GALION — Many across the nation are ready for this year to end, but in Galion, 2016 was a productive one of progress. From new ventures downtown, to new restaurants on Ohio 598 to a new hotel and and the addition of a splash park facility on Galion’s east side, this community took a lot of positive steps into the future.
Festivals continue to grow
Festivals unique to this community continue to grow.
The Pickle Run Festival was moved to the Independence Day weekend as it made it’s second appearance in a row after being absent from Heise Park for 20 years.
This year’s event was much better attended than the 2015 event. Hundreds of area residents lined the streets in and around Heise Park on the final day of the celebration for the Pickle Run Festival parade. It was the largest crowd in and around the park in decades. The annual fireworks also resulted in a huge crowd from Galion and surrounding towns and village.
In December, the Experience Galion group had another Come Home to Galion winter celebration in the uptown area. Hundreds listened to music, toured local historic buildings, shopped, rode carriages and watched the annual parade. The community Christmas tree was unveiled and Santa Claus made an appearance.
And as it has for decades, Galion’s Oktoberfest celebration remains a successful venture, drawings of to the uptown area for food, music, carnival rides and more.
The addition of the splash park at East Park not only provided fun and entertainment for local residents, but also for people from surrounding counties. The fun in the sun began in early July when, after what seemed like a really, long wait, the park was completed. Shirley Clark, head of the Galion City Council’s parks committee, said she took the idea of a splash park to the city’s administration more than two years ago.
“We had to check on costs, secure the funding then construct it. Our service department did a great job,” said Clark.
The $410,000 project was funded by $244,775 in grants through the Egbert M. Freese Foundation and the city’s match of $128,655. The project includes the aquatic playground and water features, along with a new restroom facility.
The park is an aquatic playground with plenty of water features, an arch with falling water and a slide. It is designed for for children up to the age of 12.
Mayor Tom O’Leary said the laughter of children enjoying the splash park made the hard work worthwhile.
“It took time to get the splash park completed, but it is all worthwhile when I see all of the kids having so much fun,” he said.
Some progress in war on drugs
A Galion man will spend the next two decades in prison in December after pleading guilty to drug-related charges in Crawford County Common Pleas Court.
Khabeer J. Brown, 39, formerly of 231 Walker St., Galion, pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in corrupt activities — both first-degree felonies — as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. Judge Sean Leuthold sentenced Brown to 10 years on each count, with the sentences to be served consecutively, for a total of 20 years.
Law enforcement searched Brown’s Galion residence along with a residence where he was staying at in Bucyrus. A large quantity of suspected crack cocaine, suspected heroin, more than $1,200 in cash and evidence of drug trafficking were found in the Bucyrus residence, where Tim and Billie Rathers were also arrested. Officers then searched the Galion address, seizing more suspected crack cocaine and heroin, confiscating over 6.4 kilograms of cocaine and 557.95 grams of heroin with a street value of nearly $360,000.
Saunders murder solved
Frederick “Lee” Saunders Jr. admitted in August to killing his father, Frederick Saunders Sr., during a heated argument at the home the family shared on South Union Street. He pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of kidnapping. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Marla Saunders, the younger Saunders’ wife, was sentenced to 59 months in prison in November for the role she played in the death of her father-in-law. She pleaded guilty to obstruction and tampering with evidence in relation to the death of 68-year-old Frederick Saunders Sr. in September 2015.
Marla’s twin sister, Carla R. Willoughby, 37, changed her plea to guilty in December of 2015 in a plea agreement with prosecutors that included her intent to testify against her twin sister, Marla Saunders, and brother-in-law, Frederick Saunders Jr. Judge Sean Leuthold sentenced Willoughby to five years of community control for tampering with evidence and obstructing justice, both third-degree felonies. She also must pay a $1,000 fine.
Galion fight goes viral
Three juvenile girls were sentenced for their roles in a fight with a Galion girl that was videotaped and uploaded to social media sites. The fight occurred in March and made national news after the video made its way around the Internet.
According to Crawford County Prosecutor Matthew Crall, all three girls, originally charged with felonious assault, pleaded guilty to amended charges of aggravated assault.
“Further investigation determined that while there was serious physical harm (to the victim), there were issues of provocation necessitating the reduction of charges to felonies of the third degree,” Crall said.
The victim in the case was adjudicated in Crawford County juvenile court on one count of disorderly conduct in connection with the pre-planned fight between the girls. After the fight, she was taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital with a torn liver, torn spleen and neck and head injuries. The video tape of the girls’ fight was placed on social media and showed several teens yelling and cheering as the victim was kicked and punched repeatedly while lying on the ground.
At a benefit for the victim in May, she shared her story in hopes that it will help put an end to bullying in schools. And she admitted that if she had told her parents about the bullying, the ending may have been much different.
“Staying silent is not a solution,” she said. “We should have handled our differences in a better way. We all need to learn to build each other up, not tear each other down.”
Uptowne apartments back in business
The historic Central Hotel underwent major renovations in the past two years after closing down and relocating residents due to structural damage.
Galion City Council had approved a $980,000 Revolving Loan Fund request from Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, a non-profit company created in 1989, to help rehabilitate the facility after major structural damage was found in the foundation of the building that was constructed before the Civil War.
“The property manager noticed structural damage in the basement and residents noticed floors sloping, cracks in the walls and ceilings,” said Hal Keller of the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, owner of the building.
The city’s loan was issued in addition to a $2.5 million investment by the Columbus-based company.
Keller said a group of investors, including local banks, also contributed to the costs of the $5 million reconstruction of the building that required residents of the apartments to relocate for a period of time.
Kara Chaplin, manager of the building, said there are 30 apartments in the building with some left to rent.
For more information, call 419-462-5950 to schedule an appointment.
Depot Pavilion Groundbreaking
A pavilion at the railroad depot on the city’s east side is one step closer to becoming a reality after a groundbreaking ceremony in December.
Mayor Tom O’Leary said a $200,000 grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission was going to have to be given back to the state if there were no plans in the works for the funding. In addition to the grant, up to $30,000 of local funds will be used to construct the pavilion.
“The grant could not be used for renovation of the existing depot. It had to be used for a whole project,” O’Leary said.
The board that oversees the Depot made the decision to construct a rectangular, 1,205-square-foot pavilion to be used for a variety of events.
“The doors on each side of the pavilion will open up and it will be heated so it can be used all year long,” O’Leary said. The structure will also feature a fireplace and the architecture will be similar to the existing depot in a Queen Anne design.
The pavilion is scheduled to open in May of 2017. It represents the first step in a multi-phase project to restore the depot.
Sleep Inn work continues
In March, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site of a new hotel, a Sleep Inn & Suites, at the corner of Ohio 598 and Brandt Road.
The developers and operators of the hotel are Jerry Hershberger of Winesburg Builders, along with two other partners who were not identified. Winesburg Builders will also build the hotel, he said.
The $5.5 million project will bring a four-story hotel with 62 beds; a swimming pool; workout area; executive boardroom; a lobby with a breakfast area; and elevators, said Steve Kleinknecht, regional director of hotel development for Choice Hotels International, which own the Sleep Inn brand.
Rates for the hotel would range from $79 to $139 a night, according to previous Inquirer reporting. It is expected to open in the spring.
New restaurants on Ohio 598, Harding Way West
Arby’s, the Atlanta-based fast food chain, opened a restaurant in Galion in early December. It is owned by McGuire Property LLC, the same franchise owner of the store in Bucyrus. The restaurant is at the corner of Ohio 598 and Carter Drive and includes a drive thru and will employ about 50 workers.
McGuire purchased 38,070 square feet of property at the northwest corner of Carter Drive and Portland Way North for $320,000 on April 20, according to the Crawford County Auditor’s Office.
Just off Ohio 598, on Harding Way West, a block west of the intersection, is a Tim Hortons restaurant. It opened this week and sits on the property that once was the site of Andrews Dairy. The restaurant is owned by Rensko Properties. They offer donuts, coffee and an array of other menu items for breakfast, lunch and supper.
Longstreth Memorials expansion
The oldest business in Galion is moving to a new location, within the city limits, and is expanding.
The doors to Longstreth Memorials opened Jan. 6, 1868, at 134 Harding Way West, its current location. In the spring, the business will move to 1263 Ohio 598, near the city’s industrial park.
Terri Longstreth, wife of Sean Longstreth who runs the family business, said the new location will house all operations from the vault plant on Riblet Street, as well as the monument business on Harding Way West.
“The new building will feature a 2,000 square-foot showroom. We will offer — to the public — a line of crematory memorial products as well as a section for veterans, along with our other monuments,” Terri said.
Caskets and vaults will continue to be distributed solely to funeral homes.
Monuments and vaults will be created on-site.
“People can come in and see how those are made,” said Terri.