Make Licking County Rural Again

Analysis would like to cover the recent Newark Think Tank meeting held at the new Denison University Art Space at 23 W. Church on 11-12-16. The Think Tank continues to offer provocative and informative speakers at its monthly meetings. This time it was a combination of the Licking County Housing Coalition and Knox Area Transit (Public Transportation in Knox County). The focus of the Housing Coalition’s presentation was on the housing service being offered to veterans in Licking, Knox and Coshocton County. An incredible effort is being made to provide immediate service to any disabled vet or for any not dishonorable discharge vet no matter their background or history. This would include, but not be limited by, small dollar crisis support, immediate shelter, as well as longer duration shelter in the form of room and/or apartment location. Some insights not readily perceived were mentioned such as no new affordable housing is (or has been) created in the area, that apartment rents begin around $700 a month with rooms running at about $300 and that vets, like everyone else, have pets, history and other attachments that can make finding a residence trying. As one reason for the rate of rents increasing, the speaker identifies Licking County as an extension of the greater Columbus metropolitan area. Many fixed income residents find their monthly income to be only slightly higher than the rent. How do you pay for food, medicine, utilities and transportation? The latter was covered by the speaker from Knox Area Transit who described their ever growing public transportation services and what went into making it so. The service is county wide and supports a Mt. Vernon shuttle service (4 lines covering the entire city) that is curb to curb as well as a single line, stop to stop Mt. Vernon-commercial district-Gambier loop shuttle service. These cost a dollar a ride and operate during the day (week) and Saturday (as well as evening for the loop). Transfers are free within the system. The KAT also has the original, on demand transportation that Licking County Transit utilizes, charged on a per ride basis, door to door (schedule ahead). Analysis finds it important to note that most of Licking County’s elected officials like to identify Licking County as a “rural” county when discussing services or rather denial of services to its residents while Knox County really is primarily rural. Not only is it a county with a smaller population, but the city of Mt. Vernon is approximately 1/3 the size of Newark. Very startling to note is that none of the Knox County municipalities served by the KAT abut each other. Gambier or Danville are not just over the city line of Mt. Vernon as Granville or Heath are to Newark. In fact, the corridors of Buckeye Lake, Hebron, Heath and Newark, as well as Etna, Pataskala, New Albany and Johnstown are, for all intents and purposes, seamless except in name. It would have been an embarrassment for the Licking County Transit if it had also been asked to make a presentation (an employee in attendance as much as admitted so). Newark is a bedroom community for residents working “elsewhere”, with no “within the city limits” industrial/commercial development. The last census count reported by the Advocate gave non-owner occupant residential housing at 47%. Analysis finds perpetuating the great rural past as an alibi for the County’s negligence in providing metropolitan level services in affordable housing and public transportation to be tawdry, misinforming, and just plain wrong.

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