Growth a theme among top stories of 2019

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In November, Jerome Township, Union County and the Jonathan Alder School District approved a plan to bring a $200 million Amazon Data Center to this site at the northwest corner of Warner Road and Industrial Parkway. Amazon Data Services has expressed interest in adding other buildings on several other parcels in the area as well. (Photo submitted)

Editor’s note: As the new year approaches, the Journal-Tribune newsroom staff has compiled a list of the top local stories of 2019. Staffers voted on the top news stories of the year and the results will appear today and Tuesday in the newspaper. Today’s installment looks at the stories placing 6 through 10 on the list. Stories number 1-5 will appear Tuesday.
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Growth in the county and business sector, sprinkled with a changing of the guard for elected officials, rounded out the Top 10 news stories of the year for 2019.
Members of the Journal-Tribune newsroom staff remarked that the list of possible top stories were exceptionally close in terms of news value. There were no clear-cut top stories and a number of items barely missed being included in the roundup.
“I think if the newsroom went back and voted again, the results could be very different,” managing editor Chad Williamson said. “Members of the staff took a long time as they tried to sort out how to place a value the true impact of a story.”
The stories placing 6-10 on the list appear below.
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6) Candidate Jumble: Two Commissioners Won’t Run Again, Two Incumbents Voted Off City Council
In November, long-time county commissioners Steve Stolte and Charles Hall announced they will not seek reelection in 2020.
Stolte, who served for many years as the county engineer, was first appointed in 2011. He cited his age, as he will soon turn 74 years old, and the idea that he wanted to spend quality time with his family.
Hall, who has served for 16 years, also cited age, as he would be 79 years old when a new term begins, as well as some health concerns.
A total of eight candidates will vie to fill the two vacant commissioner seats. Stolte and Hall have separate seats. Stolte’s seat takes office Jan. 2. Hall’s replacement will take office Jan. 3.
Republicans Jerry McClary, J.R. Rausch, Steve D. Robinson, Andrew C. Smarra and Kim Zacharias will face off in the primary. The winner will face Democrat Tony Eufinger, who is unopposed in the primary, in November to fill Stolte’s seat.
Republicans Dave Burke and Rod Goddard will face each other in the March primary to fill Hall’s seat. No democrat has filed for the seat.
Earlier in the month, challengers Donald Boerger and Aaron Carpenter ousted incumbent Marysville City Council members Nevin Taylor and Scott Brock.
In Marysville’s Fourth Ward, Boerger defeated Taylor, council’s longest seated member, by a more than 2:1 margin.
In Marysville’s Ward 1, Carpenter defeated Brock, who was appointed to council earlier in the year, as well as challengers Josh Bockhor and Scott Zwiezinski.
Alan Seymour in Ward 2 and Deborah Groat in Ward 3 were unopposed for their council seats.
The new council members will take office in January.
7) Amazon Announces Local Data Center
In November, officials around Union County finalized a deal to bring an Amazon Data Center to Jerome Township.
The agreement allows Amazon Data Services Inc. to build a 250,000 square-foot facility on nearly 125-acres at the northwest corner of Warner Road and Industrial Parkway.
The data center would be a warehouse for data servers that store information saved to “the cloud.” Hilliard, Dublin and New Albany have similar facilities.
Officials said the building would be the first of potentially several phases. The agreement indicates Amazon Data Services has expressed interest in several other parcels in the area as well.
According to the agreement, Amazon Data Services “intends to construct various buildings and additions to buildings on a campus for data services and related activities in multiple phases over a number of years that could total approximately 800,000 square feet.”
Officials said the project, which could total $200 million, would probably be “a 10-year rollout.” The first phase would likely take two to three years to complete.
Amazon will receive a 10-year, 100% tax abatement on the first phase as well as future phases of the development.
As part of the agreement, rather than paying the property taxes, Amazon will make $4 million donations to the taxing authorities — $2.5 million to Jonathan Alder Local Schools and $500,000 each to Jerome Township, Union County and Tolles Career and Technical Center, over 10 years.
The company has said it expects to have a minimum of 75 employees with a $3.75-million annual payroll.
“It could be higher potentially,” Phillips said, explaining that Amazon offered a conservative number to ensure the company would meet it and preserve the agreement.
The data center will be part of the recently created Joint Economic Development District, meaning employees will pay Marysville’s 1.5% income tax. Based on company projections, officials believe this means the first phase will generate an estimated $200,000 over 10 years for infrastructure in the region, with an additional $54,000 to the township, the City of Marysville and JEDD administration and marketing.
Additionally, Marysville officials said that if the phases come to fruition, Amazon could be second in city water use behind only Honda. City officials said the project could conservatively mean an estimated $1.8 million in tap fees along with $380,000 in annual water fees and $150,000 in annual sewer fees.
8) Honda Celebrates 40 Years
Sept. 10, 2019 Honda associates celebrated the 40th anniversary of the company’s historic start of production.
Honda initially invested $35 million in the Marysville Motorcycle Plant.
In 1979, Honda of America Mfg., Inc. and its 64 associates produced the first Elsinore CR 250 motorcycle. With the motorcycle, Honda became the first Japanese automaker to build products in the U.S. Automobile production quickly followed on Nov. 1, 1982, at the adjacent Marysville Auto Plant.
Honda now employs more than 25,000 associates at its 12 plants and five auto plants in America, though in June 2009, the company closed the Marysville Motorcycle Plant.
9) County Posts Record Revenue
For a sixth time in seven years, Union County saw record revenue in 2018.
According to information from the Union County Auditor’s office, in 2018, the county generated $23.94 million dollars. In 2017, the county saw revenue of $23.2 million, a record at the time.
County Auditor Andrea Weaver had set the 2018 revenue estimate at $23.37 million
County sales tax revenue of $10.8 million exceeded projections by 2 percent, but officials said it was lower than officials had hoped.
County Administrator Tim Hansley said the community is growing and the commissioners have been “good stewards.”
10-tie) Local Hero Passes
Retired Maj. Gen. Oscar C. Decker, Jr. died in the early morning hours Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.
He was a two-star general that helped develop military vehicles and processes Army officials say are still used today.
Decker was born Oct. 10, 1924 in Moorefield, Nebraska.
According to the U.S. Army, Decker enlisted in 1943 and was assigned to the 20th Armored Division, serving in the European theatre during World War II. His unit was involved in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Germany.
While enlisted, Decker married Ella Mae “Babe” Tillson.
A tank commander, Decker earned the rank of sergeant before his discharge in 1944. He returned to Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska where he was active with the ROTC and the National Guard.
In 1951, Decker again joined the Army. According to the U.S. Army, Decker held several positions at the Tank and Automotive Command (TACOM) before serving as its commanding general.
Decker served as TACOM commander for nine years. While at TACOM, Decker developed or improved many of the vehicles still in use, including the M1 Abrams Tank, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the Humvee.
In 1983, Decker retired from active service as a two-star Major General. He moved to Marysville to be close to his parents.
He was active with local schools from helping to pass levies to developing civics curriculum. He was instrumental in creation of the Union County Foundation and the county’s economic development director position. He volunteered at his church and for the United Way of Union County. He also helped organize the Union County Military Family Support Group.
Decker served as chairman of the Marysville Memorial Day Committee. He oversaw the design and creation of the Union County Veterans Memorial and Monument, dedicated in May 2007.
He was awarded the Legion of Honor Award from the Chapel of the Four Chaplains and the American Legion Meritorious Service Medal for all his support of veterans. Decker was inducted into the hall of fames of the Army Ordinance Corps, the Ohio Veteran’s, Army Materiel Command and the Central Ohio Senior Citizens. He was awarded Marysville Exempted Village School District’s Golden Apple Award.
In 2012, the City of Marysville dedicated the new fire station on County Home Road, naming it in Decker’s honor.
Decker, 94, died at his daughter’s home in Hay Market, Virginia, surrounded by family.
In November, Decker was honored as part of the community’s Voices from the Stone ceremony. Decker’s funeral services will be held Jan. 23 at Arlington National Cemetery.
10-tie) Honda Trims Local Production
In April, Honda of America Manufacturing announced it would suspend the second shift on Line One at the Marysville Auto Plant beginning Aug. 1.
The Marysville Auto Plant, which used to have two production lines with two shifts each, is continuing with two shifts on Line Two and one shift on Line One.
The change also impacted production at the Anna Engine Plant, the Honda Transmission Plant as well as suppliers and logistic companies.
Officials said employees would offer a “voluntary resignation program” to certain eligible associates. Other associates were moved to a different shift, a different department or even a different plant, based on where the attrition took place.
In a release, officials said the change, “will enable the plant to align supply with current market demand and utilize this period to update manufacturing capabilities to prepare for new technologies including electrification.”
Officials said the company expects to “resume second shift within a few years.”
10-tie) Property Values Jump in County Revaluation
Nearly every property owner in Union County saw their property valuation, and concurrently, their property taxes, increase.
Union County Auditor Andrea Weaver said that depending on the area of the county, property values rose between 14% and 28%.
Every six years, the county auditor is required to a complete value assessment for every property in the county. That revaluation was done in 2019 and Weaver said the goal is to “bring property values in line with what has been actually happening in the market.”
With the new valuation, the county’s total valuation surpasses $2-billion.
Those property owners who feel their valuation is incorrect do have options.
Weaver has said that, for property owners with concerns or who believe the county got it wrong, “their best course of action is to file a board of revision complaint.”
The county board of revisions hears formal complaints on property valuations and appraisals. Property owners will have until March 31, 2020, to file an appeal contesting their property value.
Forms to file the complaint, as well as other information about the board of revisions, are available in the auditor’s office and on the auditor’s website. Completed forms can be returned in person, mailed to the auditor’s office, e-mailed to auditor@co.union.oh.us or faxed to (937) 645-3057.



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