City reduces water rate increase, discusses proposed tax abatement

customLogo2By: Melanie Williamson

Vermilion City Council met on Monday, April 3, for a regular meeting.

Jerusalem Road: In a correspondence to city council, a resident of Jerusalem Road described what they referred to as unsafe conditions of Jerusalem Road between Sunnyside Road and Claus Road, and requested information regarding the plan to repave the road.  During his report, service director Tony Valerius stated that they met with the Brownhelm Township Board of Trustees to discuss applying for an OPWC grant to repave Sunnyside Road but determined the project will be too costly. Instead, they will apply for money to repave Jerusalem Road from Sunnyside Road to Claus Road. The grant applied for this year, if received would be available for next year. Councilman Brian Holmes asked if they were going to continue with patch filling until the street could be repaired, and Valerius stated that they would as soon as weather allows.

Tax Abatement for Coley’s: Jerry Good, the economic development coordinator for Lorain County addressed council regarding the requested tax abatement by Coley’s on new construction they are planning. In Oct of 2007, council approved a tax incentive to Coley’s for a business expansion. Since then, Coley’s has continued to grow; they added jobs and exceeded expectations.

Good shared that Coley’s owner Kevin McDanial owns another business, but that he lives in this area and has decided to expand his business here. Good went on to explain that McDaniel has already purchased ten acres west of his current property and is collecting quotes, but the expansion is currently being estimated between $1 million and $1.8 million. This expansion will create at least six additional jobs.

As is required with tax abatements, both school districts impacted have been notified of the proposed projects, and an ordinance is being prepared according to Good. Councilwoman Barb Brady asked if the tax abatement would be for the new construction only. Good responded that by Ohio law, it can only be on the new construction. He went on to say that the abatements are for 10 years, so the previous incentive offered will expire soon, and they will start paying 100% of the last expansion.

Brady asked what kinds of jobs would be created. Good responded that they would be machinist jobs. He went on to explain that Coley’s makes a lot of parts for the aerospace industry and has recently expanded to the automotive industry.

Grant updates: Mayor Eileen Bulan shared that the city was recently awarded a $162,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to go towards the purchase of a house at Main Street Beach. The council voted and a motion carried allowing the city to file an application with the state of Ohio for financial assistance under the Natureworks Grant Program.

Representatives from the Lorain County Lakefront Connectivity Plan will be at the Gardeners Fair on Saturday, April 29, to provide information and answer questions about their plan. The Lorain County Lakefront Connectivity Plan was developed in a joint effort by the Lorain County Board of Commissioners, Lorain County Metro Parks, Avon Lake, Sheffield Lake, Lorain, and Vermilion with the goal of capitalizing on the 23 miles of Lake Erie shoreline that extends through Lorain County to strengthen regional cohesion, preserve existing infrastructure, build a sustainable multimodal transportation system, support economic advancement, and enhance local quality of life.

The council also approved a motion allowing the mayor to enter a joint cooperating agreement with Erie County, Sandusky, and Huron to apply for Community Development Community Housing Impact and Preservation Program funds for the 2017 funding cycle.

Tree commission update: Mayor Bulan shared that Vermilion has once again been awarded the Tree City USA designation by the Arbor Day Foundation and Growth Award, which highlights innovative programs and projects as well as increased commitment of resources for urban forestry. The tree commission has also been awarded a $5700 grant from the Erie County Community Foundation for additional trees.

Water rate increase reduced: Valerius shared that after much discussion and consideration, the administration decided to reduce the water increase to $1 per ccf plus the $2 monthly EPA fee, and put off the rest of the increase until next year. Councilman Fred Ostrander stated that in previous discussions it was stated that there were $500,000 in repairs needed to waterlines; he then asked if the reduced increase would cover the cost of the needed repairs. Valerius stated there would be some gradual repairs. Ostrander asked if they would start to see those repairs this year. Valerius responded that possibly some could be started this year, but then for sure next year when the rest of the increase goes into effect.

Street update: In reference to the areas were ditches had been dug out on Aldridge and Rowland, Councilwoman Brady stated that some of the driveway drains are collapsed and asked Valerius what is being done to fix those. He responded that it was something they would have to look into.

Ohio Online Checkbook: Finance director Brian Keller shared that the Ohio Online Checkbook website was created to promote transparency. Vermilion’s site is built but not live yet. Keller explained that there is more information to be added and reviews to be made and then a go live date can be set. He also shared that overall, he is very impressed with the system being used. Councilman Fred Ostrander asked if it was an independent system from the software the city uses. Keller responded that it was completely independent.

Fire protection: Making reference to Ordinance 2017-14 on the agenda, Keller explained that the fire protection contract with Brownhelm Township is for $27,387.68 being paid to the City of Vermilion. He went on to say this is down from $37,000 last year. Council president Steve Herron asked what this money was for. Keller responded that it is what they are paying us for fire protection. Councilwoman Brady asked why it was so much less than last year. To which, Keller explained that the amount each year is determined by the number of responses the previous year, so it varies from year to year.

Councilman Ostrander asserted that Vermilion still has to spend money on training, equipment, and vehicle loans, which is a big expense. He asked if the city shouldn’t have a minimum service fee that is charged regardless of the number of responses. Keller responded that it is something they could investigate. Ostrander reiterated his position by stated that the city still has to pay for the manpower and training to be prepared even if there are zero responses. Mayor Bulan spoke up and stated that the city has a contract agreement with Brownhelm regarding how the fee is determined and that cannot be changed without renegotiating that contract.

City engineer’s report: City engineer Lynn Miggins reported that the High Bridge Street bridge project was passed through ODOT and District 3. It would be ready for bid in a couple weeks, and she asked that council give the administration authority to put it out to bid.

Councilman Jim Forthofer asked if she had gotten costs on the Mapleview ditch project, but she responded that she did not have that information yet. Councilman Frank Louka stated that there is no sidewalk in front of the Erie Electronics property and asked if they were going to be putting one in with their new project. Miggins responded that they would be adding a sidewalk there.

Concern over signs: Councilwoman-at-large Monica Stark referred to an accident on Liberty Road at the East end of town that took out service organization signs that were posted there, and stated that some have shared their frustrations with her recently that those signs have not been replaced yet. Stark went on to say that she felt reposting those signs quickly was very important because of everything those organizations do for the community and those signs mean a lot to them.

Mayor Bulan responded that it is an insurance issue and the signs cannot be replaced until the city receives the money from the insurance claim. She also shared that there are a lot of people that feel differently about the signs and are opposed to them being there. Councilman Forthofer shared that at a recent parks board meeting he heard some great ideas to redesign the signs to make them more appealing and inviting. Council president Herron added that the signs you see traveling north on Rt. 60 into town look really nice.

After some discussion over the appearance and design of the signs, Stark reiterated her initial point by stating that that the members of those organizations put their heart into everything they do and give to the city, and the least the city can do is replace the signs quickly. Mayor Bulan reiterated that they have to wait for the insurance.

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