HUBER HEIGHTS — Huber Heights Mayor Tom McMasters presented his vision for 2017 to city council Monday night.
McMasters emphasized the basics but also found some time to talk about what he called some “romantic dreams” during his presentation.
The mayor said the citizens of Huber Heights value safety services, efficient roads, affordability, school and parks. He put special emphasis on the city’s police and fire departments.
He said the city’s safety services have a “stellar reputation” and the departments are “filled with heroes.” But he said the city needed to work on making sure the departments, particularly the fire department, were manned to proper levels and had the proper equipment on hand to do their jobs. He mentioned the new fire station, the re-establishment of police public relations officers and neighborhood watch, and the fire department’s pink ribbon campaign as examples of strides made in recent years by the city’s safety services.
McMasters also said he hoped council would be able to spend more time and pay more attention to city financial reports. He also reiterated his crusade for government transparency.
The dreams concerned the 80 acres the city owns north of Interstate 70, behind the shopping center on Route 202. The area recently was considered as a possible location for the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, but since that plan is not going to happen the mayor took some time to talk about the area’s future.
He talked about a number of different possible ideas, but in the end came to the conclusion that the best idea might be for the city to take a “laissez-faire” approach and allow developers to determine the best economic use for the land. “We let the business people make up their minds where they want to go and that’s relatively pretty successful,” he said.
McMasters thought the city should take a bigger role in another idea – the development of a number of additional bicycle paths in the city.
He mapped out proposed bike paths for Chambersburg Road to Route 4; Bellefontaine to Center Point 70; and Fishburg Road. He said he believes the bike paths would lead to commercial areas where people shop and work.
McMasters wasn’t the only person giving a presentation at Monday’s meeting – you could say it was show and tell night for city council.
State Rep. Stephen Huffman of Tipp City also made a presentation to council. Huffman’s district includes about 1,000 Huber Heights residents in the northern part of the city.
Huffman, the first medical doctor to serve in the Ohio House, answered questions from council about medical marijuana and heroin addiction.
Huffman was the sponsor of the state’s medical marijuana bill and outlined some of the hurdles facing implementation of the bill.
In response to questions from Councilman Richard Shaw, a supporter of the medical marijuana bill, Huffman said the bill is now in the hands of the state medical marijuana commission, which is formulating rules for the sale of medical marijuana in the state.
Huffman said that even though the state forbids taxing medicine, the bill still will generate fees for local governments through other fees. The state also has to answers questions about how federal laws will affect state laws when it comes to banking and other regulations.
Huffman also explained that employers will be able to limit use of medical marijuana just like they can with other drugs.
“The employer still has the decision to make a safe work environment,” Huffman explained in response to a question from Council Member Janell Smith. “Right now, you can have a policy that you cannot have Percocet or narcotics in your system or you will be terminated. So it’s no different with medical marijuana.” He said he did not know how it might affect retirees or others associated with the military.
Councilman Tyler Skyline asked Huffman about what the state plans to do about the rise in deaths due to heroin use.
Huffman said the legislature is studying different areas in the state budget where money can be used to fight the epidemic. “I believe that just one thing is not going to do it,” he said. “I also believe that a lot of things in life are about your family and if I could pass laws to require better family structure I would but I can’t. But I think that’s where the opiate epidemic is going to be solved, in each individual house.”
Huffman also answered questions about House Bill 43, which would centralize collection of municipal income taxes for businesses in a single, statewide collection agency. Huffman said he believes that provision eventually will be pulled from the budget and will have to stand on its own as a separate measure.
Council members later in the meeting passed a resolution opposing the bill because they believe it will result in lower tax collections for municipalities.
In yet another presentation, council members heard from members of the Wayne High School JROTC program. Squadron Commander Kelsey Fitzpatrick, Vice Commander Alyssa Hardin and a number of other students from the program took turns explaining the group’s goals, programs and civic projects and presenting a Power Point presentation to council.
Reach David Lindeman at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.