By Karen Cornelius
Fire chief’s report: The Health and Safety Committee met on Monday night, June 11. Vermilion fire chief Chris Stempowski reported 16 incidents in May with a total of 78 so far this year. He said flat roof repairs on fire station #1 will start Wednesday, June 13, with a dumpster in back. They have to work with the Festival of the Fish for the weekend and are trying to arrange for the dumpster to be removed by Friday. The job itself should take four or five days. He said firefighters have completed their Emergency Vehicle Training where cones were placed and drivers had to navigate around them. He said striping was applied to the heavy rescue truck so it would light up at night. When the truck was purchased it was not a regulation, now it is. He reminded everyone the Lorain County fire safety truck would be at the festival and will be used at Safety Town. The department is also preparing for the fireworks show this weekend so they are busy.
Council president Steve Herron asked the fire chief about a hydrant that was out of service near Blue Bird Beach on the northside of Liberty Avenue. He said a citizen called him and was concerned about any danger fighting fires in that area. Chief Stempowski responded that his people were able to respond and it was not the hydrant itself that was out of order but the distribution line that goes under Liberty Avenue to supply the water. He was told this line needs extensive repair and would be costly. He said they are aware of this situation and are able to start any attack on a fire with what they have. He said they can react adequately. The council president asked to send a memo to service director Tony Valerius about a possible repair to the waterline since Valerius was absent that evening. Stempowski said the key to any fire is to report it immediately to 911.
Police chief’s update/car breakins/beer drinking/union issue: Police chief Chris Hartung told council members that two part-time police patrolmen have resigned for full-time jobs elsewhere. He said they are Jason Mobley and Steve Hammersmith who were both fantastic additions to his department and he wished them well. He was sorry to see them go. He announced that Safety Town has started with Chrystal Deverick going into her 15th year as coordinator and teacher. He said she will be passing the torch on to someone else next year.
He discussed a busy month with a suicidal male firing a handgun through his roof with surrounding officers feeling under fire and rightly so. The SWAT Team was called in and fire department to block off Highbridge. He said the individual came out and was sent to the hospital for an evaluation. The following week there was an incident in Elyria where gunfire was exchanged with Vermilion officer Sean Bailey the second one entering the house behind a SWAT member who was shot. He was exchanging gun fire as a member of the Lorain County SWAT Team. He said Bailey did a remarkable job, outstanding under fire. This was the first SWAT officer shooting investigation for Vermilion. Then over the weekend another suicidal victim fired a gun in Vermilion and was taken for an evaluation and charged.
As for the recent car breakins, the police chief said there have been 61 since January of this year. He said the police have identified one suspect and have some DNA profiles that were sent to the crime lab. They are waiting for the results and will track these suspects down. he said, hopefully, there will be a resolution soon to these vehicle thefts. He added detective Steve Davis is doing a good job on the breakin investigations.
Chief Hartung also mentioned the upcoming Festival of the Fish and noted the Vermilion River will be closed down at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 15 for the fireworks. He stated that the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce has a new permit this year to allow guests to walk in the festival area with beer and other beverages. He said the chamber asked that police officers not check ID’s because they are hiring bouncers and believe the police chase away people who would purchase beverages. He said his department will monitor this situation and see how it goes. He expects no problems.
Lastly, he reported on some radio issues they were having which are concerning the police unions because officers this weekend had a hard time communicating with each other at an incident when a gun was fired. The council president asked what the unions wanted, new radios or a whole new system. The chief responded that there is no such thing as perfect radio conditions due to atmospheric issues and others. He said the repeater on Highbridge Road is fine and the base has been upgraded although it is an old system. To convert to an upgrade is expensive, the department doesn’t have the money, and it would need the help of the counties to apply for grants.
Lorain waterline connection: The Finance Committee met next with city engineer Chris Howard addressing the Lorain waterline connection Vermilion uses for emergencies. He said they are proposing a pressure reducer valve because at night Lorain’s pressure increases and Vermilion’s lines will break and impact the city water system. He said the EPA has mandated that the city drain the clearwells at the water plant for inspection so to close them down they need to connect to Lorain temporarily. He said a pressure reducer valve would cost $46,000 and would be permanent. This is something they need to install to drain the clearwells. He said it would be an underground structure, metal, about 20 feet from the connection. He said they do not have to go out to bid the project because it’s under the $50,000, but the parts to order would take twelve weeks for the vendor to get them. H said the clearwell inspection has to be done by October of this year. Council-at-large Monica Stark asked how they would pay for this. Finance director Amy Henricks said it would come out of the EPA fees fund since this is an EPA mandate. Councilman Steve Holovacs said the valve would be cheaper than all the lines that would break and have to be repaired. Councilman John Gabriel agreed and said the repairs are expensive because Vermilion has a mix of lines that are small, 6-8 inch ones.
Stormwater infiltration draft legislation: The Legislative Committee met after Finance and reviewed a draft concerning stormwater infiltration which would make it clear who is responsible when there are laterals tying into the sewer system causing stormwater to infiltrate. Those laterals have to be corrected or replaced. The owner of any home or business discharging to the city’s sanitary sewer is responsible for their sanitary lateral from the city right-of-way to the building. All newly constructed buildings that discharge to the city sanitary have to install a clean-out in their sanitary lateral at the city right-of-way. If an existing sanitary lateral is replaced or repaired within the city right-of-way, a clean-out must be installed. The owners of all buildings in the city are required at their expense to disconnect all existing roof drains from sanitary sewers within 90 days after the date of official notice to do so.
Councilwoman Barb Brady asked if there was still an issue about going onto private property to check laterals. City engineer Howard said since they are launching from the mainline they can now go onto private property to verify the leaks. Councilman Holovacs agreed this revision to the legislation clears up the responsibility on who pays to stop the infiltration problems causing flooding. The committee passed a motion to amend this code section with the revisions. The vote was unanimous with councilman Brian Holmes absent.
Building department permit fees: Mayor Jim Forthofer reported for the service director who was absent. He said they reviewed the current building department fees and found they were not inline with other communities, but equal or less than most cities. He said the residential fees and zoning fees were low and have been increased by $10. He said the permit fees have not been raised in 15 years and he submitted a new fee schedule to council members for their consideration. He said the city is losing money when compared to the hours of inspection it takes. Councilwoman Brady had questions about charging some fees for such items as replacing doors and windows. She said they want people to do this as improvements and the increases there bother her that they have to pay fees. She said she wants to know what the fees cover, not what they don’t cover. Councilman Holovacs also questioned why just replacing a door takes a permit when he has always had a door and is not adding one. Councilman Gabriel wanted to know about commercial plumbing, what if it were just changing a toilet. He wanted to know when fees kick in and when people have to shell out money for permits. Both Holovacs and Gabriel said they should wait for service director Valerius to be present to answer questions before they approve the increases. Holovacs did make a motion to accept the proposed fees and then put them back on the Legislative Committee next month for further discussion. The motion passed.
Committee schedule: The next committee meetings will take place on Monday, July 16, at 7 p.m. at the municipal complex on Decatur Street. The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee will meet on Monday, June 25, at the Devon Drive Service Center at 6:30 p.m.