JEDZ performs well for Columbia Township

finding your wayA new economic-development tool in Columbia Township is performing well.

Township officials had projected a new business tax connected to its joint economic-development zone with Fairfax would produce about $706,000 annually for economic-development efforts, and it produced $760,000 in 2015.

“The JEDZ performance is critical to the delivery of services and economic development aid and assistance provided to current and new businesses considering Columbia Township,” township Administrator Michael Lemon said.

“It is generating new opportunities that will help assure the viability and sustainability of our community for the future.

“It played a significant role in bringing the new CBT headquarters to the township last year and we hope to use it to bring additional businesses through creative partnerships as we move forward,” Lemon said.

The CBT Co. is moving its headquarters from downtown Cincinnati to the former Kmart site at 5500 Ridge Ave. in Columbia Township – and bringing 120 employees with it.

Columbia Township agreed to issue up to $2.85 million in revenue bonds to help CBT build a 95,000-square-foot facility with 55,000 square feet of warehouse space and 40,000 square feet of office space.

CBT, which supplies automation, power transmission, electrical, belting and pneumatic products and services, will pay the township back over the next 30 years in lieu of paying property taxes.

Columbia Township expects to receive about $50,000 for each of the first 10 years from CBT and $100,000 a year after that, but the sums are dependent upon the number of jobs created and their salaries.

CBT President James Stahl Jr. has said the company was disappointed that Cincinnati didn’t do anything to help keep it in that city.

With the approval of Columbia Township voters in November 2013, the township and Fairfax forged one of the last joint economic-development zone partnerships before the state outlawed the zones.

In April 2014 the partners began assessing a 1 percent income tax on people who work and businesses that operate in Columbia Township commercial areas on Wooster Pike, on Plainville Road and at Ridge and Highland avenues.

Fairfax, which is a village, gets a cut of the proceeds for collecting the income tax, which Ohio law says townships cannot do.

Meanwhile, the Columbia Township Board of Trustees has given 3 percent raises to its five full-time employees and one part-time employee.

“The increase was based upon cost-of-living and a wage survey of Center for Local Government members for similar positions and merit,” Lemon said.

CBT president: City didn’t do enough to help us

cbt presidentConstruction is continuing on the new headquarters for CBT in Columbia Township as the company plans to move at least 120 jobs from Cincinnati later this year.

And with CBT’s move, questions are emerging about whether the city did enough to convince the company to stay within its borders.

The move is a big deal for Columbia Township, which stands to gain about $100,000 a year in earnings taxes from the jobs, administrator Michael Lemon said. That money equals about 2.4 percent of the township’s annual budget.

“It’s a very well-respected company,” Lemon said. “We’re very excited about them coming. They’ve got extraordinary owners and leaders. They’ve been an absolute delight to work with.”

CBT wants to open the new operation at 5500 Ridge Ave. by July 1, Lemon said. The company, which was founded in 1921, is currently in Queensgate at 737 W. Sixth St.

City Councilman Chris Seelbach said Friday he has asked Mayor John Cranley’s administration to provide details on the circumstances that led to the company’s exit from Cincinnati.

Seelbach said he sent a congratulatory message to the company learning it received an award. In a handwritten reply sent in November, CBT President James Stahl Jr. hinted the city staff members didn’t do enough to help keep it in Cincinnati.

“CBT approached the city of Cincinnati about helping us stay in Queensgate where he have been since 1988,” the letter said. “We were told by several individuals there is nothing the city could do and wished us good luck. Obviously we were shocked and disappointed.”

Stahl couldn’t be reached for further comment Friday. City officials with knowledge about CBT’s plans couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Seelbach said working to get information isn’t designed to be a witch hunt, but to better understand what happened.

Columbia Township roundabout dead

A plan for a $2 million-plus traffic roundabout in Columbia Township some five years in the making is dead at the hands of businesses and residents.

The Columbia Township Board of Trustees had agreed to contribute $446,000 in matching funds to a $1.76 million grant from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments for a roundabout at the intersection of Bramble Avenue and Plainville Road on the township line with the Cincinnati neighborhood of Madisonville.

A roundabout is a circular intersection in which vehicles move continuously in one direction around a central island.

Columbia Township had hoped a landscaped roundabout in the Bramble Avenue-Plainville Road area would make traffic flow more easily and encourage economic-development there.

Then came a recent public meeting.

“The businesses on Plainville Road and Bramble Avenue and the residents in the area of the proposed roundabout no longer support the path included in our comprehensive plan to help improve the business district and want to see something different,” Columbia Township Administrator Mike Lemon said.

“We do not want to force a project on the businesses and people that they do not want.”

Columbia Township will update its comprehensive plan next year, Lemon said.

“The township will seek the community’s thoughts and input regarding the future of the Madison Place/Plainville Road area as well as the rest of the township,” Lemon said.

“It will reflect the changing environment and new direction from the input of residents and businesses.”

OKI awarded Columbia Township the roundabout grant in 2010, when the township hoped to build it where Plainville and Madisonville roads meet Murray Avenue at the border of Columbia Township and Mariemont.

When the township was unable to sell Mariemont on the idea – despite the fact that Mariemont would not have to ante up matching funds – Columbia Township found Cincinnati a willing partner for a roundabout in the Bramble Avenue-Plainville Road area.

The estimated cost of the project was $2.2 million, which included right-of-way acquisition, geotechnical assessments, environmental review, storm drainage, lighting, utility relocation and construction.

Columbia Township had not expected construction to begin before 2017.

“(Scrapping the roundabout) is a win for the residents, saving $500,000 and a small business and maybe another,” said resident Carl Jones, who opposed the roundabout and who recently failed to win a seat on the Columbia Township Board of Trustees.

On Nov. 3, Chris Kritikos bested Jones by a vote of 692 to 543 for a four-year term on the board of trustees beginning in January.

It’s the seat now held by trustee President Stephen Langenkamp, who did not seeking re-election.

Kritikos will join incumbents Vice President Susan Hughes and trustee David Kubicki, whose terms run through 2017, on the Columbia Township Board of Trustees.

Earlier this year, Jones also spoke out against a 5.1-mill waste levy that Columbia Township voters approved by a vote of 857 to 503 on Nov. 3.

Estimates are that it will annually cost township homeowners $178.50 per $100,000 valuation of their homes and generate just above $614,000 a year for Columbia Township.