OAKWOOD — This small municipality in Paulding County has a lot going on these days.
Mayor Brian Ripke, with village council’s help, has moved forward on a number of recent infrastructure projects, some of which have been completed and others that may be finished by this time in 2021.
Earlier this year, the village contracted for significant repairs, drainage work and paving on a number of streets, primarily with grant funds. Harmon, Celina and Second streets were either rehabbed or resurfaced in the spring while the cost was mostly covered by a state grant ($320,000), with the village adding a smaller match (about $50,000).
But a project on its way next year has Ripke even more excited.
Utilizing additional state grant funds, Oakwood’s downtown will receive old-style decorative lighting outfitted with overhangs to allow the placement of Christmas decorations, as well as new sidewalks and curbs.
“We’re pretty excited about that,” said Ripke.
That work figures to cost about $437,000, but the state will cover 95%, so the village’s financial commitment will be minimal. And the state will pick up the tab for repaving Ohio 66 (Main Street), which will complete the project.
Ripke said the work has been in the planning stage for three years, and it could be completed by this time in 2021. That is, if the project can be bid out in the spring as the mayor hopes.
The state’s fiscal year doesn’t begin until July 1, so Ripke isn’t sure whether the aforementioned grant will be available before then.
Other recent developments include:
• paying off the village’s relatively new fire station. The station, which Ripke calls “as nice as any” in Paulding County, was funded through the village’s existing tax levies. He and the village would like to hold a cookout at the station to thank village voters. They will be asked to renew the fire levy, along with an EMS levy, in November.
• establishing a new water well. This key piece of village infrastructure gives Oakwood three wells that are in alternate use to provide reliable water service. The new well came online about seven weeks ago and has passed the necessary EPA tests, according to Ripke.
• applying for additional community development block grant fund through the state for the village’s fire hydrant isolation valves. This competitive grant would provide more than $225,000 to provide upgrades in three phases. When completed, it will give the village the ability to shut off water to different sections of town in the event of water main breaks, Ripke indicated.
• installing new drainage to redirect excess storm water away from the downtown. An imminent domain action needs to be resolved to acquire all the necessary right-of-way for the project, according to Ripke. “That will be a big project, not cost-wise, but it will be very effective,” he said. “... I’m really hoping it’s an early spring project.”
• cleaning up dilapidated properties. The mayor and council want to see additional cleanup in the future, but has at least one project firmly on its radar — removing the former Taylor Funeral Home at Fourth and Main streets, described by Ripke as the “biggest eyesore in town.” The village owns the lot, and the building’s removal will be made possible through the county’s land bank. Later, the lot will be put up for sale, perhaps for construction of a house there, according to Ripke.
• discussing the purchase of a new fire department tanker. The mayor expects this to be on council’s table in coming months.
Ripke said the projects mentioned above “are the ones that I consider a big priority,” but there are a few others in the future, such as repainting the village’s water tower and paving additional streets.
He is hopeful about the future, noting that Oakwood has a “good council, and I think we’re going to move forward.”
However, council must do so without one of its mainstays. President Beau Leatherman resigned effective Aug. 31 because he is moving out of the village.
Therefore, council plans to interview a couple candidates during its meeting Monday evening, according to Ripke, and name a replacement for Leatherman. This process also will include appointing a new president.