Journal-News, Sunday, Feb. 5, 1989
Seeking another city manager for Hamilton
By Jim Blount
Hamilton is seeking its 14th city manager with the impending retirement of Jack Becker, who has directed city operations for more than four years.
Becker, a city employee since joining the finance department in 1958, announced last month that he will leave office Feb. 28. He was appointed Nov. 28, 1984, after serving as acting city manager several times.
The Hamilton City Charter, effective in January 1928, says "the council shall appoint a city manager who shall be the chief executive officer of the city . . . for an indefinite term, but shall be removable at the pleasure of council. "
The charter also says "the city manager shall be responsible to the council for the proper administration of all affairs of the city. "
Years of municipal mismanagement -- especially in city-owned utilities -- and administrative appointments based on politics, not competency, led to the transfer of power from a strong mayor to the city manager in the 1920s.
A charter commission, elected in November 1925, proposed a new council-manager government, which was approved by voters in November 1926. The first city-wide council was elected a year later and it selected the first city manager.
Eleven persons have held the post in 61 years, including Howard F. "Hack" Wilson who was appointed three times between Nay 5, 1948, and Jan. 10, 197O. Wilson also served several terms on Hamilton City Council.
The longest tenure - 18 years - was by Russell P. Price, the first city manager, from Jan. 1, 1928, to Feb. 15, 1946. Price came to Hamilton from Daytona Beach, Fla., where he had been assistant manager.
The shortest term - 34 days - was by C. N. Teaff, the second city manager, from Aug. 15 to Sept. 18, 1946. He had been the city's director of public works and utilities before elevation to city manager.
The sequence of Hamilton city managers is:
1. Russeil P. Price, January 1928-February 1946.
2. C. N. Teaff, August-September 1946.
3. Frank R. Buechner, October 1946-April 1948.
4. Howard F. Wilson, May 1948-July 1948.
5. Charles F. Schwalm, June 1951-October 1956.
6. Howard F. Wilson, December 1957-May I960.
7. Aaron Marsh, June 1960-September 1963.
8. C. R. "Randy" Lukens, February 1964-January 197O.
9. Howard F. Wilson, May 197O-March 1971.
10. Edward C. Smith, June 1971-August 1975.
11. Jack Kirsch, January 1976-June 1983.
12. William Tallman, September 1983—November 1984.
13. Jack Decker, November 1984-February 1989.
There are several gaps in the chronology, most reflecting the frequent inability of council to agree on appointments.
Retaining or firing the city manager was an open or unspoken issue in several city council elections, especially in the 1950s and 1960s.
There were eight changes in less than 14 years from August 1946 through May 1970. During that time, there were extended periods when the city was directed by acting city managers.
In contrast were the nearly controversy free terms of two of the last three managers -- Jack Kirsch and Jack Becker, both long-time city employees and directors before their appointments as city manager.
In addition to supervising the administration of the city; the charter says the city manager is the "chief conservator of the peace within the city" and responsible for enforcement of city ordinances and state laws.
Duties also include making recommendations to council; keeping its members "advised of the financial condition and future needs of the city;" preparing the annual budget for review by council; and sending to council "such reports as may be required by that body. "
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Journal-News, Sunday, Feb. 12, 1989
1914 blizzard followed the 1913 flood
By Jim Blount
Seventy-five years ago Monday a blizzard over the northeast quarter of the nation brought Hamilton its second weather disaster in 11 months.
Seven inches of snow covered the area Friday, Feb. 13, 1914, as the temperature plunged to zero. "Like the flood of last March, there will be many who will remember yesterday for a long time," the Journal observed.
The 1913 flood claimed more than 200 lives here, left thousands homeless and caused millions of dollars in damage. The devastation included all four Hamilton bridges They washed away within a few hours as the Great Miami River rose to a record level.
By February 1914, only the railroad bridge had been rebuilt. A temporary span connected High and Main streets, and the site of the Black Street there was a temporary cable walkway. Work had not started on a new Columbia Bridge.
The river and the bridges were key elements again in the 15 days following the Feb. 13, 1914, blizzard as ice jams disrupted transportation and utility services.
Freezing temperatures lingered for several days and worsened the ice problem.
Wednesday, Feb. 18, a four-man county crew loosened ice around the temporary High-Main bridge, relieving pressure on the timber supports. A warming trend that day brought rain instead of more snow.
But the relief was brief. By the early hours of Feb. 19 the river was almost a solid mass of ice.
As a precaution, the High-Main bridge was closed at 5:15 a.m. Forty-five minutes later ice pushing against the bridge snapped several pilings and cross arms.
That not only halted people and vehicles, it also stopped vital services. City water and gas lines crossed the river on the temporary span.
The only fire truck stationed on the west side had been sent to a fire on the east side before the bridge closed. But city leaders reopened the bridge long enough to permit the truck to return to its station.
Some help came from the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad. Operating on a sturdy new bridge, the railroad shuttled passengers hourly between its Fifth Street depot and Millville Avenue. One-way fare was 10 cents.
Regularly scheduled passenger trains also stopped on both sides of the river to ease the situation in Hamilton.
The railroad also assisted the post office in maintaining deliveries west of the river, hauling mail wagons on flat cars while horses and postal workers rode in boxcars.
Meanwhile, several strategies were proposed for breaking the ice jam.
Sunday, Feb. 22, a 500-pound shipment of dynamite arrived from a powder mill at Kings Mills. But blasting failed.
Another blizzard hit that afternoon and continued until early Tuesday morning, Feb. 24. Weather observer W. W. Stout that day reported an additional 13 inches of snow and the temperature at four below zero.
This new storm isolated the area by stalling railroad and interurban traffic. A passenger train from Hamilton to Indianapolis was abandoned in snow drifts two miles west of Oxford, An eastbound train was stranded near McGonigle.
With the railroads crippled the city faced a shortage of coal, then the prime source of heat and power.
River ice was 16 inches thick and the jam extended several miles north of Hamilton when a thaw began Saturday, Feb. 28. Dynamiting expedited the relief.
Later that day the High-Main bridge reopened and coal dealers announced that their supplies had been replenished, averting a "coal famine" in Hamilton.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Feb. 19, 1989
Hamilton in safe building for a century
By Jim Blount
Roadside signs proclaim Hamilton the "safe capital of the world," a reminder of an industry which has been part of the local scene for nearly 100 years.
It was 1889 when the Macneale & Urban Co. announced its move from Cincinnati to become Hamilton's first safe works.
The company is no longer in business, but its brick factory survives at Millville and Edgewood avenues, where the former Belt Line Railroad joins CSX's Hamilton-Indianapolis mainline.
Macneale & Urban began in Cincinnati about 1855 as Urban, Dodds & Co. It became Wm. B Dodds & Co in 1857; Dodds, Macneale & Urban in 1863; and finally Macneale & Urban in 1870.
According to an 1859 history, it was one of two safe companies operating in Cincinnati with offices and sale room at Second and Vine streets and a factory at Pearl and Elm streets.
Charles Cist's 1859 report said the company made "safes of every description, but is devoted especially to the manufacture of heavy bank and mercantile safes and vaults." At capacity it employed 100 men producing five or six safes a day.
In 1888 Macneale & Urban was seeking a new location, and the Edgewood Finance Co. was organized here to encourage the firm to move to Hamilton.
The safe company said it would relocate here if the Edgewood committee could raise $50,000 from local residents to buy land for a new plant. Members of the successful group were Dr. S. L Beeler, W. F Sauer. B.F. Thomas. Ed B. Rogers. John M. Long. James R. Webster, Lazard Kahn, F. W. Whitaker. George A. Miller. C. E. Heiser and William Dingfelder.
Webster represented the group in signing an agreement Jan. 4, 1889, which relocated Macneale & Urban on 10 acres on Hamilton's west side.
Its $40,000, three-story, 80,000-square-foot factory was built by Bender Brothers. The Hamilton contractor employed more than 200 men on the construction project, which spurred development of the surrounding area.
The City of Hamilton extended several streets south and west of Main Street and Millville Avenue, and many new houses were built in the neighborhood.
"The safe works of Macneale & Urban started their first workmen in the new shops this morning," announced the Hamilton Democrat Wednesday, June 11. 1890.
At its peak the company employed 600 men and produced from 50 to 60 safes daily.
Macneale & Urban incorporated in May 1891, listing capital of $150,000 with Herman Urban as president and Neil Macncale as secretary and teasurer.
But at a stockholders meeting Jan. 20, 1903, at its Edgewood office, owners approved placing the company in voluntary receivership. Samuel D. Fitton Sr., president of the First National Bank of Hamilton, was appointed receiver.
The surprise move was blamed on a lack of harmony among the stockholders, who were listed as Charles H. Urban, Herman Urban, J. N. Macneale, Milo G. Dodds and Elmer E. Lewis.
Since the safe company's demise, there have been a series of occupants in the building, who have used it for a variety of industrial, warehouse and retail purposes.
Of course, the closure of Macneale & Urban didn't leave Hamilton without a safe company.
June 13, 1890 — two days after Macneale & Urban began production here — a public meeting was held In Hamilton for the purpose of "securing the Mosler Safe Works for Hamilton."
The campaign was successful, and Mosler moved from Cincinnati to Hamilton.
Seven years later the Herring. Hall-Marvin Safe Co. (later to become part of Diebold) became the third Cincinnati safe manufacturer to relocate in Hamilton,
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Journal-News, Sunday, Feb. 26, 1989
Pollution and health long-term Hamilton worries
By Jim Blount
Pollution problems aren't new, as evidenced by sobering remarks 75 years ago by Hamilton's health officer.
"The problem of sewage and garbage disposal must be met in the near future," warned Dr. A. L. Smedley in a January 1914 speech, which described sanitation problems of the period.
"With a comparative few people, there is not much need for sanitation," he said, but Hamilton's recent population growth required changes. The city's population had doubled from 17,565 in the 1890 census to 35,279 in 1910.
In Hamilton in 1914, "garbage is dumped in any available place," which Dr. Smedley called "a crude, dangerous, unsanitary and unsatisfactory method, and productive of complaints from the citizens."
He said there were still about 3,000 outhouses in the city.
"The presence of these vaults is more dangerous to the citizens than a threatened flood," he said, reminding his listeners of the March 1913 flood just 10 months earlier.
"With the abolition of the old-fashioned privy vault we are running our waste material or sewage into the Miami River and sending it down upon the cities below us, a dangerous, selfish and unfair situation."
"The cities above us are sending us a stream polluted by sewage," Dr. Smedley said.
"Our water is sucked down from a polluted river through this gravel filtration bed and at present is a most desirable water, but time alone will tell how long it will take to contaminate this filtration bed." warned Dr. Smedley.
He also said those who recently replaced outhouses still may be contributing to the problem.
"There are very few properly installed plumbing systems," he said. "Most of them have been installed with an eye for false economy rather than health."
The health officer also made an appeal for a city meat inspector noting its connection to the waste problem.
"You would perhaps refuse to purchase food from a butcher or grocer who allowed a cat or dog to walk on it and taste it before handing it to you," Dr. Smedley said.
"Yet, the people of Hamilton will patronize stores and meat markets and buy supplies where flies — which are a thousand times more dirty than dogs or cats — are swarming over, tasting and pecking the foods."
"A dog sampling the meat you are to purchase would be spectacular," he noted, "but a fly depositing germs of tuberculosis brought from a privy vauit would not attract your attention."
He said "Hamilton is badly in need of a system of meat inspection," including checks by "trained veterinarian at the place of slaughter" because "an examination ... is the only way in which diseased meat can be detected."
Dr. Smedley said "a large percentage of the meat sold in Hamilton comes from diseased animals." He warned that "meat on the butcher's block from a diseased animal has the same appearance as healthy meat."
"There are two butchers in the City of Hamilton today whom the (health) department has every reason to believe purchase diseased animals in preference to healthy ones because of the difference in price." said Dr Smedley, who also urged more public concern about TB, "a menace to the public health."
"There were 51 deaths in Hamilton from tuberculosis last year," and more than "200 people sick with tuberculosis at the present time."
"We are so accustomed to this situation that it is almost impossible for the health authorities to arouse the public to the danger," he said.
"A railroad crossing killing 51 people and injuring 200 each year would be spectacular, and the press and public would soon cause its abatement." But "there is nothing spectacular in a death from tuberculosis," said the health officer.
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