- Denise G. Callahan Staff Writer
Changing of the guard, some secret big developments and major roadwork are on the agenda for West Chester Twp. this year.
The township’s new administrator is set to start in two weeks, and trustees say residents will find that the township is already a great place to live and work — West Chester was named five times to CNN/Money Magazine’s list of America’s Best 100 Places to Live under former administrator Judi Boyko’s tenure — and that new blood will also be a boost.
The trustees hired Larry Burks last year after Boyko resigned to become the Hamilton County assistant administrator. Burks will move his family of four from their home in Bellevue, Neb., and his first day in West Chester is Feb. 20.
Trustee Mark Welch said things are going to change under new leadership because the two administrators have very different personalities.
“It’s just going to be different and different can be good,” Welch said. “I think that he is open-minded, he has a thirst for knowledge, and I think the directors are all going to step up and help him in every way they possibly can. I see a developing synergy that will be really good for the township.”
The township’s newest trustee, Ann Becker, never had the opportunity to work with Boyko — the old administrator left last summer, and Becker was elected in November — but she said she is looking forward to seeing Burks reach out to the community.
“Larry is going to be the face of our West Chester government …,” Becker said. “Larry will be that person to take our staff and our township government to the next level. He is willing to go out in the public and talk to groups and business owners and residents about issues and I think that will make our township even better.”
When this news organization interviewed Burks after he was hired in December, he said he won’t be just a behind-the-scenes leader.
“In the community, you have to maintain that relationship,” Burks said. “Building a good strong relationship starts with face to face. An email from me isn’t going to cut it.”
There could be another new leader in the township this year if Trustee Lee Wong is successful in his bid to unseat Butler County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter. Wong filed to challenge Carpenter in the Republican primary last week.
“I want to bring the success of West Chester to the county,” he told this news outlet.
Since he recently retired from his position as a county probation officer, he said his countywide campaign won’t interfere with his part-time trustee position.
In recent years, the township has dealt with several issues that packed the trustee meeting hall with angry people. First there was Dr. Mohammed Aziz’s drug rehab center, then the “Right to Work” issue former trustee George Lang said he wanted to make a priority. Medical marijuana and the sale of the historic Station Road schoolhouse and even Sharia law have been topics people came to the podium to discuss.
The trustees aren’t foreseeing hot topics like those this year, but if any crop up they will be better equipped to handle the crowds now that they have passed a resolution that redefines the code of conduct for their meetings.
“It sets the tone, this is a business meeting, comments should be confined to business topics,” Welch said. “If personal attacks are happening on, whether it’s our legal, our staff or the trustees or fiscal officer, the presiding trustee can halt, ask them to please not make personal attacks and then let them proceed.”
Township residents will see a lot of traffic cones and detour signs this year with the major Cincinnati Dayton Road widening project, a couple new roundabouts, work on the Tylersville Road ramps to Interstate 75 and other roadwork.
Wong said there are also some major new developments that could come into town this year, but they are not announcing details.
“A lot of big development, huge development, commercial, class A type,” he said. “We are talking about headquarters, big projects, high paying jobs.”
Something that might or might not materialize this year is a joint project with Liberty Twp. to make their shared border at Liberty Way and Interstate 75 pedestrian friendly. Wong fully supports the project, but Welch said “they are on their own” because there are other areas of the township where walkability makes more sense. Becker said she needs to get up to speed on that project — which could include pedestrian bridges — before she makes up her mind.
“I’m always open to hearing more,” she said. “But I always have trepidations about spending money, so anything we decide to do will have to be fully vetted as to return on investment for the residents.”