By Karen Cornelius
Fire chief’s report/New boats: The Health and Safety Committee met on Monday night, October 16. Vermilion fire chief Chris Stempowski reported there were 30 incidents in September, a jump. It seemed to him the majority were medical calls as first responders. He said they are going up. The year-to-date total incidents through September are 208. The chief thanked North Central EMS for providing a 15-hour session for first responders which is required on a three-year cycle.
The chief stated the department is doing hose testing and SCBA testing of the self-contained breathing apparatus with one pack failing due to age. It would cost $1,000 to repair, but that was not practical. Instead, the chief said they would start upgrading by increments in the future. A service call was made to repair an air-filling station at fire station #1. He added pump testing is complete and all engines passed. This was done with the Vermilion Township Fire Department to cut costs. The aerial truck will get inspected on October 27.
The chief has also ordered new helmets and a new rescue boat that will be heavy-duty. There will be a trailer built for the department’s use to haul two boats. Stempowski said they additionally need a rugged rowboat to handle ice and debris. Two motors for the boats have been ordered along with life vests and rescue throw bags.
The chief stated that Fire Prevention Week went well. He liked to see people participate. Firefighters gave a lot of safety talks to schools, day-care centers, and churches. The pizza give-away was successful and everyone seemed to have smoke detectors.
Police chief’s update/Narcan/Gun-shot training: Vermilion police chief Chris Hartung also gave an update to the Health and Safety Committee. He said the Simko murder trial was wrapped up with sergeant Steve Davis on the stand for three days which was expected. The chief said the judge should be giving his verdict in the case on Friday, October 21.
The chief said that the Erie County Sheriff’s Office had a grant for Narcan which ran out. Narcan is used to revive people overdosing on drugs. The chief said his department is lucky and his supply is not in jeopardy, and the Lorain County Health and Erie County Health have been picking up the bills. However, costs are rising and providers are backing off so this could be a concern in 2018.
The chief said he had a meeting with the Vermilion Lagoons residents about cars speeding down their streets. They discussed speed control devices and law enforcement processes. They will take his advice under advisement and there should be no further issues for council to consider.
The chief invited council members to first aid training on Saturday, October 21, at Vermilion High School and at Devon Drive in the afternoon. He said this is for gun-shot trauma and packing wounds. There will be a lot of fake blood spouting around.
Councilman Fred Ostrander said there was an incident in his neighborhood and sergeant Scott Holmes spoke to the residents. Also, sergeant Davis spoke at the library. Ostrander said they did a very good job and people were happy with the speakers.
Main Street project update: The Utilities Committee met after Health and Safety. Service director Tony Valerius said the installation of a new waterline on the eastside of Main Street was wrapping up with a tie-in on Monday, Octoer 16. The water plant was not shutdown. There will be one more tie-in next Monday. He said Mondays were chosen because Chez Francois and Dr. Suszko’s office were closed so they were trying to be considerate of businesses. Another phase of the project would be moving over to the westside of Main Street for the “green infrastructure” installation. He said an area to pour curbs has been dug out and next week the previous pavers should be installed. This will take another three to three and one-half weeks. The contractor also found a storm sewer that was not marked. He said the pavers would be about 8-10 feet in width. The project was slowed down due to discovering some unknowns.
Wi-Fi signal east of town: A Liberty Avenue business owner asked council for help with his lack of service. From the audience, Joe Pinter, the city’s tech expert, stated the problem was solved. He went out and looked at this dead zone and discovered a cable connection across the street in the Kingston/Drug Mart area. He said no one called Spectrum to even come out and look for possibilities. He had Spectrum come out and hook up cable service and give Liberty Auto Wash a contract. He said a Wi-Fi signal was not the issue.
Street weight limits/truck routes: Service director Valerius said he and city engineer Lynn Miggins prepared a map of possible truck routes that should be used throughout the city. They included the highways, Route 6, Route 2, and Route 60, and designated several city streets as truck routes such as Overlook, Niagara, Haley, Devon, South Street, Main, West River, Vermilion Road, Sunnyside, Jerusalem, and North Ridge. They are so trucks could get access into VOL, Elberta, Lake Erie, the city service center, and other delivery points. The service director said they will post “No Trucks Allowed” signs at each end of Sailorway. He said the city ordinance states that no truck over 5 tons can use city streets without going to the mayor’s office for a permit. Exempt, however, are the heaviest trucks which are garbage trucks, and school buses, and fire trucks. The Streets Committee passed a motion to prepare legislation to change the city’s traffic control map and add the designated truck routes.
Highway overpass: Council-at-large Monica Stark stated she wanted to start a conversation about promoting the city by using the overpasses to advertise Vermilion. She said when she travels she sees this promotion in other cities and it is effective. She said there could be pictures/symbols of Vermilion at the Sunnyside overpass such as a sailboat or lighthouse. Council president Steve Herron said it was a creative idea but there would be a cost. Finance director Brian Keller was asked to do a public records request to other cities to find out what these promotions would cost. Service director Valerius said they would have to have the permission of ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation). They would ask the city engineer about that permission.
Flood plain review fees: The Finance Committee met after Streets. Council president Herron said they received an email from John Gabriel with concerns about the city engineer’s proposal to increase the Special Flood Hazard Area Development Permit fee application of $500. The engineer proposed the applicant should be responsible for the cost of all review fees incurred by the city. The engineer had stated that some reviews take a great deal of time and $500 doesn’t cover the work for the larger projects. The money is coming out of the general fund and taxpayers should not have to pay for it.
Questions were asked if this could inhibit future development and if this was just a recent problem or odd occurrence. Councilman Frank Loucka said he would like to see an accounting of the last 4-5 years of permit fees and costs. Councilman Ostrander asked if they could see what other cities do and if Vermilion is relative or not. From the audience, Gabriel said this change could become a blank check and could alter who develops in the flood plain. He said fees should be uniform for all the zoning districts, not just the flood plain. At a review charge of $90 per hour, Gabriel thought council should be a cap on the fee. He wondered if this could be a slight conflict of interest for benefiting any city engineer’s income. Councilwoman Barb Brady asked about how the building department charges fees outside the flood plain. Service director Valerius said the costs are included in the building permits. He pointed out the city engineer is the flood plain administrator following FEMA guidelines and the fees are different. Council president Herron stated that Vermilion wants more development and building so they would look into it. The finance director was asked to pull five years of flood plain records and the clerk of council was asked to pull permit costs from other lakefront communities. This will go back on Finance in November.
Peddlers, solicitors review: The Legislative Committee met after Finance to review proposed changes to the 1963 city ordinance concerning peddlers, canvassers, and solicitors. Legislative chair Frank Loucka said there were three proposed changes which would include a background check, a raise in permit fee, and the elimination of insurance salesmen who used to go door-to-door back years ago. The changes were up for a second reading at council next week. Clerk of council Gwen Fisher suggested the ordinance is so old that it completely needs revamped, updating the entire ordinance, not just three changes. She had ordinances from other cities that were very different for council to study. The topic will go back on Legislative’s agenda in November.
Air bed and breakfast rentals: Councilman Ostrander brought these rentals up because people in some residential neighborhoods were renting out space as bed and breakfasts on the internet. He said they were in Vermilion just because they had a credit card. However, some visitors were not polite to the quiet neighborhoods and were out all night, etc. Councilwoman Brady agreed there were incidents in her neighborhood. She said council passed a rental registration mandate but never followed through to see if everyone was registering. She said they have to let people know about it and the penalty. There are rules for parking, arrivals, etc. Brady said the building inspector was working on suggestions and would like to attend a meeting so council could get started on controlling rentals and possible taxes to the city which could be missing. Notices could be put on utility bills or scanning the internet and sending those people letters about registration.