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Parks department rebounding from COVID, engineering earns grants

Bryan City Council recently learned the parks and recreation department has started recovering from COVID while the engineering department is working hard on getting grant funding.

Directors from those departments and the street department gave their annual updates during a recent council meeting.

Parks and Recreation

Ben Dominique, parks and recreation director, said park use has started to recover from the decline seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly half of the uses of park facilities in 2023 was at the pools, which accounted for 47% of classes, meetings, clubs, workshops and groups, according to Dominique’s report.

In total, 148,473 people used the facilities.

“One thing I would like to stress is our numbers aren’t exact,” Dominique said. “We rely on people who use our facilities to give us numbers and things like that. The other thing you know is we count every person when they come. If we offered a class three times and you come three times we count you three times.”

This can lead to some misunderstanding of the numbers, he added.

Overall, facility use has been increasing since a low of around 80,000 users during the pandemic in 2020. The numbers, according to the report, are still behind 2019, when around 160,000 people used the facilities.

“We’re starting to work back towards that (number), but we’re not quite there, yet,” Dominique said. “We’re pleased with where things are headed.”

Of the 17,002 users of Bryan pools, 87% of them were at Moore pool with East End accounting for 17%.

Dominique said numbers at Moore pool are so much higher because that is where the swim team hosts nearly all their events and practices and also where other events, such as swim lessons, are held.

“Although that really looks kind of out of whack, we still feel like when it’s general admission and things like that both pools serve a purpose,” he said. “Both pools are used on a daily basis.”

Pool use is going down, which Dominque chalked up to there being more residential pools.

“We’ll continue to monitor this and see where our numbers go,” he said. “It is an area that Bruce (Wheeler, assistant parks director) and I have our eyes on because there seems to be maybe a downward trend as far as the city pools go. We’ll keep you up to speed on that and see if we can put our finger on what that is or why that is.”

Engineering Department

The Bryan Engineering Department has been working to get grants for its various projects.

Projects in 2023 included asphalt paving, pavement marking, Safe Routes to School sidewalk project, improvements to the South Lynn Street storm sewer and extending South Portland Street.

In total, these projects cost $1,959,924.50.

The report notes the city received $337,243.05 grants for the Safe Routes to School project.

The department also had a two-year project that finished in 2023 concerning replacement of a sanitary sewer in western Bryan, specifically in an area known as Horton Heights. This area is a platted subdivision in the area of Oakwood Avenue, Newdale Circle and everything east of John Street and Avenue B area.

“The final cost was $2.153 million,” said Brian Wieland, city engineer. “We did receive $2.1 million in grant funds that came through the Ohio Water and Sewer Infrastructure grant. We’ve since applied for a few more of those projects this year, the funding opportunity opened up again.”

That project was completed in May.

The department also did another sanitary sewer replacement project adjacent to the Horton Heights one.

“We secured grant funds for that, as well, through Ohio Public Works (Commission), for half the project,” Wieland said. “So, it was a $465,000 cost, $232,000 came back through Ohio Public Works, completed in June 2023.”

In total, the engineering department used $2,723,883 in grants for projects awarded in 2022 and used in 2023.

Wieland said the department has already received $1,125,000 in grants in 2023 for use in projects in 2024.

This grant funding includes: $275,000 for South Myers Street sanitary sewer; $400,000 for the next phase of Safe Routes to School; $275,000 for a water joint project on Lynn Street; and $265,000 for critical infrastructure.

“So, almost $4 million over a three-year span of grant funds that we’ve been fortunate enough to get, I’m proud of that,” Wieland said. “Our 2024 goals include, obviously, applying for more grant funds. Do more joint water and pavement projects.”

He wants to do both water and pavement projects because the city scores well for water projects through Ohio Public Works, so he tries to “piggy back” on those water projects to get some paving done.

Wieland also wants to do some more sanitary sewer replacement.

“I know we did almost $3 million last year in sanitary sewer and as you heard Wes (Wygant, wastewater superintendent) say a couple of weeks ago it’s been making a difference,” he said.

Street Department

Bryan Street Commissioner Tyson Engstrom also gave his annual report.

Last winter, the department hauled and spread 588.58 tons of salt at a cost of $35,662.15.

“We did not use any brine last year because of the rain,” Engstrom said. “I don’t know if you remember last winter, but every time before it snowed it rained. So, there was no point in spraying any brine because it will get washed away and do nothing.”

Routine duties for the street department include replacing traffic control signs; cleaning and repairing catch basins and manholes; checking, cleaning and repairing sanitary and storm sewers; and maintenance of Fountain Grove Cemetery.

“One thing to point out, working with City Arborist April Smith, we removed 39 hazardous terrace trees in the city,” Engstrom said.

The department also used 3,250 gallons of emulsion DuraPatcher to patch manholes at $7,133.75. Meanwhile, the sewer crew cleaned and televised 3.2 miles of sanitary sewer and the city compost facility took in 399 tons of compost material and gave away 280 tons.

Engstrom said the entire sewer system has been videoed within the last four or five years, as the department has to do a quarter of the city every year.

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