- By Nick Blizzard Staff Writer
Top priorities in Miami Twp. include parks, staffing, and branding and public image — three areas officials say have suffered in recent years.
Prime concerns also include community blight and economic development — as well as communication — in the township, which has seen tens of millions of dollars in commercial construction in recent years.
Those five issues are prominently outlined in the township’s recently released strategic plan, a 37-page document designed to help guide its future. The plan is the result of months of data gathering, community surveys and public forums that trustees have focused on for more than a year.
“That’s one of the things that we wanted to do was find out what the citizens and the businesses in the township wanted us to focus on,” said Miami Twp. Board of Trustees President Doug Barry. “And that was the reason for those public meetings. So we got their feedback.”
Township officials have already started on many aspects of the plan. Trustees contracted with a consultant to examine operations in its Public Works Department, which oversees the parks system, and have received recommendations.
Informal talks with Miamisburg have occurred regarding the possible formation of a park district, while trustees are considering options to better fund the township’s nine parks covering 130 acres. That includes seeking a levy, possibly this fall.
Officials have talked for months about branding issues for the township, in part because it “has had great difficulty in being identified due to the fact that within our jurisdiction there are multiple ZIP codes and school districts,” according to the strategic plan.
Trustees have stressed to developers the need for signage that indicates their business is in Miami Twp., and last month officials unveiled a new logo to help streamline their message.
The township has also dealt with “negative press and a chain of personnel problems have taken its toll on the public perception of the township.” Elected officials now “are holding all of the Miami Township team to a high-level of ethical and behavioral standard,” the plan states.
Staffing levels low
Going forward, Barry said, staffing will be examined for the township, which at the beginning of 2013 had its lowest employee levels in more than 15 years, according to the plan.
“We kind of hit rock bottom in ’14 as far as personnel goes,” he said. “We’ve done all of the cutbacks we needed to do and now it’s time to look at what departments need the most right now and do we have money to hire folks in those departments.”
The township has 62 workers, most of whom are employed in the police department, said township Administrator Greg Rogers.
As many as eight full-time positions are listed in the plan as staffing needs. They include slots for planning/zoning, finance/compliance, roads, information technology and economic development.
How many new positions will be added will depend on available funding, officials said. But the planning and zoning post is likely to get top priority, Barry noted, as nearly 400 cases were handled by a part-time employee last year.
“I don’t know that we’ve prioritized them one, two, three and four, but I know the main thing that came out of the strategic planning process is code enforcement,” he said. “So that’s one, if we have to prioritize things, that’s probably the first person.”
Concerns of blight
That position will help focus on blighted, aging areas, according to the plan. While the township has seen significant new development in its southern portion since the Austin Boulevard interchange opened, feedback from residents and business people indicates that “blight and building the township’s economic diversity” are important concerns, the plan states.
Neighborhoods in the northern portion of the township and commercial areas near the Dayton Mall — a district which is the focus of a master plan expected to be completed this year — are among areas of concern, according to the plan.
The township’s adoption of limited home rule earlier this year allows it to pass measures to combat some associated issues and trustees have approved a process to speed up declaring properties nuisances. And the township’s move to recast the planning and zoning department to community development broadens its responsibilities toward that end, according to the plan.
Meanwhile, public works is being asked to conduct a roads assessment and a cost estimate for resurfacing roads. The township is looking at reactivation of a text review committee to help keep zoning codes up to date and be proactive in combating blight.
To improve communications, the township has upgraded its website and is using social media. It has also held its first “Breakfast with the Board,” a session designed to improve feedback with the business community.
Other ways to improve communications involve looking into developing township applications for smart phones and tablets, having informational meetings for new residents, and conducting a cost analysis to upgrade signage on jurisdiction borders, according to the plan.