By Karen Cornelius
Fire chief’s report/new station/recruitment: The Health and Safety Committee met on Monday night, April 9. Fire chief Chris Stempowski reported 23 incidents in March with a total for the year so far at 48. He said firefighters have been meeting about replacing fire station #1 and have put their heads together considering the needs of a new station and its size. They are looking at various sites and have other plans from stations under construction. The fire chief said discussion centers more on needs than wants and there is a good idea of where they are going.
Councilwoman Barb Brady asked if the replacement of the Highbridge Road bridge would change their outlook about having two stations. The chief said they have not pinned down one central station versus two separate stations, but he preferred two stations. Council-at-large Monica Stark asked if it were common for a city our size to have two different stations. The chief responded it is not uncommon and Vermilion could struggle with one station as they grow. He pointed out Vermilion has geographic obstacles. Mayor Jim Forthofer agreed and said Vermilion not only has a river, but railroad tracks, a highway, and a long, narrow city. He said knowing about the new bridge does affect the site of a new station.
The fire chief continued with his report and said firefighters were being trained concerning emergency vehicle drivers with work in the classroom done and now actual driving where people will see fire trucks riding around. There will be training with an obstacle course as well. As far as training, Vermilion was invited to attend a live control burning of a structure by Florence Township which was a great opportunity especially for new firefighters.
The chief additionally announced that the fire department now has a female firefighter, the first in 25 years. He said she is certified and passed the state exam. He talked about recruitment efforts and said he would like to host an open house and explain about the department and the pay to interested individuals. While no one can make a living on a volunteer fire department, they can make a couple of bucks. He said at the open house they would have applications available and he would report on a date at a later time. He added the current Explorer Club sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America is a good recruitment path, and two explorers have since joined the department. To join, individuals must be between 14 and 21, maintain a “C” average, and be from the Vermilion of Firelands school districts. Those interested can call the fire chief’s office, 204-2472.
The chief also reported that one firefighter was taking over the gear inventory and the cleaning and decontamination of apparel. He is also applying for grants for new turnout gear. Councilman Brian Holmes asked the chief who the new female firefighter was. The chief said her name is Courtney Kobalan and they are proud to have her and happy for her. Councilman Steve Holovacs asked if the department attends all career days at the schools for recruitment efforts to get the word out to the youth. The chief said they do attend.
Review of boards/council clerk ordinances: The Legislative Committee met after Health and Safety. They looked at two ordinances on council’s agenda receiving second readings. The first was one to repeal the section of the code on an administrative clerk of boards and commissions. The second ordinance would amend the clerk of council’s position to allow the clerk to also be the boards and commissions secretary. However, there was a city charter conflict on who could merge the position, council or the mayor. Law director Ken Stumphauzer said his interpretation was that council could not combine the two positions for the clerk because the boards and commissions was done by the mayor. There are certain things city council can and cannot do. It was decided to amend the boards and commissions ordinance to allow the clerk to fill the position as long as the mayor gives approval. The ordinance on the council clerk can be clarified that a part-time person can be hired as a backup for the clerk but must go through the certification process. This person could also be used to record the boards and commissions but must report to the mayor. The law director will rework the ordinances so they are consistent with the city charter. Councilman John Gabriel pointed out they don’t have the funds to hire a part-time assistant now, but they can create the position and the qualifications to have it on the books. Mayor Forthofer stated that he has no problem with the clerk of council covering the boards right now. The proposed amendments will go back to Legislative on May 14.
Peddlers, solicitors draft legislation: Law director Stumphauzer introduced Brenden Healy from his firm to discuss what rights city council has in updating its old ordinance on peddlers, canvassers, and solicitors. Council members had questions about the new draft legislation such as what time to limit solicitors coming to people’s doors, sunset or 8 or 9 p.m.? Healy said there is a wide range but there are court cases about curfews and 9 p.m. can be acceptable, but 7 p.m. is not in the court’s eyes. He said sunset hours are too vague and hard to enforce. He said if council wants 8 p.m. it could probably be defended.
Councilman Gabriel asked if Vermilion could have a “Do Not Knock” list instead of a long ordinances, just do a page. Healy said that would be great to do or a resident could put a sign up. He said Lakewood has a website for “No Knock” registration. He said council could favor this over the draft, but they still may want a curfew ordinance for police enforcement and public safety. Councilwoman Brady asked if the “No Knock” would pertain to government officials campaigning for election or youth selling school fundraisers. Healy said it would include everyone. However, religious visits could be challenged in court. He said they could require solicitors to get a license, register, and get a “No Knock” list from the police department. It was decided by the Legislative Committee to pass a motion to create a “Do Not Knock” policy and to also combine it with a simplified curfew ordinance. The topic will go back to Legislative in May.
Stormwater infiltration draft legislation: Legislative chair Stark said service director Tony Valerius was not present that night to discuss draft legislation on stormwater infiltration. She said the current ordinance is vague concerning sanitary infiltrated by storm water and who is responsible for the corrections, the city or the property owner. It was suggested that any private lateral causing infiltration shall be replaced by 180 days of discovery at the property owner’s expense. City engineer Chris Howard said the issue is unclear on who pays depending on location. He said the mainline is the city’s responsibility. He said the EPA usually allows 90 days to tie-in. Councilman Gabriel thought 90 days was not enough time to find a contractor. Councilwoman Brady asked who pays if the problem is at the connection of the lateral to the main. the city engineer agreed the city needs direction on where the city’s responsibility starts and ends. Brady thought it should be from the right-of-way. It was decided to have the city engineer pull some ordinances from other municipalities to see how they decide and bring back his findings at the next committee meeting.