Committees discuss drug legislation, car break-ins, bikes, streets

By Karen Cornelius


Fire chief’s report/fire station #1 problems: The Health and Safety Committee met on Monday night, May 8. Vermilion fire chief Chris Stempowski reported 22 calls in April with a total of 90 so far this year. He said of the 90, there were 79 in the city, 8 in Brownhelm Township, and 3 mutual aid. He responded to councilman Fred Ostrander’s question about why there were a high number of calls in March. He said there were 30 and really no particular reason except the storms which brought multiple calls for downed power lines as well as a vehicle fire and brush fires. He said it was just a heavy month. Data from 2004 to now has shown a low of 4 calls per month and a high of 31.

The fire chief also reported that the paving project at fire station #2 has been delayed until June due to the wet weather. He said the #81 engine’s foam system has been repaired and it was a calibration issue. Fit testing for firefighter masks is going on now to make sure the seals are tight. The chief stated he is looking at the state purchasing program for a new command vehicle. The current one is 18-years-old and not large enough. He commented on the department’s social club hosting a pancake breakfast and donating $541 to the youth football program.

He further reported that a committee is considering what to do with fire station #1 on Ohio Street. There was a feasibility study done years ago and they would like to get that rolling again because the station is old and today’s trucks are very large leaving little room to move around and work. They are looking to see if the building can be rehabilitated to expand at the site. Other options include building on city property or acquiring property. The Devon Drive Service Center could also be an option. He said Ohio Street is a fantastic location but he doubts if there is room to expand.

Police chief’s update/car break-ins: Police chief Chris Hartung reported to Health and Safety there have been some car break-ins on Highbridge Road and one on Elizabeth Drive and a couple in The Woodlands where a purse and wallet were taken. He said this typically happens in the springtime and people should lock their vehicles and not keep valuables in their cars. He said four juveniles were seen in the area and they are investigating. As always, if people see something, they should say something. He stated he is looking forward to a busy and great summer. The police boat is being serviced and will be in the water soon.

Bike rack locations: The Legislative Committee met after Health and Safety. Chairman Frank Loucka stated that a sketch has been given to service director Tony Valerius indicating where Main Street Vermilion would like to place seven new bike racks. They would be at Rudy’s, Route 6 Restaurant, Granny Joe’s, Main Street Soda Grill, Brummer’s, Woodstock, and the Main Street Office.

There was an earlier concern about having the racks in right-of-ways without the city’s permission. The plan is to place them 18 inches from the curb parallel to the roadway where the trash cans and trees line up. The parked bikes would also be parallel. Council president Steve Herron said this was a great idea and he was all for it. Councilwoman Barb Brady, however, had some concerns. She said this is encouraging more bikes downtown and there really was no place to ride them and riding on the sidewalks would just add to the downtown congestion. “Where do you ride safely, there’s no place to travel.” Councilman Jim Forthofer said bikes will come through any way and the racks would accommodate them in a disciplined manner. He said they are at no cost to the city and a class way to do it. Herron added that kids like to go downtown. People need to be careful, and bikes have the right-of-way. Police chief Hartung said bikers have to follow the rules of the road and stop at stop signs and lights, etc. It was said the racks will remain in their locations year around. Chair Loucka said they would vote on a motion at city council under new business.

Review of sample legislation on drug labs: Legislative chairman Loucka said sample legislation on “clandestine drug labs” presenting a danger to the health, safety, and welfare of citizens has been reviewed by the law director and legislation is ready for city council to consider. Because these labs contain suspected chemicals and residues that could harm people, this legislation has cleanup regulations in place for property owners. Councilman Ostrander thought the state already had laws. Council president Herron said due to the serious meth issue the city needed its own legislation to allow law enforcement to get a warrant to search a suspected lab. Otherwise, they don’t have that authority now. A motion was passed to put the proposed legislation on council’s agenda.

Moratorium on medical marijuana review: Council in September passed a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana because the state was just starting to work on specifics of the topic. Council president Herron said they are still waiting for directions and regulations from the state so they need to extend/renew this moratorium that has expired. He said the city’s intent is not to stop patients from legally receiving pain medication. They just have to wait for decisions from the state’s general assembly. Councilman Forthofer stated that some communities have already decided to prohibit any activities dealing with medical marijuana and some would allow new businesses to open. The committee passed a motion to put the renewal on council’s agenda next week. It would be for an additional six months, but could be subject to change.

Street Maintenance and Repair Fund: The Finance Committee met after Legislative with chair Monica Stark absent. Vice chair Brian Holmes said there were questions about the Street M&R Fund and he would have finance director Brian Keller explain the details. Keller said he handed council a spread sheet on the fund’s five-year history of expenditures by line item from 2012 to 2016 along with percentages of funding for each line item. He said the disconnect is the money spent that is not seen on the roads. “There’s a lot more to this fund than meets the eye,” said Keller. For example, he said in 2013 the money spent on street repair/paving materials was about five percent of the budget, but total street M&R personal services was over 66 percent which is salaries, health insurance, longevity, medicare, uniforms, training, etc. He said then there’s bills for gas, electric, telephone, fuel, snow removal, and more.

Councilwoman Brady said they just received this accounting and she wanted to put it on next month’s agenda so they all have time to look at it. She said she wanted to make sure the service director had enough funding for street maintenance and if he has the money to hire any contractors.

Street rubric for 2018: The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee met after Finance with one item on the agenda concerning a proposed street rubric to use as a guide for future street repairs. Councilman Forthofer said there have been two meetings and more to come. He asked finance director Keller to give a summary of their goals and where they were at now. Keller said they are identifying how to use the rubric and how to prioritize streets for major repairs, and what they can do over the next several years. Council could also nominate streets in their wards and match them up with what funding is available. Forthofer said long range they could consider a tracking device for street maintenance. He recommended some work shops before choosing the streets, and said they would come back to council when there is something presentable.

Water plant intake: Utilities met after Streets, but there was nothing on the agenda. Chair Brady did ask about the camera that was suppose to go into the water plant’s intake into the lake to determine its condition. Service director Valerius said he believed it was being scheduled by the water plant supervisor, but he did not know the date.

Chair Brady also asked the mayor when they could meet the new wastewater treatment plant supervisor. Mayor Eileen Bulan said she would have him come in next month.


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