MOUNT GILEAD — This was an unusual and challenging year for those who operate a small municipality.
“Nobody saw this (COVID-19) coming,” said Village Administrator Derek Allen. “I never thought we’d have to close a playground and basketball court.”
Despite the unprecedented effects from the pandemic, Allen noted a number of positives that took place in the village in 2020.
“We had four new home constructions, Dunkin’ Donuts invested in our community, the KOA Campground opened in July where an abandoned golf course was converted successfully into a campground,” he said.
The HPM factory has begun to be razed and “hopefully that land can be developed,” Allen said.
Work started on that project Dec. 22.
“We also have a building permit issued for a new credit union to go in at the corner of West Marion and Meadow Drive and some new businesses have come into the downtown.”
There was no decrease in revenues.
“The village is fiscally strong,” Allen said. ”We were very conservative in our spending in 2020.”
The year began with the general fund was over $3 million, returning to the pre-2008 levels. The year will end with the general fund around $3.5 million.
Allen credits former Mayor Mike Porter, village council members and staff for their diligence.
Mayor Jamie Brucker also focused on the positive accomplishments.
“I think we’ve pulled through as a village in these uncertain times,” he said.
Brucker cited the outdoor dining ordinance as an example.
“The outdoor patio or cafe had nothing to do with the pandemic. But because of the pandemic we kind of sped that process up,” he said.
One downtown business has taken advantage of it to date and Brucker hopes others will follow suit.
Some events, including plans for a fun day with the fire department, were put on hold.
“Hopefully, we can utilize some of those ideas this coming year, especially for the youth in our community,” he said.
A crowning jewel was putting on a fireworks display July 3 funded entirely by donations.
“We partnered with the fair board and made that happen. One hundred percent of the $10,000 cost was funded by community members,” Brucker noted.
“It was just awesome. We got donations after the event happened. Our community pulled together, and that’s something pretty special about all of Morrow County.”
The CARES Act funding assisted the village with a number of projects. The village was awarded $397,453 in federal money as a result of the coronavirus relief fund.
“Some of the changes were the drive-through window. The majority was spent with the fire department since they provide first-responder services,” Brucker said.
The village fire department got its EMS paperwork finalized in March as a result.
“We now provide a secondary service to residents in our fire district, including a couple of townships that benefit as well. Our firefighters that are paramedics that arrive on the scene can actually practice medicine under our county EMS.”
The CARES Act funding helped provide necessary items for the department.
Vision for 2021
The village paved two streets through its waterline replacement project.
“We had plans to do more; but hopefully next year can do more,” Brucker said.
Also, improvements to the village’s recycling program are in the works, through a grant.
“We have tried to make people feel as normal as possible. We have provided as many services as we typically do,” Allen said.
“Hopefully, people will appreciate things more, like a fair.”
A positive result of the pandemic was the hanging of the Mount Gilead High School senior banners on village streets.
“That will be something that I believe will continue on. That’s a nice addition that we probably would never have done if not for the pandemic,” Allen said.