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We recently opened the 18th Avenue pedestrian viaduct, but there remain some final items along with landscaping that will be finished this spring as weather allows.

I’ve heard many say “this isn’t needed" and "this will not get used," but we need to remember that this structure is part of the “big” picture regarding our viaducts and at grade crossings that was laid out and approved by the voters years ago.

This was a package deal. The Third Avenue viaduct, 12th Avenue viaduct, pedestrian viaduct at 18 Avenue and at grade closures at 21st and 25th avenues. This “big” picture allowed 10-percent funding by the city for these structures with the state and UPPR paying the rest. And though it has taken many more years to accomplish than we had anticipated, we are now well into this plan and moving forward.

Continuing on the viaduct discussion the bids were let on the 12th Avenue structure and Hawkins Construction was the low bidder. This bid for $10.9 million was higher than the original state estimate but still met all the necessary criteria. Approval was given at the Feb. 19th council meeting and work will begin this spring.

Another road project that is moving along is Third Avenue, south of Eighth Street to South Fifth Street, contradicting some who moan and groan that this project will never get done. What most don’t realize is certain funding is wanted for certain roads. We don’t always just take funding out of the general fund. And because we have to wait for the appropriate funding, we can’t always get moving as quickly as we’d like. But right away acquisitions were approved at the Feb. 19th council meeting and this project will get going soon.

A public hearing was held on Feb. 12th at the American Legion regarding the reconstruction of 23rd Street from Walmart on the east to McDonald's on the west. This meeting was another in a series put together to educate, get input, and try and answer questions the public might have on such a large project. This will be a total reconstruction, being initiated by the state, and the city will take the opportunity to upgrade sewer, water, and other utilities.

This is a $18.5-million-project that is expected to start in 2022 and will be ongoing for approximately two years. Traffic will not be re-routed but taken to one lane each way in the construction areas. So you can see the need to communicate with property owners/business owners regarding the plans. Everything possible will be done to expedite this project and minimize business interruptions. But there will be some inconveniences and we need to plan for those.

At the time of this reconstruction, there will be streetscaping designed into the new road. The chamber's streetscaping committee has been working on a plan to make the entrance to our city, our front door, look nice and inviting. With this entire stretch of the roadway being redone the timing is perfect to this.

The city has allocated $500,000 to this project. Some will say this is a waste of money, while others will say this is not enough money. I believe it is an appropriate amount to do a nice job. Knowing what amount has been budgeted will allow this group to develop ideas and share them (yes all the ideas and information is available to the public and concepts have been on display at these meetings).

The impression that people get when entering our community is important. Whether it is a mom and dad coming to town with their kids to play in a ball tournament. Or a CEO that is coming to investigate possibly locating a plant or a business in town. The front door first impression makes a difference.

Many of you have expressed your excitement over the soon-to-be new addition to the Columbus Police force. At the Feb. 4th council meeting Police Chief Charles Sherer discussed the particulars of acquiring our police dog. This asset will arrive soon and begin extensive training with his handler/officer partner. Getting this dog has been a great example of collaboration with civic groups, foundations, and the public coming together for a common good.

We recently were informed by Laura Whitehead, our library director, that she was resigning. Personal matters made this necessary. We want to thank Laura for her time and efforts and wish her the best in the future. Karen Connel has accepted the position of interim director while the search begins for a new permanent library director.

I’d like to take a moment and reflect on what I see as the quality of life in Columbus. I’m not referring to brick and mortar buildings many think of when talking quality of life. Library, YMCA, schools -- these are all structures that represent the quality of life. The same is true of parks, trails, ball fields, water parks, golf courses, or other amenities. These are all necessary and can contribute to what can be the components of quality of life.

What I’m referring to is a little less tangible. It’s more of a feeling than a place or a thing. It’s that unique something that we have here in Columbus that makes this a “special” place. It is that outpouring of support to help a neighbor or a friend get through something tough. It’s that type of feeling that you can have when you are part of something unique and wonderful.

On Feb. 9, many in Columbus came out to offer assistance to a friend. A lifelong Columbus native who is battling cancer and all the effects that go with it. A group of friends banded together and made plans. A date was set, the hall was reserved, solicitations were made, a meal was planned, and many many hours went into making this event happen.

And what an event! Hundreds of Columbus neighbors and friends came and showed their support. Meals were purchased, beverages were bought, items were raffled off and auction item was sold. Thousands of dollars were raised. And before the evening was over, those in attendance prayed together asking for God's blessings on this family.

This is the quality of life that I’m referring to. A community where neighbors, friends, co-workers come together to help someone in need. This is what makes Columbus special. We might not have oceans with sandy beaches. We might not have majestic mountains with ski slopes. But what we have most can only hope for. We have compassion, we care, and we are not afraid to show it.

Now that’s the true quality of life!!

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