By Karen Cornelius
Fire chief’s report/insurance rating/Explorers/9-1-1: The Health and Safety Committee met on Monday night, March 13. Fire chief Chris Stempowski reported on 17 incidents in January and 28 in February. He said in the last seven days the department was busy with 14 calls, an average of two a day, an increase from the normal average of less than a call per day. He said some firefighters have returned from classes at the Bowling Green State University Regional Fire School receiving credits for their continuing education.
The chief announced that its Explorer Post 343 has started with advisors in place. He said this post is the only one in Lorain County and the program is through the Boy Scouts of America. He is excited this is up and running and the participants can do a lot of hands-on learning and help after fire calls. There is a limit of ten and they currently have five explorers. To join, participants have to be out of the eighth grade through 21 years old. They also have to maintain a “C” average in school work.
The fire chief said he has been asked about calls to 9-1-1 as some people have expressed confusion about where calls go and who responds. He said no matter where people are at, they should call 9-1-1 for emergencies, not look up direct numbers. People calling 9-1-1 from a landline either 967 or 963 will reach the Vermilion Police Department who will dispatch fire. People using a cell should call 9-1-1- and the closest tower will send the call to Lorain County or Erie County dispatch centers who will transfer the call to the Vermilion Police. If anyone needs assistance, said the chief, call 9-1-1.
The chief also announced in April the department will host a Drivers Training Course and will use the Vermilion Local Schools property for an obstacle course. He gave an update on fire station #2 parking lot improvements, and said there has been a pre-construction meeting with everything moving along. The station will remain open during the project.
Chief Stempowski additionally passed out the department’s annual report and a packet concerning a recent audit from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). He was pleased to announce the department’s classification rating improved from 4 to 3 which put Vermilion in the top six percent countrywide. He explained this rating will be beneficial to residents and businesses within the jurisdiction for insurance premiums. The rating was based on such criteria as training, equipment, response time, mutual aid agreements, water distribution system and water availability, recordkeeping, dispatch capabilities, etc. He said most insurance companies use this rating information in their decision making when writing coverage for personal or commercial property insurance.
Lastly, he reminded people to check or replace their smoke detectors and CO ones with the switch to Daylight Savings Time.
Police chief’s update/junk vehicles: Police chief Chris Hartung reported patrolman Sean Bailey has received his Field Training School certification. He said the department is down in part-time officers and he’d like to do some hiring this summer. He said to answer questions on vehicles, the department was not purchasing any new ones this year or next year. He pointed out two cars have very high mileage and their repairs are getting expensive, spending $5,100 on 809.
The police chief requested council amend two ordinances on the books for clarification. One concerned outdoor musical entertainment and permits. The chief said they have to clarify who sets the hours, perhaps give it to the service director. The other deals with junk cars. The chief asked council to change the verbage as some people being cited for no license plates are offended when calling their vehicles, junk, when they might see them as classic. He suggested calling these vehicles, inoperative. Service director Tony Valerius said they have issued violations calling the vehicles, noncompliant, a change from the term, junk.
Vermilion Road Phase I engineering proposal: The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee met after Health and Safety. City engineer Lynn Miggins explained the city has received federal money through the state of Ohio for two separate phases to repave Vermilion Road. The first phase would be from Liberty Avenue to Brownhelm Station Road to be done in 2019. The second phase would be from Brownhelm Station Road to Jerusalem Road to be complete in 2020. She said they need to prepare plans and specs for Phase One to be complete by September, 2017. She said there is $92,000 in the budget for the engineering portion of Vermilion Road. The project is 80-20 with the city paying the 20 percent. Phase I construction would be just over $1.1 million, and engineering is 10 percent of the construction cost. She expected Phase I and Phase 2 construction would total $2 million.
The city engineer said they have to clear the right-of-way of all encroachments and there appears to be 14 properties with encroachments, those houses on the riverside of Vermilion Road. That would include parking areas, fences, and landscaping. However, permits can be issued to allow such encroachments to occupy the easements. She said they can’t take away people’s parking. The engineer asked the committee for an ordinance to do the design engineering by September. The committee passed a motion to approve an ordinance. Councilwoman Barb Brady said this expense would eat up the budget for next year. Miggins said they could look at paving Highbridge Road in 2019 after the bridge is done. She said according to the state’s schedule, Route 6 and Route 60 could be improved in 2022 with 80-20 funding.
Stormwater inspection draft legislation: The Utilities Committee met after Streets. City engineer Miggins reported that council had asked for information on requiring inspections on stormwater systems such as retention ponds, swales, and underground systems. She said there is draft legislation for their consideration which would reqColey’s manuire new residential and commercial developments to submit to ongoing annual inspections and maintenance. She said the property owner would absorb the costs and provide a report each year to show any such system is working properly. There would be inspection forms, and the service director and city engineer would ensure the reports are correct.
Utilities chair Brady asked about penalties for those who do not comply. The engineer said council should add that to the draft. Brady also noted that the draft would allow the property owner to dedicate the storm system to the city which she thought was something the city did not want. Miggins said the owner can’t impose this on the city, but if a developer went bankrupt, for example, a lack of maintenance could pose a health problem and the city might have to take it over. Council president Steve Herron said it should be a civil penalty, not a misdemeanor one. He agreed there should be some penalty, but this seemed to be a lot of burden on people who want to build. However, if there is no penalty, there is no reason to pass this legislation. The topic will go back on the Utilities agenda for April with suggestions to come on any penalties.
Coley’s Manufacturing request: The Finance Committee met after Utilities. Mayor Eileen Bulan informed council members Coley’s, Inc. located near the city limits and Baumhart Road is now planning an expansion. She said the company has purchased ten acres to the west and is asking for a 75 percent tax abatement on this expansion. The mayor said ten years ago Coley’s received a 75 percent tax abatement on the original building, but this will be over. Next year the company will pay its full taxes on the building. She said the expansion would be around $1 million or $1.5 million.
The mayor said the tax abatement request also has to be approved by the Vermilion Local Schools and Lorain County Commissioners. She asked council to pass a resolution for Vermilion’s support and that would go to the county. “It’s a win-win situation, and good for Vermilion,” said the mayor. The Finance Committee passed a motion to prepare legislation for the new addition tax abatement.