By Karen Cornelius
Council president’s report: Council president Steve Herron called Vermilion City Council to order on Monday night, January 22. There was no correspondence, no law director’s report, no old business, and no audience participation. Herron advised the public to be careful as two sets of traffic lights were out on Liberty Avenue, near Domino’s and the West River Road intersection. He also announced a change in seating with mayor Jim Forthofer agreeing to move over to the administrative area giving council more elbow room on their platform.
Mayor/safety director’s update/grants: Mayor Forthofer reported that the city has been awarded Ohio Public Works Commission grants for Hollyview Drive between Sanford and Forestview at $412,000 and the Adams Street water main replacement at $175,000. He added that no loans were approved. He stated that the city has one year from the date of the grant award to use the money. Realizing the Streets Committee may be short discretionary funds for 2018, the grant money may still be available for early 2019 for Hollyview. He said the formal paper work wouldn’t be signed until June so in another year the city could supplement the grant for Hollyview before June of 2019.
The mayor went on to thank Vermilion Local Schools Superintendent Phil Pempin for the lead that led the city to its new finance director, Amy Hendricks. He also thanked the Municipal Finance Officers Association for their help as well as local mayors, city managers, and finance directors. He announced that he asked Larry Rush, former finance director, to step in to insure the city doesn’t face unintended surprises, and prepare a hand-off report to the new finance director as well as give the mayor an assessment of the city’s financial condition as he sees it.
Mayor Forthofer said that the city engineer contract has been signed by Chris Howard who is seamlessly integrated into daily city operations.
The mayor asked council and residents to remember that in subzero weather when we are inconvenienced by a boil alert that there is a distribution crew out of a warm bed to slosh around in a broken water main to get everyone back on line. And snow plow crews spend nights clearing our streets for us in an inhospitable climate with often worn equipment. And, they often have to report for duty at the usual time the next morning.
As far as economic development, the mayor said he has been fortunate to be invited to sit on the board of the Erie County Economic Development Corporation. He said it is an important and very successful private nonprofit organization that attracts and aids business and industry in Erie County. Vermilion’s interests will be represented with a board position.
Additionally, the mayor stated that the first meeting of the committee to develop the Main Street Beach area including the old museum structure took place two weeks ago. The committee reports to the Parks board, but he is participating in the committee as this next step in that development is of keen interest to the city in general. He said that councilman Frank Loucka is also a committee member.
Lastly, several downtown merchants have told the mayor that the Ice-A-Fair sponsored by Main Street Vermilion is the single biggest day of the year for them. He stated that if people haven’t seen the Fire and Ice performance in the evening they should go as it is really special. The event will be February 3.
Councilwoman Barb Brady asked the mayor if the grants were matching or 80-20 and if Erie County would be in charge of the projects. The mayor responded that the grants are 100 percent funded, not matching. He said the projects would go out to bid and are not under Erie County but Vermilion. Council asked the city engineer to get an estimate of how much the Hollyview section would cost to repave and how much the city might have to pay for engineering and supplementing the $412,000. Council-at-large Monica Stark asked if Hollyview would have to be done by June of 2019 or just started. The mayor said they just have to start the project. Stark asked if city council has input into the museum property development. Forthofer answered that they don;t really have a say as fundraising will be grants and private donations,not city money.
Service director’s report/traffic signal and bridge projects: Service director Tony Valerius reported that the mast arms for the traffic signal replacement project will be delivered on Tuesday, January 23, and the contractor will start erecting them along Liberty Avenue. He said this project will be in full swing again pending any significant weather.
The service director said that Mosser Construction has provided sufficient evidence to Norfolk Southern Railroad of obtaining builders risk insurance for the Highbridge Road Bridge Project. They are currently in the process of coordinating with the railroad to provide flaggers so they can begin clearing trees at the site.
Since the weather has been cooperating lately, Valerius stated that the Street Department has been out filling potholes with cold patch. They will also be making repairs to any areas that may have gotten turfed by a snow plow.
Lastly, the service director asked council to suspend the rules and pass an ordinance which is an addendum to the Memorandum of Agreement with Erie Soil and Water Conservation District to provide for an intern this summer at a cost of $2,000. Council president Herron asked what the intern would do. Valerius stated that the intern would go to every city outfall for dry weather inspections which would be storm water work. Under reading of the ordinances, council suspended the rules and adopted the intern ordinance by emergency.
Bulk garbage pickup date mix-up: Councilman Steve Holovacs said residents were told on water bills that bulk pickup would be January 10. He said, instead, bulk pickup was January 3, so the dates were a week off. He said the blame was probably 50-50 between the administration and residents, but residents were receiving letters to remove their items or be fined. Holovacs said the city should be a little softer with residents since the mix-up wasn’t their fault if the date was on the water bill. Councilwoman Brady thought the blame should go to the garbage service, Republic, who misinformed the city. It was understood that someone in the Utilities Department called the call center and was told that January 10 date. Brady thought the garbage service should have come back out due to the misunderstanding and picked up the bulk at the curbs instead of the city fining residents $150 for not removing the bunk items.
Engineer’s report/Route 6 guardrails: City engineer Chris Howard asked council to suspend the rules on an ordinance for change order #3 to pay the contractor Abraham/Miller for the Main Street Green Infrastructure Enhancement and Water Main Improvements at $35,538.23. He also asked council to suspend the rules on another ordinance to allow the Ohio Department of Transportation to install guardrail upgrades on U.S. Route 6 over Edson Creek. He said this would be no cost to the city. Under reading of the ordinances, council suspended the rules on both ordinances and adopted them by emergency.
New business/public records training: Under new business, council passed a motion supporting Gwen Fisher, certified municipal clerk, as council’s designee in attending the Certified Public Records Training on March 7 in Tallmadge, Ohio, pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code. Attendance to a three-hour mandatory training is required by the elected official or designee.
Reading city ordinances: Council gave a third and final reading to an ordinance to approve the re-subdivision plat of three sublots in the Terrace Beach Allotment for recording purposes. The service director said this is just housekeeping for the landowner for lot consolidation on Edgewater. Council adopted the ordinance by emergency. An ordinance up for a first reading was approving the resubdivision plat of Elberta Beach with two sublots for recording purposes. This was joining two lots together. The ordinance was suspended and then adopted by emergency. A first reading of an ordinance to bring the zoning map up-to-date was suspended and then adopted by emergency.
Lastly, an ordinance to authorize the mayor to accept the agreement with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for the allocation of funds for the maintenance of a marine patrol (police boat) was adopted by emergency after the rules were suspended on the first reading. Councilman John Gabriel told council members that the U.S. Coast Guard’s patrols would probably be shrinking to possibly weekends only and those responsibilities for water safety would go to the police department boat which does patrol weekdays. He said last year the patrol saved the life of someone who was drowning. He said the city should be glad to have this unit.
Council’s schedule/more committee dates: Vermilion City Council will meet again on Monday, February 5, at 7 p.m. after a Stormwater Advisory meeting at 6 p.m. All five committees will meet February 12. City offices will be closed on Monday, February 19 for President’s Day. On Monday, February 26, council will meet at 7 p.m. All meetings are held at the municipal court building on Decatur.
Councilwoman Brady asked the council president to consider breaking up the five committees meeting all in one night. She said often people hesitate to talk too long because they have to move along. Also there could be a lot more topics added to the five agendas if there were more time to consider each one. Council president Herron said he would take it under advisement for March, but said January and February had Monday holidays where they could not meet.