At about 9 a.m. Jan. 23, I opened our furniture business on 23rd Street and began work as I’ve done for the past 16 years.

At about 9:15 a.m., I noticed a City of Ottawa truck race into our parking lot entrance, cross the parking lot east, onward past the paved area of the parking lot, and continue across a grassy area (termed a collection “water retention” pond) ending up at the extreme east of our property near the rail trail.

As the morning progressed, I noticed a truck or trucks — and once even a backhoe — doing this same thing several times, leaving and returning in the same manner. There were, most likely, other trips I did not witness. As there are utilities on the extreme east of the property, I wasn’t clueless as to the fact that it had something to do with water or water drainage, but with the number of trips to and away from the subject area, it was evident the activity was taking its toll on the grounds in which we attempt to maintain their attractiveness.

In and of itself, I didn’t have much of an issue with this. This has gone on for as long as I’ve been here. While the city has the right to get to those utilities, most of those trips could have been done by simply parking on the asphalt and walking 20 yards to the spot the person needed to reach.

Sometime around mid-morning, one of our customers returned from using our bathroom and notified us she was unable to flush the toilet. She was embarrassed. We were embarrassed (for her as well). And I had no answer as to why, but obviously knew it had something to do with the activity I witnessed outside earlier. I don’t know how long the water had been shut off, but it really doesn’t matter, particularly in-lieu of this event.

Why in the world would we not have been notified at some point (preferably at the beginning) of either the potential or actual shutting off of our water? It would be sensible, conscientious, respectful and right to have notified us of their action that might affect us in such a way. It would have taken all of one minute to have accomplished this. It particularly aggravates me considering our business has collected more than $1 million in sales taxes to the state, county and City of Ottawa since its inception. It has paid nearly $400,000 in property taxes. Having said that, it doesn’t earn me any special treatment (I’ve never asked for it and don’t expect it) other than the simple decency and consideration someone or some group of people should be obliged to give someone else.  

The same evening, I, along with between 60 to 70 other people, attended a Franklin County commission meeting to discuss the interlocal agreement, which was established between Franklin County and the City of Ottawa in 2006. As most people are now aware, the agreement established a boundary around the city limits and transferred responsibility of building and zoning requirements for those who live in the area defined as being in the Urban Growth Area from the county to the city. In short, those county residents living within the UGA must obtain a permit from the city when, say, building a structure, and it must be done in accordance with city rules and regulations. While there have been many expressions as to why people do not want to be under the control of the city, I propose to the readers this: Why would they?

The recent event I mentioned earlier is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I regularly hear from people living inside our city and those who live outside the city, including multiple other counties around us who have had dealings with the city in one form or another. While these people could all be wrong, it doesn’t matter. It is at least a perception. If a business is to survive, it must identify why this is a perception and make adjustments to those things it does or doesn’t do to change it. Otherwise, it eventually dies.

While governments at all levels can survive a little longer, at least until the tax dollars to support them lasts, they too eventually will die along with the people they represent. This is evident when there aren’t new residents coming in to replace those who move or pass away, and when an area has nothing or very little to show for businesses coming in to replace those that close or move away. This leaves those who remain responsible for the financial burden to support the municipality’s activities, which leads to more of the same.

I believe this city and the county in which I live have good people who are qualified and dedicated to do the jobs they have either been hired or appointed to do by the residents they are supposed to serve. However, I am convinced that if changes are not made, it is likely all of us will be in worse shape than we are now.

“Causes” should be for the good of all, not just the few.

— Phil Messenger, Ottawa