Committees discuss crime, speed bumps, sidewalks, and stormwater

By Karen Cornelius

Fire chief’s report: The Health and Safety Committee met on Monday night, July 10. Fire chief Chris Stempowski reported 24 incidents in June bringing the total for the year so far to 134 calls. He said in four to five weeks roof repairs will begin on fire station #1 on Ohio Street. As far as station #2 on Overlook, the parking lot project is moving along and looks great. The air conditioning system, however, has to be replaced as it’s 30-years old.


He said there was an issue with the FCC on their narrow banding licenses and now it’s fixed and they have FCC approval. The tanker truck was out of service for three days and is back. The chief said they did have backup for reserved water during that time. Also fixed was a filter on the police boat’s fire pump. The chief advised there is some concern for truck pumps and chassis, but he is calling for service so all the apparatus will be in safe condition for driving before testing is done. The cost is $30,000. He has also scheduled a health provider class for the firefighters.


Councilwoman Barb Brady asked what they were going to do with fire station #1 since space was a problem. Chief Stempowski said they have to replace the roof and the estimate is under $17,000. The roof needs done. If they build a new station, it won’t happen tomorrow.


Police chief’s update/counterfeit money: Sitting in at Health and Safety for police chief Chris Hartung was captain James Graham. The captain informed council members that there were no issues at all at the Festival of the Fish and no arrests which is a tribute to a well behaved crowd. He said the department has seen a rash of counterfeit bills and they are working with the Secret Service on this issue. He invited any business to contact the detective bureau if they would like to know more about how to recognize counterfeit money.


Graham also stated that there have been a lot of thefts, some at boat docks. He said the thefts are crimes of opportunity and people should lock their cars and boats. Usually, if it’s hard to break into something, the suspects will move on. He added the department is young, with new officers doing a great job, and they are adding adrenalin to the whole force. “We’re happy to have the new guys.”

Councilman Jim Forthofer asked if anyone could get information on counterfeit money, not just businesses. He asked what denominations the bills were. Graham said anyone interested is welcome to meet with detectives. He said the smaller denominations are easier to pass, such as $20’s. Councilman Fred Ostrander asked if change machines in stores or ATM’s could have counterfeit money in them. Graham said ATM’s are safe as the bank puts the money in them.


Councilman Frank Loucka asked about the shifts. Graham said there are three cars per shift but others are around you don’t see such as the school resource officer working with the building department and the narcotics detective. Council-at-large Monica Stark told Graham there was a man supposedly selling candy bars but pulling cars doors as he walked around. She asked how the law could handle that and if there needed to be witnesses. The captain said they can question the person if there is a complaint, but they can’t charge him unless there is proof. It’s better to act if there is more than one call about the incident. Council clerk Gwen Fisher said some person was seen looking into a home. Graham said the homeowner would have to describe this person and identify him without any doubt. Health and Safety chairman Brian Holmes said if people see something, they need to say something. “We have three on the road for the whole town so the more eyes we have the better response,” said Graham.


Portage Drive speeding/speed humps: Councilman Fred Ostrander introduced Portage Drive resident Tom Zeck who was speaking for the association on speeding which is still continuing after his last visit to council. Ostrander said the police have been monitoring the area. He didn’t think lowering the 25 mph limit was a good idea but they could could consider speed humps for Portage. Zeck once again stated how the street is a dragway and that 25 mph is too fast for a failing street with no centerline, no street lights, and no sidewalks. He noted there were three new 25 mph speed signs posted on Portage and he was dismayed because they want to reduce the speed and display “driuve slowly” signs and “thank you for going slowly” signs. Zeck said the Vermilion Lagoons Association has sent letters to their residents asking them to drive slowly. He asked how the city could be more helpful with this problem, come to a middle ground.


Council president Steve Herron said state law prohibits the city from lowering the speed under 25. City engineer Lynn Miggins said the city could adopt its own legislation for speed bumps if they wanted to adopt their own rules. She said Columbus, Ohio uses speed bumps. Herron said they could discuss how Columbus uses them at the next Health and Safety meeting in August. Miggins suggested residents could put signs in their own yards and apply for a permit from the building department. The signs can’t be in the right-of-way and they are not enforceable. Health chair Holmes said there are rubber and cement humps that can be removed in the winter and the service director could look into the cost.


Council-at-large Monica Stark said the humps could open a can of worms with many other streets wanting them. They would need stipulations for using them. City engineer Miggins said speed bumps and humps are annoying to drivers and noisy so some residents may not want them. She wondered if this speeding was really happening with enough frequency for an intervention and speed study. Zeck agreed there was no perfect solution, but they wanted to lower the speed limit. From the audience, Scott Sherwood advised council should look up a 2014 law director’s ruling on speed bumps. An Edgewater Drive resident, Homer Taft suggested with new technology there are little boxes with lasers to check drivers’ speed that could be used. Police captain Graham will check into the cost.


Sanford Street sidewalks: The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee met next and asked city engineer Miggins for an update. She said they are working with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to redesign the city’s plans for sidewalks on Sanford and several other streets. She said the city was not satisfied with the original plans. There is also a transition with project managers and the new one is better working this out. She said originally ODOT did not involve the city in the plans. She hopes to begin construction next year on Sanford sidewalks and sidewalks on part of State Street, Pineview, Larchmont, Langfitt, West River, Sweetbriar, and one house on Mapleview. The walks are part of the Safe Routes to School grant.


Concrete grinding project: Service director Tony Valerius said finding pricing for concrete grinding is still early. He would have to take a section of road and look at it and price out with repaving or grinding to see if there is a savings. He said grinding can be a temporary relief while waiting for a street to be repaved. He pointed to Southview Court as an experiment and said it looked nice and they could make a good repair next year. Councilwoman Brady asked if there could be an overlay on Southview. City engineer Miggins said they would have to see how the street performs over the winter. It’s a low traffic street and they need to observe if there’s fatigue. She said on Sailorway they are milling off the top and putting asphalt down. They will wait and see if tipping happens again. Councilman Ostrander stated with those concrete wraps if the drainage is poor, then the street could crumble.


Stormwater on Liberty: The Utilities Committee met after Streets. Councilman Ostrander said the stormwater drainage from Liberty isn’t going to the lake or was inadequate and he asked what they could do. City engineer Miggins said she had some maps from Bramhall Engineering on the Portland ditch connection. Back in 2004-05, there was a project to reline the sewer between Erie Road and the stream into Portland ditch for $70,000. She said it was an 18-inch line to Erie, Morton, and to the ditch. She said she walked this and it was flowing fine. In 2015, a relief pipe was put in front of Dewey’s to Portland’s catch basin but there is still flooding. She said the problem is the buildings are lower than the storm sewer system. The proposal to run a main pipe on Elberta was $1 million which they could not afford so they did the ditches instead and paved the street. They could take the storm down Niagara.


Utilities chair Brady asked if Dewey’s drainage could go to the railroad ditch in the back. She said they increased stormwater fees to encourage businesses to build retention ponds. Miggins said Dewey’s flows north so you can’t fight gravity. She said the water needs to get to Lake Erie. Miggins said they are out of economical ideas to help businesses on the southside of Liberty. Any solution would be very expensive and require either a 36-inch line or up to 48 inches. Council president Herron wasn’t sure where they would find the money to fulfill their obligation to our businesses. “We have to figure it out.” Councilman Ostrander said places like Giant Eagle are creating a public nuisance with all the hard surface. Brady asked Miggins to pull out past plans and also to send the problem to the city’s Stormwater Advisory Committee.


Basketball hoops draft legislation: Legislative was the last of five committees to meet that night. Legislative chair Loucka had a draft ordinance for council members to consider on the placement of basketball hoops. This was developed after a problem at South Shore Court where youth were playing basketball and one rolled into the street and the ball was taken away by a motorist. Police chief Hartung said they would like a tool to use, a nuisance ordinance if there was to be any enforcement of where hoops could be. The draft ordinance would prevent any basketball backboard, hoop, or supporting apparatus in the public right-of-way to reduce the risk of injury. The ordinance is not intended for use on private property. Councilman Forthofer stated there is an ordinance on what can and cannot go on right-of-ways written in 1961 so these obstructions would not be allowed.


Council president Herron said the draft was overkill. He said let people play. If a kid is in the road, chill out, don’t take his basketball. There was no motion to go forward with the draft.


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