Five city committees meet, discuss streets, water main replacements

By Karen Cornelius

Fire chief’s report: The Health and Safety Committee met first with Vermilion fire chief Chris Stempowski reporting 28 incidents in July bringing a total of 162 for the year so far. He said work on the roof of fire station #1 began that day and should be complete by the end of the week. They are just re-shingling and doing flashings. He said the parking lot project at station #2 was almost complete and the AC has been replaced. Work has also been done on the air compressor and there will be chasis inspections, pump and ladder testing along with servicing the air bottles used to breathe and testing of air quality. The chief said there have been in-house courses for health providers and medical first responders given by North Central EMS. He complimented the department’s training personnel for doing a greatjob for continuing education and for fire certification.


Police chief’s update: Vermilion police chief Chris Hartung said the department has also been training for the past two weeks including “Use of Force” and four-hours of state education. He said range fire training will be this week at the new facility on Baumhart Road which costs $150 per day, a lot less expensive than going to the range in Sandusky considering the paid mileage just to get there. He said the Baumhart range is a fantastic resource for law enforcement.


The chief announced active shooter training (ALICE) by the school resource officer is open to the public and will be this Thursday from 9-11 a.m. and Friday, August 18, from 4-6 p.m. at the Vermilion High School auditorium. He also announced the department was getting ready for another auction of surplus property, but there was no date as yet. He advised council members that five senior officers would be retiring by 2019-21 so there was a concern for replacements. Additionally, he will be meeting with the Vermilion Lagoons at their beachhouse on August 31 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss safety issues. He said sergeant Steve Davis will meet with the merchants at their monthly meeting to discuss shoplifting and counterfeit money. Lastly, he said the Simko murder pre-trial was finished and they are moving on to a trial scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on September 12. He expected it to last two weeks and commented he was surprised no deal was accepted.


Councilman Jim Forthofer asked about ALICE training and if it were just geared to the schools. Council-at-large Monica Stark said it really is for everyone to use anywhere to protect themselves and others. She thought the public could learn information to benefit themselves and others.


Street selection Rubric Review: The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee met after Health and Safety. Streets chairman Forthofer stated council members had received a draft of the streets analysis rubric discussed in the July streets planning session. He asked members to review the draft and offer suggestions on what could be deleted or what could be added as far as criteria for selecting streets to be repaired. He said the document should contain unique condition criteria that supports the reason why members are proposing a street for repair or replacement.


Forthofer stated that council members will be submitting three streets from their ward that need attention. He asked them to look at the streets to see if they meet the criteria. He said there are two items he would delete from the list. The first was noting when the street last had a major repair. He didn’t think he would know that and it should be left to the city engineer. He would like to delete the community image visibility from outside criteria. He thought they should stick to taxpaying residents, not image. Councilwoman Barb Brady thought they should add “base failure” but she was not sure how they would know a failure. Councilman Frank Loucka said it’s when they see alligator cracking and the road or section sinking down.


Council president Steve Herron thought all the criteria listed should stay there and none should be deleted. He said the seven members have to vote on the streets to select and sometimes it gets emotional to defend their wards so more criteria acts as a balance. Mayor Eileen Bulan said there are records available with information on repairs. Loucka said there are 61 miles of streets and 214 street names. He would like to make a file with all 214 streets and build up data on each one so they have cohesive records which don’t exist now. He volunteered to work on that project. Councilman Fred Ostrander asked to add drainage to the list because there’s no point fixing a street unless the drainage is addressed.


Streets chair Forthofer said they will make these revisions suggested to get ready for October when they start selecting streets to fix.


Edgewater Street construction: Councilwoman Brady asked that they go back and address repairs to Edgewater’s undone street ends and cuts that was put off due to the lawsuit which now has been resolved. She said horrible sections exist. Service director Tony Valerius said he has prices to restore these sections from Kensington to Lansing and Cummings and Overlook. Mayor Bulan said they have met with a contractor and will take care of it.


Main Street fix: Councilman Ostrander asked if the city intended to fix or replace North Main after construction there. Mayor Bulan said it would just be a fix, not a replacement. From Liberty Avenue to Huron Street would cost $118,000 to replace and there was no place to get this money this construction season. Ostrander said it was a shame to leave Main Street that way with an old, beat up street on one side.


Water Main Replacement Program: Finance met after Streets with finance director Brian Keller addressing the city’s 25-year Water Main Replacement Program with some financing options. He handled out packets of information on the water fund expenses and revenues through 2033 along with other information to determine the city’s borrowing capacity. He recommended they could borrow $2.5 million to start the project off at 2.9 percent interest which is $141,000 per year. Councilman Forthofer agreed they should borrow something but he feared that was too high when they needed money to repair the rest of the water mains, 80 percent, that could not be fixed at first. He said there were 59 miles of waterlines. In 2018, the fund balance would only be $56,000 unexpended. The committee also discussed water plant costs at about $1 million per year for operations, maintenance, and repair. Councilwoman Brady thought they could draw on those funds if the $1 million wasn’t spent per year. She suggested they chew on all the information and discuss it again in September’s committee. She also asked Keller’s to review some of his figures that she didn’t think added up concerning the deletion of the EPA fee.


Vermilion utility rates: The Utilities Committee met after Finance with one item on the agenda, a review of Vermilion’s utility rates compared to other neighboring cities done by councilman Ostrander just as a point of interest due to complaints from residents about high bills. He said rates varied all over the board due to the way other cities charged their customers. Some had stormwater fees and some did not. He said every city is different. What was interesting was the two cities the furthest away from Lake Erie had the lowest water rates. They are North Ridgeville and Elyria. It appeared that Vermilion and Lorain almost tied for the highest bills with Amherst, North Ridgeville, and Elyria lower. The rates were based on the average consumption of 5CCF or 3,750 gallons per month. One CCF equals 100 cubic feet.


Based on water and sewer related charges only, the list showed Vermilion at $73.60 per month; Lorain at $72.80; Amherst at $60.68; North Ridgeville at $54.83; and Elyria at $56.79.


Legislative Committee: The Legislative Committee had nothing on its agenda and so adjourned.


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