By Karen Cornelius
Fire chief’s report/Fire Prevention Week: The Health and Safety Committee of Vermilion City Council met on Monday night, September 18. Fire chief Chris Stempowski reported 16 incidents in August with a total of 178 year-to-date. He informed council members that the roof repair on fire station #1 was complete, but they would have to take a future look at the southside flat roof in the next couple of years. He said the paving and drainage project at station #2 was complete with the exception of some landscaping. He said the project looks great and he is happy and hopes the neighbors are as well. He said the storm water is controlled now and there is no standing water. The chief talked about testing with the ground ladders complete and testing self-contained breathing apparatus and pump testing coming up in October. The pump testing will be done with Vermilion Township to save money. Hose testing is going on in-house, but may be cheaper to farm out in the future as it takes a lot of man hours for 20,000 feet of hose. He announced there are two firefighters enrolled in the Lorain County Firefighting Academy who will finish in December.
The chief said Fire Prevention Week is coming up with open houses at both stations on October 8 from 1-4 p.m. Both stations will also participate in a pizza delivery program with a free pizza to houses with smoke detectors. He said Vermilion Fire Company, the social arm of the department, will host a steak fry at German’s Villa on October 14 from 6-11 p.m. with the proceeds going to scholarships.
Councilman Fred Ostrander asked if the mailbox was going to be returned to the corner now that station #2 paving was complete. He said the new retention pond for drainage looked like a swamp and could be a mosquito factory. He asked if it could be covered up or something else done. Chief Stempowski responded replacing the mailbox was up to the post office. He said he didn’t know what else to do about the drainage. He said they added an extra drain for storm water and there are plants there to grow.
Police chief’s update: Police chief Chris Hartung said all members qualified for firearms and everyone received training in defensive tactics which includes use of force. He said he used the Johnson-Bolton case as an example so everyone understood use of force. He recently traveled to Columbus for a required update of the 1033 Program which includes a warehouse where police departments can find equipment and supplies that are federal level surplus. He said a lot of their desks came from this program. There are also large items including guns, bombs, tanks, and helicopters. There was some talk about the state possibly being eliminated from this program depending on an inventory.
He informed council members that detective Steve Kopniske was attending the DEA Narcotics School courtesy of that agency. He said new modems came in and GPS so everyone can be located on the road including all of Lorain County. He said the Simko murder trial was underway with former captain Michael Reinheimer expected to testify on Tuesday, September 19. He expected a wrap up in mid-week with the defense coming next. He will meet with the Vermilion Lagoons next week. He said Woollybear is coming up Sunday, September 24, so expect a traffic nightmare.
Council-at-large Monica Stark thanked the police department in advance for handling all the traffic at the festival. She said people do not show officers any respect, but they put up with it. She asked about a police auction. The chief said it will be on October 7 at the Devon Drive Service Center at 10 a.m. He added that officer Mike Fink was deployed with the U.S. Coast Guard for one year.
Wi-Fi/Internet signal east of town: The Utilities Committee of city council met next pointing our problems a business had east of downtown. Speaking was Dave Hoffman of Liberty Auto Wash and his tech advisor who need to meet government standards by the end of the year concerning the chip readers on credit cards. Issues are preventing them from moving forward because of the dead zone and no providers. It was stated that Centurytel was not fast enough and other providers could not help them. Time Warner, now Spectrum, wanted to charge $7,500 for a cable modem. ATT was contacted but they would need a tower, but Vermilion is a limited cell area where they cannot get service due to the lake water to the north.
Mayor Eileen Bulan said she understood when cable came to Vermilion all businesses and residents would be provided service. Spectrum told them it was just residences, not all businesses so they refused. The mayor said it is the carriers who ask to install towers, and they should ask one. She said she knows The Nest Restaurant has no service as well. Mayor Bulan said the city has its own service, not Centurytel. She will check with Spectrum and also with the city’s tech, Joe Pinter, who might have some ideas. They will get back with Liberty Auto Wash.
Street Weight Limits/Sailorway Truck Route: The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee met to discuss weight limits for city roads due to Elberta Road being damaged by heavy trucks taking rocks to the lake for someone’s private erosion control. Service director Tony Valerius said council directed him to see how many signs it would take to place load limits on VOL steets. He said streets leading to the lake could take 14 signs at $135 each or $1,900 not including labor for bases, posts, signs. The signs would make the public and truck drivers aware.They would be at the VOL entrance, Berkley, Overlook, etc. Council members looked at copies of Avon Lake’s codes for ideas and referred to state code, too. Councilman Ostrander thought there should be an axle weight limit instead. It was suggested the service director choose one steet only to be a truck route to the lake so several streets aren’t damaged.
From the audience, Steve Holovacs stated there should be truck routes established for the whole city, not just VOL. He said every ward needs signs to protect our streets. He stated they need to control where trucks are going. As far as Sailorway, it should not be a truck route but only used for deliveries and pickups. He said trucks exceeding state limits can get county permits. On Elberta, he thought the city could issue permits for more than 10,000 pounds and make truck companies pay insurance. City engineer Lynn Miggins said on Sailorway, the city leases that property and trucks over 3/4 ton cannot go on it except for deliveries and pickups such as garbage trucks. It’s a school zone and should not be used as a cut to Valley View. Streets Committee chair Jim Forthofer asked Valerius and Miggins to come up with proposed truck routes and signs by the October 16 committee meeting.
Water Main Replacement borrowing: The Finance Committee met to discuss borrowing money for the 25-year Water Main Replacement Program. Finance director Brian Keller said he still recommends a $2.5 million loan from the Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA) with a debt payment per year of $141,000 for 25-years. Keller felt comfortable with this amount now that the water plant study on the intake was favorable and there would be less concern about the plant. City engineer Miggins said the loan would cover about 21 percent of the 25-year program of replacement. Councilman Forthofer was concerned if there would be enough money leftover for other projects or emergencies. Councilmen Frank Loucka and Ostrander agreed there would be enough as water funds will accrue. Ostrander said going by the water rates per ccu, 36 cents of every $1 is available to offset the debt. Councilwoman Barb Brady didn’t think this council should make a commitment now with that kind of debt, but wait for the new administration coming in January.
As far as waiting, mayor Bulan said the EPA is a concern because they have mandated waterline distribution replacement and they get impatient and send letters. Others disagreed with Brady and stating they needed to get moving. Council-at-large Stark said the lines are deteriorating and it’s their responsibility to improve the city. She said the future of the water plant and the distribution lines are two separate issues. Distribution lines have to be done regardless to get water to the residents. Councilman Loucka said they were elected to make tough decisions and for the future of the city it needs to be done. Ostrander said it’s not going to be done today, it will take awhile and they can take the money as the project goes on. Council president Steve Herron said they have kicked the can on this project long enough, while it’s frustrating, this is their job.
The Finance Committee voted 6-1 to pass a motion to prepare legislation to apply to the OWDA for a loan. City engineer Miggins said this process would take a few months. She said a OWDA loan was also used for the new Vermilion River lift station near Romp’s.
Woodside resufacing change order: City engineer Miggins also addressed the Finance Committee on Woodside. She said council approved of the paving project, but now there is a drainage issue at the northend running to Edgewater, it’s nonfunctioning. Drainage was designed for a narrow right-of-way, but Columbia Gas would have to move their lines and they would charge $40,000 because they have easements there. It is only free if they have no easements. A redesign to move catch basins to the centerline is $12,619 which is better than $40,000. The Finance Committee voted to accept this change order.
Revising code sections for special residence/flood damage reduction/zoning certificates: The Legislative Committee met to hear the city engineer’s revisions for sections of the code which have come up over the years causing problems with interpretation. For RS Special Residence District, Miggins said there was no minimum for side yards where there is an attached garage. She suggested six feet to read: the sum of the side yards may be reduced to 12 feet where there is an attached garage and neither side yard shall be less than six feet. The second revision involved a Special Flood Hazard Area Development Permit fee application of $500. She suggested the addition that the applicant should be responsible for the cost of all review fees incurred by the city. She said the city is getting a lot more requests for permits and they take time, even 20 hours for one new home. For simple repairs the $500 is all right, but not for other large projects. She said the money comes out of the general fund which means the rest of us are paying when the applicants should. The last revision was for zoning certificates and site plan requirements for industrial and commercial developments. She said what was missing were some commercial developments within residential areas which should have to get zoning certificates so the city can review their plans for additions, their surveys and site plans. This would include schools and churches if they expand. She said they need oversight.
The Legislative Committee voted to pass a motion to revise these sections per the engineer’s recommendations.