Grandview looking to upgrade city facilities without new taxes

Grandview Heights has made do with older public buildings, including a city hall whose original structure marked its 90th anniversary this year and a fire station that is the oldest in central Ohio.

Now, the city wants a wholesale makeover of its structures: new municipal building, fire station, swimming pool, and service department and parks department buildings.

It’s early in the process, so no decision has been made on how much the projects will cost, when construction will begin or where the structures will be built.

One thing is likely, city officials said: It won’t involve a tax increase.

The project’s guiding principle: “How much money can we raise without going to the voters?” said city Administrator Patrik Bowman.

Voters rejected a bond proposal twice in 2002 for a new municipal building and fire station that would have been repaid with a property-tax increase.

However, favorable rates on bonds and a bright financial future for the city prompted officials to renew the discussion, said city Finance Director Bob Dvoraczky.

“If people are concerned this could result in a tax levy or increase … I’m looking at the existing cash balance and projected revenue,” Dvoraczky said.

His task was to find out how much debt the city could afford to carry comfortably at today’s bond rates, and he came up with $12 million to $15 million.

Half of the hotel tax collected at the Grandview Yard goes toward parks and recreation. The city collected $240,000 from the Hyatt, half of which went toward renovating Pierce Field and Wyman Woods. The amount collected from a second hotel planned for the Yard could help pay for a new pool.

The city sets aside 5 percent of city income-tax revenue each year for expenses related to capital improvements, such as police cruisers. Income-tax revenue will get a boost after employees begin moving into the Nationwide Insurance complex in the Yard beginning in 2017, Dvoraczky said.

Capital-improvement revenue, expected to reach $600,000 next year, is expected to grow to $1.13 million in 2024.

Replacing the pool is first on the list of capital improvements, council President Anthony Panzera told a gathering at a park and recreation advisory board meeting last week.

Residents told the board they want the new pool to keep the traditional layout of the existing pool on Goodale Boulevard.

“We don’t want it like Reed Road,” one person said, referring to the water park Upper Arlington built in 2005 to replace the old Hastings Pool.

Other suggestions included keeping the open grassy areas and diving boards and adding a slide, more bicycle racks and more variety at the concessions.

Head swim coach Patti Hoch said the high-school team that competes in the winter needs a covered or indoor competition pool. The team now pays $15,000 a season to use the Columbus city indoor pool on Hunter Avenue in Victorian Village.

“We are pool-poor in Columbus,” swim team parent Becky Warnement said. An indoor pool in Grandview would attract users from outside the suburb and generate revenue.

The council will listen to all ideas, Panzera said, but an outdoor pool takes priority over an indoor pool. “Then we’re going to address the municipal building,” he said. City offices are cramped and council meetings quickly can become standing-room-only.

Fire Chief Steve Shaner agreed that a new pool should top the list because it’s what residents have been clamoring for — plus, it can make money. But he was glad to hear Panzera say that the municipal building and fire station would be next in line.

Part of the fire station occupies the 1924 portion of the municipal building, which made it the oldest in central Ohio after Columbus replaced its No. 10 firehouse in Franklinton two years ago.

Grandview’s structure was expanded in the 1930s and again in 1963.

Shaner pointed out where the city’s fire engine fits into the apparatus bay with only a few inches to spare at the top and sides.

Emergency supplies are stored in a former restroom and jail cell. There’s not enough space to properly store equipment and turnout gear, and there are no separate accommodations in case Grandview again hires a female firefighter.

Earlier proposals recommended moving the municipal building and police station to Goodale Boulevard and rebuilding the fire station at the current address.

Mayor Ray McGraw said a developer in the 1980s offered to pay top dollar for the municipal building site, which is prime real estate that sits atop a hill on Grandview Avenue.

Shaner said, “I heard that everything’s on the table.”

by Earl Rinehart, Columbus Monthly