. Firehouse drywall also came in under budget at $230,000, saving about $50,000 on the original estimate.

All told, the cost saving measures resulted in bringing the GMP just under budget at $5,994,828,036. Vance said the items removed will be revisited, and officials will look for additional funding elsewhere as well as savings that could come from this initial project.

The council voted to approve the GMP agreement and to authorize Mayor Robert Arnold to sign it.

Exploring Tax Increment Financing (TIF)

Vance asked council to approve the hiring of Jim Parsons, a partner in Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL and legal expert in setting up Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts. This is just a first step in the process, he said, but he felt it would be a good idea to start exploration now so that a district might be created soon to help attract developers to the area.

Wilder has several parcels of property, said Vance, that have various issues that make developing them a challenge. For example, one includes wetland, another has a problem with fly ash. While over the years developers have looked at some of these properties, no one has wanted to take on the additional costs of clean up or necessary changes to allow development.

Tax Increment Financing is a public financing method that allows a subsidy for redevelopment of a property by diverting taxes from a defined area, or district. Under a TIF subsidy, the city would forego tax revenue in the future so that the developer would have more money to develop and build on the property.

Vance noted that many of the properties in question have been vacant for years. Creating a TIF district could attract developers, but the city would set the parameters of the deal and could accept or reject a developer. It is possible to wait until the city has a developer interested, but the city administrator said getting a TIF set up can be a long process and doing so ahead of time gives the city "another tool in the toolbox" that could be ready to be used if an opportunity arises.

City council approved the request to engage Parsons’ services.

More city news

New overhead lights are coming on in Wilder. Duke Energy is switching out the old overhead lighting for new LED lights. Work is underway to convert all the city’s wooden pole street lights outside of subdivisions. The switch does not include some decorative lighting planned for the downtown area. The initial cost of $76,946.50 sounds steep, but Vance said the city will recoup that amount in savings in utility bills over the next three to five years. Council authorized the mayor to to proceed with Duke for the lighting project.

The administrator also announced Wilder has received a grant from the Kentucky Extension Service for $1,000 to create a Monarch butterfly way station. The project will be erected next spring along one wall of the city building.

Police and Fire department news

The mayor, council and Police Chief Chad Martin congratulated Christopher Vance on his promotion to sergeant in the Wilder Police Department. The sergeant’s family, friends and fellow officers filled the council chambers at the October council meeting to witness his oath of office and to congratulate him.

Chief Martin also announced that Officer Robert Peak has taken on a detective role. Questions regarding police investigations should now be directed to him.

The chief also said the department has received a generous donation from one of its vendors, Indianapolis-based Pro-Guard Products. The company donated a prisoner cage with ballistic shield worth $2,800 for the departments’ new police car.

Normally, retired police and other city vehicles are sold in surplus auctions, garnering the city under $1,000 to $1,500, but Martin announced a potential deal with the county sheriff’s department that could help the city recoup the current value of the car. The sheriff’s department has expressed interest in purchasing the city’s 2011 Dodge Charger. If the county officials like the car, the city may work out a deal to sell it to them directly for $6,000.

The city plans also to sell its surplus radios, both car and portables. These will not work with the new county radio system. The Harrison County Fire Department has offered to purchase the 16 radios for $40 a piece.

The Wilder Fire Department participated in active shooter training with B and B Riverboats and the Coast Guard last month. The department’s boat was used for the exercises that included the Wilder department as well as the county SWAT team and departments from Newport and Kenton County.

Upcoming dates of note

The Fire Department is holding it’s annual Wilder turkey raffle on November 22 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the City Building, 520 Licking Pike.

The city tree lighting ceremony will take place after the December 2 city council meeting. Santa will be on hand at the city building.

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