COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther stood in front of a rundown city service building in a barren North Linden parking lot on Thursday to rally voters behind a $1.5 billion bond package designed to modernize the city.
Built in 1968, the 65,000-square-foot former site of the city’s Building and Zoning Services will soon be revamped to become Columbus’ first Real Time Crime Center – just one example, Ginther and other city officials said, of the improvements made possible through voter support at the ballot box.
“These are more than just buildings and vehicles; these are more than line-item budgets,” Public Safety Director Robert Clark said. “These are investments in the safety of our city and the safety and wellbeing of our residents.”
Why does Columbus need $1.5 billion?
The five bond measures, Issues 14 through 18, amount to $1.5 billion in funding but come at no cost to taxpayers, Ginther said. If voters approve the issues, a quarter of every $1 that the city collects in earned income tax will be set aside to fund the proposed projects, he said.
“Without these bond issues being approved, it’ll force us to look at other options that may be more expensive and more costly to taxpayers,” Ginther said.
Other city leaders, like Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant and Fire Chief Jeff Happ, said this year’s bond issues are critical to supporting first responders and bolstering the resources they have to keep Columbus residents safe.
“We have to take care of our officers,” Bryant said. “When we invest in them and make sure that we’re putting them in that environment that’s safe and productive, they too will then increase their response and increase the way that they respond.”
While Clintonville area commissioner Joe Motil said he supports the bulk of the $1.5 billion bond package, the 2023 mayoral candidate said he’d like a bit more details about the proposed expenditures.
“I’m not saying you have to specifically earmark every penny and dollar that’s going to be spent, but where are the details?” Motil said. “Where exactly is this money going to? Which rec centers, which part of town?”
Alison Goebel, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, said the bond issues’ proposed investments are a great way for Columbus to become a more “sustainable, equitable region.”
Unlike debt that’s signed off by the City Council, Goebel said voter-approved debt is less costly for taxpayers because it makes the proposed projects more attractive to investors who might be interested in helping cover project costs.
“When the city goes to the bond market asking money to issue these bonds, investors have a lot more confidence that if the majority of its residents think this is a good idea, the city should borrow this kind of money,” Goebel said. “For investors it’s a hallmark for them on sort of the seriousness of using the money wisely and investing it wisely.”
Issue 14: $300 million for Health, Safety and Infrastructure
- $219 million for Franklin County Municipal Court building
- $33 million for fire facility renovations
- $30 million for police facility renovations
- $18 million for fire apparatus replacements
“If you spend any time at the current county municipal court building you’ll know why this is such a high priority and it is part of our larger comprehensive safety strategy yes prevention, intervention but also enforcement,” Ginther said.
Like Motil, Columbus-based Republican strategist Terry Casey said he’d like to know more about the city’s specific plans.
“People get it and understand the city is growing and that we need more fire stations, more fire equipment, etc, etc. Those are easy, it’s some of others like a new municipal court building or affordable housing where specifics would help,” Casey said.
Issue 15: $200 million for Recreation and Parks
- $100 million for planned renovations and replacements
- $48 million for new greenway and park development
- $14 million for acquiring future parkland
- $14 million for small program projects for rental, golf and sports facilities
- $10 million for large program projects for rental, golf and sports facilities
- $8 million for emergency replacements
- $6 million for unanticipated, time-sensitive high-priority projects
Issue 16: $200 million for Neighborhood Development
- $80 million for the construction of affordable rental units
- $50 million for affordable homeownership
- $40 million to preserve existing housing affordability
- $30 million for programs and permanent housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness
Issue 17: $250 million for Public Service
- $84 million for resurfacing
- $45.9 million for intersection improvements designed to reduce traffic deaths
- $42.9 million for pedestrian safety improvements
- $32.8 million for mechanized collection equipment
- $17.7 million for urban infrastructure recovery
- $10.1 million for bridge rehabilitation
- $7.5 million for NCR
- $5.1 million for bikeway development
- $2.4 million for roadway improvements as they relate to housing initiatives
- $750,000 for for roadway improvements as they relate to utilities
- $600,000 for refuse collection facility improvements
Issue 18: $550 million for Public Utilities
- $275 million for sanitary sewer system improvements
- $235 million for water system improvements
- $30 million for stormwater system improvements
- $10 million for street lighting improvements
NBC4’s Karina Cheung contributed to this report.