State of the City
Kettering Mayor Peggy Lehner gave her annual State of the City presentation, celebrating the successes our community enjoyed, the challenges we overcame in 2021 and the major city projects and initiatives planned for 2022.
The text of the Mayor’s 2022 State of the City address appears below the video of her presentation.
Statements in bold: Mayor Lehner
Statements not in bold: Former Mayor Don Patterson
Hello. I am Peggy Lehner, and it is my honor and privilege to be your Kettering Mayor. On behalf of the entire Kettering City Council, I share with you the State of City. Each year, one of the most important responsibilities as Mayor is to share with you the successes of the previous year and the projects, initiatives and service improvements we have in store for the Kettering community in the year to come.
Former Mayor Don Patterson has presented the annual State of the City for the past 16 years; and he has graciously agreed to present the highlights of 2021 for all of us.
Mayor Patterson, welcome back for one last appearance, and thank you for accepting this opportunity to help present the 2022 annual State of the City. As we blend the past, present and future to fully convey the state of our beautiful city, we decided to use this space that replicates Charles Kettering’s office.
Thank you. We’ve been friends and colleagues for many years, and it is my pleasure to sit with you and revisit the events that made 2021 an unforgettable year.
Along with finishing your final term as Mayor after 24 years of public service, you saw many changes, a transformation if you will, with City Council. Can you speak about those changes?
The changes in Kettering City Council during 2021 were the most I’ve seen throughout my public service career. For the first time in Kettering history, women make up the majority of our City Council. This new, younger group will bring forth fresh ideas, and I look forward to watching them shine and do great things for Kettering.
The relationships they will form as public servants will prove invaluable in maintaining the progressive momentum of our city, and I am grateful to have served with Vice Mayor Tony Klepacz, Jacque Fisher, Bruce Duke and Bill Lautar throughout 2021. Two vacancies left by Joe Wanamaker and Rob Scott were filled with Council members Lisa Duvall and Bob Scott and Jyl Hall fills Mr. Lautar’s at-large seat. I have faith in this new team with you as their leader and truly appreciate their service and yours.
Thank you, Mayor. When you look back on 2021, what are some of the most notable highlights?
The biggest highlight for me was serving the best residents in the region. And, during my final year, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, I witnessed City staff, Council Members and community partners working around the clock to ensure that our residents, patrons, visitors and business owners were resuming everyday life safely, happily and prosperously.
It has been a pretty tough couple of years for just about everyone. How has living in Kettering made living through a pandemic easier, if at all?
Kettering is home. I know that phrase is used a lot; but, it truly is home. It’s a vibrant and flourishing community that gets better and better with age. We have celebrated great successes in recent years despite the challenges we faced. Our employers are thriving, our business parks are benefitting from reinvestment and our commercial properties remain in great demand. Kettering saw some of the highest gains in residential property value in the region, proving that moving to Kettering is a wise investment.
Our residents enjoy being part of something bigger. Residents enjoy being part of a community, and here’s a good example of that. Near the end of 2020, we asked our residents to participate in the U.S. Census to not only better position our city for funding opportunities, but to get a clear make up of our city! And, nearly 80 percent of our residents completed the survey. We did it as stakeholders invested in our community.
As the 13th largest city in the state of Ohio with a population of 57,862, Kettering’s 65 and older population accounts for over 18% of our residents. Of course, we have programs in place specific to seniors such as the Kettering Connection at Town & Country and the Lathrem Center. But, we can always do more. We have a varied population for whom we do our utmost to properly serve, and we are so grateful that our residents help us to measure these groups and help determine the needs of each.
We all felt the impact of the pandemic in 2020. How did things change for 2021?
When 2021 began, we all had hope that the pandemic would wane and life would get back on track. We started out slowly and cautiously; and, as spring and summer came, we were able to, once again, offer some of the cherished amenities to our residents and visitors. By 2021, the City of Kettering, like most, learned to speed up, slow down and change directions depending on the health climate. And with the nuances of the pandemic came recruitment and hiring obstacles; but, with patience and resolve, Kettering was able to offer summer camps, concerts and events at Fraze Pavilion and fun days at our water park and splash pad.
With the help of federal COVID-relief funds and community partnerships, the City of Kettering too the opportunity to work even closer with residents to help them recover from the pandemic’s impact with rental assistance for landlords and tenants, help with down payments on homes, as well as house repairs. Because of our relationships with our residents and businesses, we are better equipped to implement effective initiatives to assist where needed.
We listen to the people and work on ways to address concerns right here at our Government Center. This building is as unique in its architecture as the people it represents. This is where our residents, business owners, City staff and Council members work together to maintain and exceed the exceptional amenities and services enjoyed here in Kettering. This is where people who care about you will find answers to your questions and help turn your problems into promising possibilities.
Redevelopment and reinvestment are an important part of Kettering’s growth and appeal. Were there significant projects during 2021?
We enjoyed watching many projects come to life leading to another year of vital expansions.
We enjoy healthy private redevelopment and renovation projects taking place throughout our community. The City of Kettering is committed to reinvestment, as well. Kettering has grown significantly during the past 66 years, and the City strategically devotes a great deal of resources to maintain infrastructure and promote both residential and commercial development and redevelopment.
We place a great deal of focus on attracting new businesses and helping those already in Kettering grow and thrive here. In Kettering, the vast majority of our amenities and valued city services are funded by income tax. Therefore, economic development focused on job retention and creation is critical. The City of Kettering is home to a unique blend of businesses and residential neighborhoods. The business footprint includes a wide range of diversified entities from large corporations to smaller, locally-owned companies. Recruiting and maintaining businesses has become extremely competitive during the last several years. Businesses, no matter their size, turn to the government for aid in expansion, relocation or even to sustain their operations.
The number of jobs we have supports the infrastructure, facilities and services our residents and business communities treasure. In the end, our goal is to protect the investment that you made when you decided to call Kettering home. That means that we invest in our commercial centers to support job growth, as well as our neighborhoods and world-class amenities.
Let me give you a few examples at Miami Valley Research Park. The research park continues to be a large economic driver for Kettering located in the northeast quadrant, and the City will continue to market the land remaining for development and work with existing tenants to explore expansion opportunities.
Community Tissue Services has an impressive 132,000 square-foot facility at the research park. This expansion more than doubled their current footprint, allowing for additional processing capabilities, marketing, distribution and supply chain management. The $50 million project was completed in 2021. The expansion created more than 200 jobs primarily in the manufacturing and support fields at the company’s Center for Tissue Innovation and Research. CTS is the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of skin grafts for burn patients. The expansion positioned CTS to be on the leading edge of new graft development and biotechnology and furthered the organization’s commitment to meeting the growing worldwide demand for quality tissue grafts.
Life Connection of Ohio purchased nearly 9 acres at the intersection of Woodman Drive and Research Boulevard, as well. LCO is a non-profit organization that promotes and facilitates organ donation. LCO’s new location is expected to be nearly 30,000 square feet, which will more than triple their current square footage. During the next 3 to 5 years, the organization expects to nearly double their payroll. LCO hopes to take occupancy in early 2022.
Resonetics, LLC, is another business at Miami Valley Research Park with plans for expansion. In 2021, they purchased about 3 acres of land from the City. The medical device business expects to create 95 full-time jobs with the help of state aid to add to their current employee count of 147.
During 2020, Industrial Commercial Properties purchased four buildings and 28 acres in Miami Valley Research Park for $3.5 million. One of the buildings at 1900 Founders Drive sits on 10 acres and will receive state and local aid for renovation to attract new tenants. The properties are attractive sites well suited to potential defense contractor and research users. The developer is interested in rezoning the property to include residential and commercial use in the hopes of building apartments and restaurants within the research park.
The City built an access road at Miami Valley Research Park to help attract jobs and development. The nearly 350-foot roadway named Donation Circle was built in 2021, in conjunction with the sale of about eight acres to Life Connection of Ohio. Donation Circle also serves as access for other nearby parcels.
Kettering Business Park continues to thrive as it employs nearly more than 1,000 people at PriMed Physicians, Alternate Solutions Health Network, N12 Technologies, Kettering Health, Amazon and the Kettering Municipal Court.
Kettering Health opened two facilities to make healthcare easier for Kettering residents and visitors in June 2021. An On-Demand Care Center, located at 424 E. Stroop Road in Town & Country Shopping Center opened to offer same-day, affordable care for conditions ranging from headaches and rashes to muscle pains and strains. The 3,200 square-foot location employs six full-time positions and was an investment of $1.2 million into the Kettering community.
Kettering Health also opened its Years Ahead Center, located on 1745 E. Stroop Road. This new medical office building will focus on senior care and will house more than 30 jobs. The 14,000 square foot building opened in June 2021, and represents a $5.6 million investment by Kettering Health. Services include primary care/internal medicine, behavioral health and educational classes, and include X-ray and labs with more than 20 exam rooms.
Kettering Health purchased a former fire station from the City of Kettering along with more than 8 acres on Tait Road for $285,000.
The City sold a former fire station to Dayton Town & Country, Ltd., for $25,000. Town & Country plans to incorporate the site into the shopping center for redevelopment and improvement. This will spur economic growth and development, which will benefit the surrounding area, the city and our citizens.
Cassano’s Pizza King is expanding its corporate operations on E. Stroop Road adding 25 more jobs.
We welcomed a number of small businesses during 2021, as well, including Kettering Nutrition, Gionino’s Pizzeria, the Salon at Fairmont Cosmetology Center, Gem City Music, Needle, Ink & Thread, EcoPlumbers, Piper Street Boutique and The Cooks Pantry. Thank you for choosing Kettering.
The City offers programs to attract new businesses and provide assistance for those already here. Do you have any examples from 2021?
The Kettering Incentive Program, established in 2010, incentivizes companies that move into the city with the expectation they will bring an established amount of jobs and payroll, and make a commitment to longevity in Kettering. The City also works with the Dayton Development Coalition and the State of Ohio to ensure that all applicable incentives are secured through the State for our new and growing companies. A couple of examples include Lasky & Scharrer Law Firm that purchased property on Office Park Drive their office of 10 employees with the help of a reimbursable incentive grant.
Another example is Starwin Industries, a longtime business in Kettering. This tool and machine shop plans to expand their business with the help of Kettering and Montgomery County administrators seeking grant funding to help.
Finally, We Care Arts received a Wilmington Pike Improvement Plan grant to paint the facility, add cedar accents to the façade and upgrade the landscaping.
In November, we learned that Tenneco would be winding down over the next few years leaving Kettering by 2024. We are working with agencies throughout the region to ensure we do everything possible to help employees as they need it.
The City of Kettering has a lot to offer our businesses. Our quality of life is superior, our infrastructure and facilities are conducive to business retention and attraction, and the services provided by City staff are user and business friendly. These strengths will carry us into 2022 and beyond.
As the City of Kettering nears 70 years old, how has City Council made reinvestment in infrastructure a critical priority?
The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) continues to be an area of emphasis for City Council. The proposed 2022 CIP is $15.7 million of which $5.9 million will be funded by outside grants and reimbursements. We will complete more than $6.5 million in roadway improvements, leveraging the City’s investment with $2,350,000 from outside sources. The program includes residential asphalt street resurfacing funded in part with revenue received from the State gas tax; Dorothy Lane ADA curb ramp replacement; Hewitt Avenue Bikeway work; Smithville Road resurfacing between Wilmington Pike and north corporation line; Forrer Road Resurfacing between Smithville and Woodman; Polen Farm ramp repair; and Phase 2 renovations to the Rosewood Arts Centre.
In 2019, the City of Kettering, in collaboration with Miami Valley Communication Council (MVCC) member communities, completed construction of the GATEway Fiber Network, one of the first multi-jurisdictional fiber networks in the country. The 10-gigabit network covers 44 miles and includes the first-tier suburban cities of Centerville, Kettering, Miamisburg, Moraine, Oakwood, Springboro and West Carrollton. Its creation allows for technology improvements and partnerships among the MVCC member communities, and provides economic development opportunities for new revenue from the sale or lease of fiber optic data capacity.
Public Safety infrastructure upgrades continue to be a major emphasis in our Capital Improvement Program. In 2021, we completed the renovation of the Kettering Police Department Headquarters within the Kettering Government Center complex. This $8.9 million project brought the facility up to modern standards, improved and expanded the functionality of the existing space, expanded the operations of our Public Safety Dispatch Center and created a new combined entrance for visitors to the Government Center North Building and Police Headquarters.
The Ridgeway Road Bridge was substantially completed in August 2021, including the public art installation. Landscaping will be completed in 2022. Cliff Garten Studio designed the artwork to reflect the flowing landscape of Hills & Dales MetroPark and Kettering, particularly the view to the west. The artwork demonstrates the belief that design of infrastructure to serve the needs of the public should also be visually engaging, creating a memorable place and a specific identity for the community it serves.
We are putting just as much care into Kettering neighborhoods as we are on major thoroughfares with our prioritized residential street repair and repaving programs. We know that while our residents are investing in improvements beyond the curb, it is our responsibility to reinvest in the streets, drives, boulevards and avenues that connect our neighborhoods. Whether we lead projects to repair or install new curbs and sidewalks or maintain roadways, the city is committed to putting every neighborhood on a rotating schedule for improvements that prevent deterioration.
Significant improvements were made to County Line Road in 2021. The project will add a lane of traffic in each direction in order to ease daily vehicle flow and will also extend the multi-use path from the edge of the Miami Valley Research Park all the way to Dorothy Lane and Stroop Road. Ultimately, this will connect to the recently constructed multi-use path that leads to Indian Riffle Park, the Rob Dyrdek Skate Plaza and the Kettering Recreation Complex.
In 2021, Far Hills Avenue was resurfaced between David Road and the Oakwood corporation line, as well.
Public safety is such a valuable part of Kettering’s overall health and livelihood. Can you touch upon changes made to support this important service?
The health and safety of Kettering residents is paramount. At the end of 2020, City Council approved two essential items. During 2021, all Kettering Police officers were outfitted with body-worn cameras. The cameras are utilized during any transactions between the officers and the public. The Kettering Fire Department will also welcome a new ladder truck in the coming year to replace the oldest vehicle in their fleet.
We talked a bit about preserving our aging community. Can you explain what processes are in place to help?
Efforts by residents to maintain and improve their properties are important and appreciated. The Neighborhood Pride Awards Program is one way the City promotes these efforts. The program recognizes residents and businesses that have made significant improvements to or have maintained their properties impeccably year after year. Winners are selected by the volunteer Neighborhood Pride Award Committee, made up of previous winners, Winners are recognized at a City Council meeting and an attractive sign is placed in their yard to let everyone in our community know they received the award. This program was one of the least impacted by the pandemic, and we saw beautiful properties being recognized.
The Community Development division will continue to facilitate programs for providing quality housing to Kettering homeowners and education opportunities for foreclosure prevention and homeownership. The City has provided assistance stabilizing households and improving neighborhoods through homebuyer assistance, emergency repairs and comprehensive updates for over 40 years. The City offers low cost loans of 0% or 1% with low or no payments, depending on demonstrated need. The repaid funds can be recycled in the future to assist more homeowners.
In 2021, the City of Kettering was awarded $13.8 million in American Rescue Plan funding. Half of the funding was received in May 2021, with the other half expected in May 2022. The City discussed appropriate uses of ARPA funds after reviewing the guidelines and incorporating recommended areas showing revenue loss. Funding allocation was placed into categories including Community Programs (15%), Capital Equipment (32%), and Capital Improvement Program (53%).
The Planning and Development Department implemented the Stay Put Tenant Assistance Program in August 2021. Using funds from Montgomery County, the City of Kettering implemented the program for residents negatively impacted from the COVID-19 pandemic. If qualified, residents could receive funding to cover six months of unpaid rent and three months forward. Thus far, the City has processed 318 applications utilizing nearly $1.4 million in funds. Due to the overwhelming response to this program, the City of Kettering will receive an additional $2 million to continue assisting this need in our community.
The City of Kettering is also working closely with Day Air Credit Union to provide affordable and sustainable homeownership and home improvement for Kettering residents. Low-interest, forgivable loans are being offered to help offset down payment and renovation costs for current and future Kettering residents.
Another ongoing initiative is the Cities of Service program helping more than 7 Kettering neighborhoods to date. Each year, on National Make A Difference Day, City volunteers and civic groups join together to accomplish the bulk of the work in the selected area for revitalization. On October 23, 2021, invasive honeysuckle was removed and red oak seedlings were planted at the City’s Habitat Environmental Center and the Woods at Southdale Park. .
The City of Kettering invests in ways to help people with disabilities, as well. Explain efforts in place to assist those who might need accommodations.
The City’s Compliance and Inclusion Manager serves all City departments and works with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Advisory Committee to address citywide access and inclusion matters. The City fully supports access and inclusion for individuals with disabilities to participate in programs, events, enrichment opportunities and camps throughout the City. During 2021, the assisted listening devices were upgraded in Council Chambers and at Fraze Pavilion. The City of Kettering worked with Miami Valley Communications Council and other member cities to purchase software to offer live captioning on Spectrum local access channels 5 and 6.
As you know, I have a special place in my heart for children and doing our part to help where we can. How has the city invested in our youth?
The City of Kettering provides five School Resource Officers to the Kettering Schools. SROs provide education programs and demonstrate the human connection imperative for positive community relations.
For the past several years, the Partners for Healthy Youth Board, City of Kettering and Kettering City Schools have been working on how to address the growing numbers of families needing assistance. Those efforts culminated in the creation of the Youth and Family Community Resource Coordinator, a position that works with both the City and Schools to gather resources for those in need. The position is jointly funded by the City of Kettering and the Kettering City School District, with additional sponsorship from Dor-Wood Optimist Club. The services have become a critical resource for families in need.
During 2021, Partners for Healthy Youth developed a sub-committee focusing on children’s mental health. To engage with the community and inform parents of assistance programs, City of Kettering staff, Kettering City Schools, Backpack Program and other local groups organized two dinners in areas impacted most. A family fun night was held in October for the entire community as well.
What challenges have the pandemic brought to the City?
As we celebrate the successes of many initiatives, we are always prepared for some significant issues and forthcoming challenges. In developing the 2022 budget, we considered COVID-19 and the new realities it brings.
In 2020, Kettering received $3.2 million from CARES Act funding in response to the pandemic. The funds were used primarily for public safety personnel substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The City also submitted eligible expenditures for reimbursement by FEMA.
During 2021, many programs and amenities halted by COVID-19 began again under the guidelines of the CDC and Ohio Department of Public Health. Fraze Pavilion offered a reduced 2021 season, and the City was awarded $3 million from the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant. These funds were used to offset operations expenditures for the absence of a 2020 season. Although the 2021 season was reduced by half, ticket sales were above average compared with previous years, and the community was happy to see this summertime staple back in action.
Working remotely continued through 2021, and Ohioans pay municipal income taxes where they work, including if that’s at the kitchen table. The City of Kettering has been strategizing and preparing for these changes and the impact they will have on our income tax revenues.
As facilities re-opened and programs resumed in 2021, the City of Kettering was short staffed due to the reduction in force during the pandemic in 2020. The hiring freeze was lifted to hire seasonal employees for Fraze Pavilion, Parks Maintenance and the Recreation Complex to accommodate the concert venue, grounds keeping, water park and aquatics positions, as well as staff for summer camps. Our reduction in force left our pool of candidates empty as our former seasonal employees acquired new positions elsewhere. As spring and summer grew closer, it was evident that new recruitment strategies were necessary.
Creative marketing was set in motion and we worked with local schools to attract teachers and students. Supervisors at the Recreation Complex guarded pools and led camps. Parks Division supervisors took to the green spaces to close the gap that the lack of seasonal employees left. While we are expecting shortages for the 2022 season, we have taken action to increase our competitiveness in hiring.
Wage scales for seasonal employees were evaluated and compared with hourly pay being offered for similar positions elsewhere. Pay scales were expanded to offer competitive wages to seasonal employees working for Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts.
Despite the challenges communities have faced during the past couple of years, it feels like Kettering has continued to thrive. Is that true?
People. Relationships and human connection solve the problems.
The City of Kettering Volunteer Program celebrated its 42nd year of service! Keep our volunteers safe by sending them home during 2020 was painful for everyone. During 2021, they returned with smiles and renewed stewardship. Our volunteers are truly the essence of Kettering’s community spirit, and we are grateful.
I extend my heartfelt appreciation to all of the Kettering residents who take their commitment to serving our community to the next level. Their leadership is critical, and their input vital.
I’ve done all the talking here. What are your plans for Kettering as you begin your mayoral term?
Kettering has been groomed by City staff and strong leadership to age with grace. Because of this, my to-do list as Mayor will consist of maintaining and refining our current path while helping residents and businesses through the negative impacts of COVID. I am excited to engage with the people, determine needs, actions and deliverables.
As we see the struggles left in the pandemic’s wake, my hope is to join forces to ensure the children and their families have appropriate resources for their wellbeing. If children are struggling academically or psychologically as a result of the pandemic, my goal is to make sure that, as a city, we are doing our part to work with educators and school administrators to help make resources readily available and easily accessible.
As the work-from-home trend gains momentum, it’s my job to make sure residents continue to choose to live in Kettering! Our city offers great schools, wonderful parks, unmatched recreation programs and immeasurable community spirit. We are proud of the services and traditions we offer, and we will always consider new initiatives and resources for our residents, businesses and patrons.
In 2022, I hope you will consider the ways you or someone you know might get involved in a leadership role in the Kettering community. Everyone has a talent, and together we are unstoppable. Our Kettering Leadership Academy and our various City boards and commissions are frequently looking for new members. These are great opportunities to learn more about the city and create a path to additional leadership opportunities.
Be assured that all of us on Kettering City Council and your city administrators are dedicated to serving you and to ensuring you remain proud to say Kettering is home.
May you and your families be healthy and prosperous in 2022; and, on behalf of City Council and staff, thank you for allowing us to serve you. God bless!
The archive of the video from 2019 State of the City presentation is below: