Committees discuss historic district zone, street budget, parking ban

By Karen Cornelius

Fire chief’s report: The Health and Safety Committee of city council met on Monday, December 11. Fire chief Chris Stempowski reported 18 incidents in November bringing a total of 241 for the year. He said the bottles used for breathing were tested, and the boats, trailer, and other rescue equipment have all been ordered and in various stages of delivery. He stated that two firefighters have completed their academy courses and will take the test for state certification. He also went into the need for a new fire station due to station #1’s cramped space. The fire chief stated it has been an honor working for mayor Eileen Bulan, and he thanked her for her service, and said how great it was to work with her.


Police chief’s update/parking ban: Police chief Chris Hartung reported he had attended a seminar on employment law at Hillard where they have a fantastic joint fire/police facility. He announced officer Greg Stark was resigning to devote full time to his business which is booming. The chief said he is sorry to see him go, a great guy who also helped on marine patrol. He asked the public if they see Stark to give him a pat on the back for his service. He informed council there are some communications problems to address with the radios which have static and are sometimes unclear. They are looking at the repeater and hope this can be resolved. If not they will have to look at grants to convert to digital. He said this could be a big issue for him.


With snow in the forecast, he asked people to drive carefully and slow. Over the weekend there was a six-car pile up due to snow. Fire chief Stempowski commented that he was at the scene and it was amazing to him to see drivers not slowing down and trying to weave through emergency vehicles putting those responders at risk.


Hartung reminded everyone there is a winter parking ban on the streets overnight. The department is getting the word out by writing warnings. They will start issuing citations January 2 after the holidays knowing holiday guests and others home from college need to park. He said 120 warnings were issued in one night and then another 80. Lastly, he thanked mayor Bulan for her service and stated it was a pleasure for him to work with her. She was a kind and considerate boss. He wished her good luck in the future.


Historic district zoning/new map: The Legislative Committee met after Health and Safety with one item on its agenda, updating the city’s zoning map. City engineer Lynn Miggins explained the Harbour Town Historic District is not on the current zoning map and it has to be revised to include it. She said there is an ordinance that defines the historic district boundaries. She read the following section of code: “There is hereby created in the city of Vermilion a district to be known as the Harbour Town Historic District and bounded as follows: northerly by the shoreline of Lake Erie; westerly by the west line of the property abutting Jefferson Street on the west; southerly by the south line of the property abutting South Street on the south; and easterly by the east sideline of West River Road to Columbus Street and continuing north along the east shoreline of the Vermilion River.”


She looked up copies of old maps and found the district on one from 1984 but not identified in the 1990’s ones. She has revised the map to include the entire parcels fronting South Street which some people might not realize are all of their lots in the historic district. She doubts this change would create controversy. She will send the revised map back to Planning Commission for approval and then council will have to do an ordinance. No motion was needed from the committee and the map will be on Planning’s agenda.


Temporary budget for 2018: The Finance Committee met next with only one item on the agenda, the review of the temporary budget for the first three months ofthe year. Finance director Brian Keller said his goal was to present a final budget for the year to council in late January or early February. He said the temporary would only cover a month or so until the final budget was in place. Finance chair Monica Stark asked how he arrived at his temporary numbers because some amounts to spend were not for just a quarter and a lot of the percentages were different. Keller responded he looked at the expenses that normally fall within the first few months.


Street financing/Jerusalem Road: The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee met after Finance. Chair Jim Forthofer’s goal was to pick some streets to resurface in 2018 before the term ended in 2017 so they could bid them out earlier in 2018. However, he said he has to surrender because the resources are not there to do elective street repair in 2018. What the city has to do is different from what the city wants to do. City engineer Miggins said there are large contractual obligations to pay for in 2018 including the Highbridge Road bridge replacement and the Liberty Avenue Traffic Signal Project totalling $942,000 with the bridge expenditure at $500,000. Finance director Keller said what they have unencumbered to spend on roads is $125,000. He said street markings could be $90,000 and water main installations at $100,000. Council also seemed committed to repaving North Main Street after it was torn up by a new waterline and storm water improvements.


Forthofer commented that is like pouring ten gallons into a one gallon bucket. He asked the mayor if there were any options for streets. Mayor Bulan replied they had applied for a grant from OPWC for the Adams Street waterline and for Hollyview but have not heard. She said they already have 80-20 grants for the bridge and signals with the city paying the 20 percent.


Service director Tony Valerius added that he spoke with Brownhelm trustee Jim Northeim and Brownhelm has received an OPWC grant for Jerusalem Road with this project at $175,000. Brownhelm said the city’s share would be $26,250 and they would cover the rest. He said the city needed to go forward with this in 2018.


The committee agreed they had no funds for elective repairs and would have to commit to North Main Street and Jerusalem Road for 2018.


Signage repair: Council-at-large Stark asked the Streets Committee to look into correcting the sign mounted on the wall behind council reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. She said allegiance is spelled wrong and needs to be corrected. She said this reflects on local government and it is embarrassing. She said they should reflect on excellence. Mayor Bulan said she has called Jim Roth to make the correction which should be done by the end of the year. She agreed with Stark it has been bothering her all these years.


Infiltration in VOL: The Utilities Committee met last and chair Barb Brady reminded everyone of the problems in Vermilion-On-The-Lake with storm water getting into the sanitary system and overflowing sewage in some streets. She advised during a heavy rain they should pop the manholes and see where the problem starts on the side streets. If they could isolate the problem they could start to figure out how to correct it. She will continue to put this item on the agenda every month.


Chair Brady also asked about the water bill fee charge which was making people unhappy. She didn’t think the city was making it clear enough about a fee charge or paying options without a fee every month. Mayor Bulan said they have clarified the language. If people pay through the city website there is a charge, but there is no charge if people sign up for AutoPay or pay through their bank. The mayor said the $3.25 charge per month was to cover the city’s cost of credit card fees so they could offer credit card payments as a convenience to residents. Finance director Keller said the city’s cost was $20,600 per year to do this.


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