By Karen Cornelius
Fire chief’s report/record calls: The Health and Safety Committee met on Monday, April 10. Fire chief Chris Stempowski reported 30 calls in March with a total of 68 incidents so far this year. He said this is the second highest responses he has seen in his 11 years. The 30 calls in March resulted in some multiple calls in one day. He reported on an apartment fire on March 31.
He said the Vermilion Fire Department was hosting a driver training course through VFIS on April 21 and April 22 at Vermilion High School with the city service department and ODOT loaning cones for this class. He reported one truck going out for service. He also warned people about open burns with the winds and discouraged it.
Police chief’s update/focus on cell phones: Police chief Chris Hartung reported to Health and Safety about the department assisting Adult Probation with a suspected meth lab in the VOL area. He warned they will be seeing a lot more coming. The chief noted that Sergeant Scott Holmes attended an in-service STEP program focusing on leadership. The chief said April 10 marked his 18 years with the city. He said in the next three years the department would be losing some of its top people and there needs to be a plan in place for succession. The chief and captain James Graham attended a disciplinary seminar in Columbus and came back with some great ideas. Also, two new part-time officers were sworn in and started this week. They are Kinzie Rock and Kyle John. He added new body cameras were received with the ability to see at night.
The chief stated the department received a generous donation from a citizen, a FATS (firearms and tactics) simulator valued at $40,000. It will be set up on Wednesday, April 12. This is a training tool for officers.
The chief reported on the final appeal brief filed by former captain Reinheimer in Erie County. He said the appeal has now gone to the judge and a decision could take a three to six-month wait. Hartung said the judge could make a determination or could ask for more testimony.
Lastly, the chief said the department will focus on drivers using cell phones this summer because they are a distraction. He said he experienced a woman going left of center right at him using a cell phone and not paying attention.
Places used for entertainment/noise ordinance: The Legislative Committee met after Health and Safety to review a chapter on places used for entertainment concerning noise or loud sound. This was at the suggestion of the police chief who wanted to make sure it was the duty of the service director, not the police, to administer outdoor sound permits. No owner or operator of a commercial enterprise or place used for entertainment can set up a sound amplifying system which is audible outside the structure or building and which is used to transmit any type of music or message until an outdoor sound permit has been issued by the service director. The service director also will set the yearly fee for the permit. Nonprofits such as schools and churches will have the permit fee waived.
There were times suggested for places of entertainment with the permit expiring at 9 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The service director can adjust the times, for example, holiday entertainment hours. Police chief Hartung stated that the police will still do the enforcement and report to the service director. He stated that most noise enforcement comes from complaints, about 90 percent.
After reviewing the ordinance, the committee made no changes because it did state the reference to the administrative officer would be the director of public service.
Storage of junk vehicles and parts: The Legislative Committee also reviewed a chapter of an ordinance entitled “Storage of Junk Vehicles and Parts.” The police chief also requested this review because there was a problem from some citizens who took exception to the term “junk” when it referred to their inoperative vehicles being cited for lack of a license or unable to move under their own power. According to the police chief, some people get angry and many have a personal attachment to a vehicle. However, they can’t leave it out if it is unusable, beautiful or not. The committee decided not to change the substance of the chapter but to rename the title and take out the word “junk.” Instead, the chapter will be called “Storage of Inoperable/Noncomplaint Vehicles.”
Review of the 2017 city budget: The Finance Committee met after Legislative. Finance director Brian Keller answered some questions asked by council members on various aspects of the budget. One was the increase in expenses in the Finance Department. Keller said that was due to hiring back a clerk full time plus wage increases, additional training for the payroll clerk and more funds for software. There was an increase for engineering services and Keller said it was for preventative budgeting purposes in case floodplain management issues arise as in the past such as $36,113 in 2014 for floodplain management services. Another increase in Park Maintenance was due to three employees wage increases. Robbish removal costs in 2016 were $8,788 so $10,000 was budgeted this year. Maintenance of grounds actual costs in 2016 were $54,140 so $60,000 was budgeted for 2017. This is work not done by the city.
Councilwoman Barb Brady asked why Boards and Commissions at $25,000 was so high. Keller said he would look into it. Keller said the Park Levy Fund was lower in 2017 because they didn’t spend much money in 2016. Contracted services were $141,000 lower in 2016 compared to 2015. Land improvement was $6,000 lower in 2016 than 2015. The Fire Apparatus Fund was increased in 2017 for fire station improvements, a new command vehicle, and camera/monitoring security system. The 2017 budget was increased for the Museum Property Acquisition Fund due to survey and architecture services.
Water fund 2017 expenses: Finance director Keller also addressed the water fund expenses at $2,387,858.99 and why this amount was an increase in 2017. He said personnel services were increased across the fund to accommodate the 2.5 percent wage increase which also affected PERS, workers compensation, Medicare, etc. Contracted services in water treatment were about $63,000 more in 2016 than 2015. Actual 2016 costs were $96,693 and the 2017 budget is $100,000 in anticipation of services as needed. Contracted services in distribution were increased to $200,000 in 2017 for both water main breaks and to begin water distribution line repairs and replacement.
He said with the $1 rate increase for 2/3 of this year, they expect to bring in an additional $255,000 and $381,000 in 2018. He stated that new line item expense accounts have been created in the water fund for the $2 EPA fee and the corresponding expenses for EPA mandated items. This will be a solid tracking system for the fee.
Councilwoman Brady said she cringes at next year’s cost to residents at $7.26 per unit and this could be higher than buying water from other sources. “It’s expensive to do business in-house,” said Brady. She said this rate increase is higher than the Poggemeyer study and she doesn’t understand how the study could be that far off and how they justify this increase. “It’s mind-boggling to me.” Councilman Fred Ostrander agreed with Brady and said Poggemeyer’s numbers never did add up and they didn’t use the proper units to bill. He said Poggemeyer should re-evaluate the whole process of purchasing water from Huron through Erie County or rural water. There were still questions about including distribution line upgrades, etc.
Vermilion Road Rehab Project: The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee met after Finance. The committee at councilwoman Brady’s request asked for a review of the ordinance on the Vermilion Road Rehab Project engineering at a cost of $93,835 to be performed by KS Associates, the city’s engineering firm. Brady wanted to know what they get for $93,835 which she stated was a lot of money. She asked about drainage and assumed it was straight paving. City engineer Lynn Miggins said she gave council a total proposal back in February which includes all the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) services. She said the project is similar to West River Road with under drains for the edges but no new storm sewer pipes. She said there are 14 right-of-way encroachments which will need permits so they are not torn out. Plans have to be sent to ODOT, soil samples have to be taken, and stage two filed in September. Miggins said there is a tremendous amount of work to do and design costs are the city’s responsibility.
Stormwater inspection: The Utilities Committee met after Streets to review draft legislation on stormwater inspections for new construction. City engineer Miggins said at council’s request to add a penalty section to the legislation, she recommended a $500 penalty for failure to submit an annual report to the city. She said most cities require $500 to $1,000 penalties if the property owner fails to submit an inspection report. If so, the city can do the inspection and have the owner pay or put it on that person’s tax duplicate.
Councilwoman Brady said it’s confusing to her. She said the city doesn’t have good records and some stormwater basins haven’t been maintained and they don’t know what exists. Miggins responded that is different than this legislation which covers a need for developers to enter into an agreement and obligation to continue stormwater inspections into the future. She said this does not apply to going back to old properties. This concerns new property development.
The legislation will be prepared and ready for a first reading in May and a penalty clause will be established.
Special city council meeting: After all five committees, there was a special council meeting to address five ordinances. A second reading was given to an ordinance to hire KS Associates for additional services to be performed on the Vermilion Road Rehab Phase I Project at a cost of $93,835 for design engineering. The rules were suspended on the first reading of an ordinance to enter into an agreement with Coley’s Inc. providing a tax exemption for real property for their expansion. Council adopted this ordinance by emergency commenting on how beneficial Coley’s was for the community. A second reading was given to enter into a contract for management services for the operation of the city’s cemeteries. A second reading was given to an ordinance to enter into a contract with Brownhelm Township to provide fire protection from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 at a cost of $37,576.99. A first reading was given to an ordinance to approve current replacement pages to the Vermilion codified ordinances.
City council’s schedule: There will be no meetings on April 17 and April 24. Vermilion City Council will meet again on Monday, May 1. All five committees will meet on Monday, May 8. All meetings are at the Municipal Court Complex on Decatur Street.