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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio


FOP supported Thomas Cottrell Memorial Toy Ride a success

By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor

MOUNT VERNON - It was perfect weather Saturday for the 2nd annual Memorial Toy Ride to honor Officer Thomas Cottrell, who was killed in the line of duty in January of 2016. The motorcycle ride began at Mid-Ohio Suzuki on Harcourt Road. The riders left Mid-Ohio and rode to Wilson Cemetery in Newark where a recognition cermony was to be held for Officer Cottrell. From there the route ended ended back in Mount Vernon at The Station Break on Howard Street.

Participants were asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy or $20 per bike. All donations benefit the Salvation Army of Mount Vernon.

The event is supported by the Knox County FOP Lodge 147. Lodge president Sgt. Wayne Noggle of the Knox County Sheriff's Office said, "Tom [Cottrell] was big into helping kids. Tom really was involved in a lot of baseball, softball...kid activitites."

Noggle told KnoxPages.com that the FOP wants to make sure kids in Knox County don't go without things at Christmas that they need or want. "If we put a smile on one kid's face, this whole ride [will be] worth it," said Noggle.

 Toy ride toys Noggle Baker

Sgt. Wayne Noggle of the KCSO and FOP, left, and Lt. Christine Baker of the Mount Vernon Salvation Army with some of the toys donated following Saturday's Toy Ride - KnoxPages.com photo by Marty Trese

The money raised will help some 800 children and 200 families in the Mount Vernon/Knox County area receive toys and a Christmas dinner food basket.

Lt. Christine Baker of the Salvation Army says 100% of the donations to the Toy Ride will stay in Knox County. She said, "The Salvation Army works hard every year to service those in need who otherwise would go without a Christmas. We're very thankful for this ride and the sponsorships and the help that comes in ..this is the army behind the [Salvation] Army, people that give and volunteer and help us."

To view more photos of the event visit our KnoxPages Facebook page.




Local Business: Rural King to locate in Mount Vernon

EVANSVILLE, INDIANA — Regency Properties, a commercial real estate company specializing in county seat communities, announces the addition of Rural King at Knox Village Square in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Rural King is leasing approximately 94,374 square feet of space. The Rural King store will move into the old K-Mart location which closed several months ago.

Knox Village Square is a 206,972 shopping center located at 1500 Coshocton Ave. 

"We look forward to opening a new store in August 2018 in Mount Vernon, Ohio,” stated Brian Hutchins, Vice President of Business Development for Rural King. “We love the market and hope to bring our customers value and convenience. In the meantime, we can serve many of you at our surrounding stores in Marysville, Marion, Wooster and Heath."

Rural King will be joining the great lineup of national and regional tenants including: Pat Catan’s Craft Center, Peebles, Hibbett Sports, J.C. Penney, Aaron’s, and GNC. There are a limited number of available spaces left at this center, including one development opportunity in front of Knox Village. The center is located directly across the street from Wal-Mart and is the dominant retail center in the market.

“We are very excited to bring another great national tenant to Mount Vernon, Ohio,” stated Jim Wittman, Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer. “This will not only be a great addition to our center, but the community we serve.”



At-large council candidates asked about drug epidemic, finances, traffic

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — Five at-large candidates vying for three Mount Vernon City Council positions fielded questions Tuesday night before an audience of around 80 people. An additional 87 unique IPs logged on to watch a live stream of the event.

Incumbents John Booth (D) and Janis Seavolt (R) seek re-election. Republicans Christopher Menapace and Matt Starr and Democrat Donald Bovinett Jr. seek their first term on council.

Booth cited his more than 14 years experience on city council, working with five different mayors, and his ability to work with people and find solutions as his qualifications for re-election. Noting that he was part of building a new pool, updating the water plant and creating Mount Vernon Avenue, he said he feels council was looking ahead. He said he has always tried to make Mount Vernon a better place, treat people with respect and help get things done.

The city's former fire chief and a youth coach, Menapace said the city faces a nonsustainable budget, infrastructure deficiencies and public safety shortcomings. He said he brings passion and the understanding to settle these problems. He said the sign he wants to see hanging in the mayor's office is “Safest and Most Economically Sound City in Ohio.”

Starr said he fell in love with the city when he came to work at the Mount Vernon Developmental Center in 1991 and saw how passionate people are about the city. He became involved with nonprofit organizations and as a councilman wants to support entities to get the job done. “I want to serve my community. I want to be part of a team that advances the city and prepares it for our grandchildren.”

Seavolt cited her six years experience on council, and said she believes council has been doing a good job. “We listen and call,” she said.

Bovinett said council is a legislative body that underwrites what we do day by day. He wants to focus on retaining the city's youth and “make sure we have something there for them to stay for. “I personally bring to the table a willingness to listen and am willing to be there for each person each time,” he said. He wants to advocate for, listen to and be the voice of residents.

The candidates also answered the following questions posed by representatives from KnoxPages.com, WNZR/Mount Vernon Nazarene University, the Mount Vernon News and WMVO/WQIO.

If elected, what are your goals and what legislation will you bring in the first six months?
*Menapace: “I believe the purpose of local government is public safety and infrastructure. I will sustain and continue both of those issues.”
*Starr: Two main goals are to make sure the public is safe and make sure they can get around from point to point safely. He said he will make sure firefighters and fire/EMS personnel are equipped and ready to go, and he will start saving money to address infrastructure and big projects.
*Seavolt: One thing you cannot foresee is cuts such as local government funding. “So now we have to look elsewhere. You can't plan for something you can't foresee.”
*Bovinett: Infrastructure and safety. Traffic studies are great but only if you're willing to be open to new ideas. “I wont promise specific goals. I want to make Mount Vernon a good place; whatever comes up as a major topic is what I want to address.”
*Booth: Adequate safety forces, good streets, adequate water. “I want [our safety forces] to be the best, not second best.”

What effort will you make to understand what your constituents want?
*Starr: “You have to listen. Sometimes you have to go to the neighborhoods; open lines of communication.” Legislation isn't always required, just a good plan and communication. Explore newer technology where citizens are able to connect more readily.
*Seavolt: Legislation isn't the complete answer. She cited the issue of truck traffic on residential streets; council would like to require the offenders to appear in court rather than just pay the fine, but that has to be decided by the municipal judge. “If drivers don't follow the route established by their employer, they get fired. How do you get to the employer?” she asked.
*Bovinett: New technology and ways to connect with citizens. “Maybe not an intimate and personal level, but at least we can listen. We like to talk, but we need to stop and listen.”
*Booth: In his years on council, he's never seen a time when citizens couldn't get to a member of council. “That's the way it should be.” Phone numbers are posted, citizens can come to council. “There have been times when ideas from citizens have become ordinances.”
*Menapace: Talk and more active listening. “I don't need to know everything, but I need to be able to call and find out. I need to familiarize myself with resources on whatever the issue may be.”

What is your view of the role of city council representative?
*Seavolt: Listening. “You have to be able to talk to people and listen to what they are saying.” Be a team member. “We're not Republican or Democrat; we all have the same desire, to make Mount Vernon better.”
*Bovinett: To be an advocate for the citizens by listening and asking questions. “When you do that, you can make a great thing even better. Working with other council members is good, but it's to be an advocate.
*Booth: Listening. “There have been many times I've said 'I don't know, but I'll find out and let you know.'”
*Menapace: “We serve their needs.” Re actively, by serving the needs of the community. Proactively by planning and expertise in local government.
*Starr: Council is a legislative body, but you are part of a team. “Don't judge behavior, study it. You don't have to create laws to change behavior, just think and study and find ways to change.” Also, a council member is an ambassador for the city.

If elected, what would you do different from those already elected?
*Bovinett: Fresh perspective. The vote to disallow medical marijuana will negatively affect citizens suffering from opiate addiction. Be willing to explore those avenues.
*Booth: Continue to work within the framework of council. Council members don't always agree but always come to the right decision.
*Menapace: “I bring a challenge; I ask tough questions. I ask 'why?' I will make sure legislation is sound...make sure council understands the big picture.” Bring legislation necessary for the five- to 10-year plan.
*Starr: Council's role in supporting the administration's agenda is to tell the story where we're going. Use new technology to reach a wider audience. “I bring the technical expertise to council so we can harness public-private relationships.”
*Seavolt: As at-large representative, will try to help citizens. If constituent is from another ward, will enlist the aid of that ward council member. “Two people working get better results, better ideas.”

How are you prepared to hit the ground running as far as finances?
*Booth: Start with appropriations in January and see what funds we have. The administration gives the budget, but council decides the appropriations.
*Menapace: Feels he is well versed in the area of fire/EMS, not as much regarding the police, water and street departments, but the principle's the same and he understands the concept. His focus will be “what will we do to move forward?”
*Starr: “The budget is meant to be spent, but we are not spending it on extravagances.” Need a 10-year plan, prioritize those projects.
*Seavolt: Process starts in November with department heads and administration creating budgets. “When we finally get it we have to decide whether they can get it. They aren't asking for the moon.”
*Bovinett: “I will certainly ask for help when needed, but also I am a computer science major. So budgets are what I've gotten used to seeing.” “Being in organizations where you have to make tough choices where [the money] will go.”

What is the biggest issue facing the city and how will you solve it?
*Menapace: Budget shortfall, deficient infrastructure and deficient public safety. “There's a ½ percent income tax on the ballot; hopefully that will pass. If not, we have tough decisions.” The $94 million in capital improvements needs a 10-year plan to address and prioritize.
*Starr: “Drugs, that's no secret.” “Infrastructure is a ticking time bomb.”
*Seavolt: Drugs. “The levy takes care of worrying about police and fire; that money we subsidize stays in the general fund. A lot depends on the levy.”
*Bovinett: Safety—infrastructure falls under that. “As legislators, that's one of the things we can truly advocate for.”
*Booth: Jobs: “We need to do more to get industry here. Drugs: “I feel we should work more on stopping drugs coming in.”

Are you in favor of charter government?
*Starr: Likes charter because of the ability to recruit employees from all over; otherwise, you're just looking for the next person to pass a test.
*Seavolt: Needs to explore it more. Concerned about taking away the incentive to stay within the community.
*Bovinett: Needs to know more; need to be aware of unintended consequences.
*Booth: Long-term, charter would be good.
*Menapace: Favors charter because it “gives the opportunity to write the rules that we need to govern our community.” Eliminates the “archaic” civil service process.

Should council revisit the ban on medical marijuana activities within the city?
*Seavolt: “You can always review and change a law. I don't think we were wrong.” There are 60 dispensaries in the state where people can access medical marijuana, so they won't have to travel very far. Police and fire personnel said no to medical marijuana activities. “We weren't confused about marijuana and medical marijuana.” The fact that it had to be a cash deal because the federal government considers marijuana illegal bothered council. “There were too many things not feasible to put it into the city.”
*Bovinett: Hopes it will be revisited; he would bring it back to the table with the information and studies available. Said council wasn't necessarily wrong at the time; caution is always good.
*Booth: Supports the ban. “It would take a lot to change my mind.” Noted that police, prosecutor and city law director support the ban.
*Menapace: Saying something shouldn't be revisited doesn't show an open mind. Feels council passed the ban premature. “We prohibited it before we even knew the rules and we used emotional, anecdotal evidence as the basis.”
*Starr: “Council pulled the plug too quickly.” There's a difference between marijuana and medical marijuana. He said it wasn't the potential economic loss, “it was the hope being suppressed to the people it could help.”

The at-large candidate panel followed a forum on the city's ½ percent income tax levy on the Nov. 7 ballot and a face-off between 4th Ward council candidates Susan Kahrl and Jeff Gottke. To watch all three discussions, visit https://portal.stretchinternet.com/mvnuadmin/. You can also access the video at mvnu.tv. Click on “on demand” and select Election 2017 on Oct. 3.



Residents offer ideas to improve downtown Mount Vernon

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — About 50 residents turned out Tuesday night to record their ideas and thoughts about what downtown Mount Vernon should look like in the next 10 to 20 years.

Calling the workshop the “first and long time coming” meeting to determine what the downtown area will look like, Jeff Harris, president of the Area Development Foundation of Knox County, said private investors have put $38 million into the downtown area since 2010. “That's private investment only, not city investment or county investment. That's colleges, businesses and philanthropic groups.

downtown forum speaker

Jason Study talks about the need for a downtown plan at Wednesday's public focus group at the Memorial Building - KP Photo

“But right now we don't have much of a vision to say what should go in the downtown area, or what investment should be made in the downtown,” he said, noting, for example, that residents might not want to locate a tattoo parlor next to living space.

Jason Study and Conor Willis of OHM Advisors, a Columbus-based community advancement firm, led the interactive session. Study said the downtown is “an amazing connector between the past and present,” and that Mount Vernon's downtown is ahead of other communities with the presence of world-renowned learning institutions, Ariel-Foundation Park and an interesting, and unusual, well-blended mix of industrial, agricultural and commercial.

OHM was hired by the Mount Vernon Development Company, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, with a grant from the Ariel Foundation. 

Willis reviewed four trends that are shaping Mount Vernon and other communities nationwide:
*Walkability – desire for
*Change in household structure – 72 percent of households in 2015 had no children
*Growth in senior households
*Stability of area employment

Dividing the downtown into five areas, Study told participants to “think about businesses that could be here, places you could shop and places you could live.” The five areas are:
*West High Street, the “front door” to the city from I-71
*Public Square
*The old middle/high school site on Mulberry Street
*Surrounding neighborhoods, south of High Street to Ariel-Foundation Park
*Ariel-Foundation Park, difficult to get there from downtown

“Think of things you want, things you don't want to damage, things you want to change or alter to make the downtown a better place,” he said.

Participants wrote down ideas and suggestions on panels labeled with the five areas. They used red, yellow and green dots to mark areas or buildings they feel need to be severely repurposed or razed, improved or left alone. The also were asked to prioritize themes for the downtown. The top two were economic development through a mix of uses (repurposing) and implement a coordinated traffic strategy.

Following are a few ideas and suggestions the group made:
*Improve safety
*Small grocery for walkable errands on the west side
*Embrace agricultural history with the feed mill
*Demo old school
*Turn old school into affordable housing
*Turn old school into an indoor market/mall
*Connect Ariel-Foundation Park to the west end via a walk/bike trail
*Bathroom access on Public Square
*Walking bridge over the Kokosing River
*Safer walking and parking
*Welcome center on West High Street
*Tear down former Mazza's Restaurant
*More retail shops, restaurants, outside seating
*More street furniture – trash cans, benches

“Big” ideas include:
*Bike and kayak rental business
*Close South Main Street to traffic and improve with unique shops, cafes and outside seating
*Mix of businesses that open at different times; most don't open early or stay open late and aren't open on Sunday

Study and Willis will be at October's First Friday event on Oct. 6 seeking further input. Residents are encouraged to visit them at their booth outside of Central Ohio Technical College.

Residents can also leave comments and suggestions at https://www.mountvernondowntownplan.com. Results of Wednesday's workshop should be available on the website after noon on Thursday.

When the downtown study period is over, OHM will create outcomes which note different scenarios of what the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods could look like and policy goals which show how to achieve those scenarios.


4th Ward council candidates field questions at debate

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — Democrat Susan Kahrl and Republican Jeff Gottke faced each other in a debate Tuesday night in an effort to win the votes of 4th Ward residents.

Kahrl is an incumbent at-large council member who says she has energy, enthusiasm and commitment and is ready to be the 4th Ward representative. She cited her experience on council, volunteer work at Ariel-Foundation Park and with the Mound View Cemetery tour, and involvement with Main Street Mount Vernon as part of her qualifications.

Gottke said that even though the federal government dominates Facebook conversations, he believes local government is the most important level. He said Mount Vernon is poised for growth, and he wants the city to be a destination where seniors choose to retire, people choose to move to and children love to grow up in.

Regarding the most pressing issues in the 4th Ward and their solutions, Gottke mentioned lack of funds, deferred infrastructure maintenance and the drug problem. Noting that these problems affected the whole city, not just the 4th Ward, he said community engagement is the key. “Council has to do a better job of engaging with the community,” he said.

Gottke at debate 1032017

4th Ward Council candidate Jeff Gottke makes a point at last night's candidates debate at MVNU - KP Photo

“The thing I hear most clearly and loudly in the 4th Ward is the opiate problem,” said Kahrl, adding that she has talked with many citizens and held neighborhood meetings because people were concerned about drugs being sold at Chester Shock Park. She agrees there needs to be more proactive talking with citizens to find out what they need.

On the flip side, Gottke said that residents tell him they are most concerned about drugs, brick streets and stray cats. Kahrl agreed, adding alleys as another issue because of pass-through traffic and drug activity. She said she has talked with Mayor Richard Mavis, who asked the police department for increased bike patrols in the alleys.

Responding to a question about the income diversity in the 4th Ward, Kahrl said talking with people is the way to bridge any divide and said she was excited about the opportunity for growth in the north end at Meadow Ridge Apartments. “The reason why they're doing that is they feel the community is prime for that kind of development,” she said.

Gottke said diversity in the 4th Ward is a good thing because it “forces us to talk to each other.” He said he wants residents to call him. “If they want me to stand on their porch and watch drug activities, I will,” he said.

On the brick street issue, Gottke said he loves brick streets but noted that the city faces $18 million in repairs over the next 10 years. “We've got to figure out a way to make improvements affordable,” he said. Kahrl said the brick street projects always get put on the back burner because there is not enough money. “If we get the ½ percent income tax [passed], we can make brick streets a goal,” she said.

Regarding truck traffic on East High Street, Kahrl advocates a city-wide traffic study. “We have to find ways to fix the whole city to get through transport every day – pedestrian, bike and vehicle,” she said, noting that speed bumps on Edgewood Road will just send vehicles another route.

Gottke said that the city needs a plan, not just a traffic study. “Where do we want the traffic to go?” he asked. “Essentially, we're just following problems around instead of deciding where we want the trucks to go.”

“We have a plan, it's just not being followed,” responded Kahrl. “We really need to work something out for the whole city.”

Both candidates favor charter government vs the current statutory government. Kahrl said she sees stability with a city manager under charter government, regardless of politics. Noting that the city's safety-service director is basically the same as a city manager, Gottke said the city can maintain its current structure under charter rule. “I favor a separately elected strong mayor and a separately elected council,” he said.

Asked about how the city should address the drug problem, Gottke said it is a community problem, not a city problem and that education, action and recovery is needed. “Meetings are not enough,” he said. “As councilman, I will take the lead on being educated on drug use in the 4th Ward.” Part of his action is to call landlords or property owners because “they are a big problem” with either not knowing about or ignoring drug activity on their properties.

“The drug epidemic is hurting the good qualities and putting a mar on our city,” said Kahrl. “We really need to get passionate, open lines of communication and use the crime tip hotline.”

As to whether the candidates would support a recovery house being located in the 4th Ward, Kahrl said, “I am sure there would be complaints. I think we need recovery housing but it's a very sensitive subject and something to give a lot of thought about where it's located. If it's adequately patrolled...I need to get more knowledge about what's involved.”

Gottke said that limited options only makes the drug problem worse. “We need recovery housing,” he said. “We're afraid of that. When we push them out we're saying we don't want you in our neighborhood. That's exactly what addicts don't need. When we say 'I don't want it in my neighborhood,' it only makes the problem worse.”

To create a more fiscally responsible budget, Gottke said the city needs to create and stick to a long-term spending plan for the next five to 10 years. Noting he cannot state specifics as he is not familiar with details, he said the city needs to be proactive and ask what can we spend now that will save money down the road?

Kahrl said that in her six years on council, she has seen nothing but wonderful long-term plans. “I think we've done a really good job of being conservative with the money we have,” she said, adding that deferred maintenance is now an issue because of lack of funds.

Susan Kahrl at debate 1032017

4th Ward Council candidate Susan Kahrl listens to a question at Tuesday's candidate debate at MVNU - KP Photo

In closing, Gottke repeated that Mount Vernon is poised for growth and can no longer afford to stand still. “If we are going to grow, it must be on our terms,” he said, adding that he has the energy to capitalize on a new vision for the city and neighborhoods as well as the downtown. “We no longer have the same expectations. We need new leadership and new thinking.”

“With three terms on city council, I've acquired a broad understanding of our city,” said Kahrl, adding that she also realizes why the city received the Best Hometown honor. “I'm proud to witness how the administration and residents have worked together on future improvements that will stand the test of time. We need to be proactive but also reflect on the past.” She said her abilities make her the best candidate “to be an advocate for our community.”


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