LIMA — With 99 House members, 33 senators, a couple dozen cabinet members, other elected officials, the governor and dozens of staff members making their way to Lima for a joint session of the Ohio Legislature, the spine of the city will be a very, very busy place Tuesday.
While Gov. John Kasich isn’t scheduled to give the State of the State speech until at least 6:45 p.m., extra traffic is expected much of the day at Veterans Memorial Civic Center, the downtown Parking Garage, the Spring Street parking lot, St. Rita’s Medical Center, Lima Memorial Health System and Lima Senior High School, especially in the afternoon and evening.
In addition, locations such as Memorial Hall, Health Partners of Western Ohio, the OSU-Lima/Rhodes State campus, Apollo Career Center, the refinery/chemical complex, Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Allen County Museum, Lima Municipal Building, Allen County Courthouse and the 3rd District Court of Appeals are confirmed host sites for meetings and visits.
“The biggest thing I would advise is for folks to give themselves extra time to get through town,” Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said. “While the speech is downtown, there are events throughout Allen County for the whole day with legislators and other state officials in town. It’s a great chance to show off our community, but it will create some traffic congestion. We’ll do our best to keep streets open and traffic flow as normal as possible.”
Martin and Staff Lt. John Altman, with the Findlay post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said no roads will be closed Tuesday. However, two parking areas downtown will be closed: the north side of the 100 block of West Spring Street and both sides of the 100 block of South Main Street. Other parking on Town Square could be barricaded as needed because of planned demonstration events for and against the governor.
The day’s parking plan calls for legislators and other officials to use the Spring Street parking lot, Civic Center Executive Director Cindy Wood said. General parking will happen first in the Parking Garage, and then overflow parking will happen at St. Rita’s Medical Center and Lima Senior High School. Lima/Allen County Regional Transit Authority buses will be looping between the overflow sites and the Civic Center. Wood emphasized people helping to staff the events downtown Tuesday should park in the overflow lots and leave the Parking Garage slots for guests of the community that day.
Those attending the State of the State will receive color-coded tickets that match up with a parking location and an entrance into the facility. Attendees also will go through security stations upon entering the building. The Civic Center will have only two entrances available that day: the Market Street entrance and the entrance at the corner of Market and Main streets. All other doors are either closed or reserved for officials. Tickets to the State of the State no longer are available.
The Highway Patrol generally provides lead security for the governor, Altman said, and will Tuesday.
“But you have a county-run venue inside the city. This is very much a collaborative and cooperative effort with the Allen County Sheriff’s Office and Lima Police Department,” Altman said. “We definitely need their assistance.”
Local officers working the event will be doing so on overtime, Martin said, so regular police activities can be maintained. As with a presidential-level visit, local police expenses are not reimbursed. While Martin could not comment on the number of officers or the level of security required for the day, he did say it wouldn’t reach the level of President Barack Obama's or U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s visit.