Mayor’s Notes

By Mayor Jim Forthofer

Warmer weather…finally! Don’t you feel better already? Vermilion is getting ready to bloom and our snowbirds are returning. It also means we can get down to the job of making repairs and improvements to our city. All of the above are good for our beautiful town.

Ohio Gas Tax and YOU!

Last Mayor’s Notes I encouraged everyone to contact their representatives and insist that Vermilion get a piece of Governor DeWine’s proposed gas tax. Gas tax legislation passed, and we will get a share. You and I are going to wince as we pay an extra 10 percent per gallon at the pump beginning July 1st. That’s the bad news.

The good news.

We get ours! The City of Vermilion will get an estimated $270,000 a year from the State gas tax increase. It should be of some small comfort as you and I fill our tanks. A few cents of that additional dime will come home to roost in places that make a difference in our Vermilion community.

What does this tax do for ME?

$350,000 is approximately our current spendable Vermilion Streets Budget. This is after we service the debt incurred in past years to replace Sanford, Elberta, Sunnyside, Edgewater and Yorktown. The Streets Levy money is in that amount, too. $270,000 more from the State gas tax is a big addition to our available street repair dollars. The State specifies that this new gas tax revenue sent to Vermilion MUST be used for streets, street equipment and personnel.

Speaking of road improvement.

FINALLY! Vermilion Road is being replaced from Liberty to Brownhelm Station Road. Before you get upset about a couple months of detours, I can tell you that this was one of the most complained about road segments in town. Eighty percent of the cost is paid by ODOT through our Erie County Metropolitan Planning organization. The road will be closed northbound from now until approximately July 15th. The southbound lane will remain open. Warm weather will see more children outdoors. Please watch your speed in the neighborhoods used as alternate routes with lower speed limits. I’ve asked Chief Hartung to have VPD increase patrols on those streets. It will all be over soon, and you will be driving on a much improved main road.

Hallelujah! It’s about time for Hollyview Drive.

The long-suffering souls on Hollyview Drive between Sanford and Forestview will also see relief this summer. That section of Hollyview, which is barely a street anymore, will be replaced with funding from the Ohio Public Works Commission. The grant was secured by the previous administration. FYI, replacing a concrete street is almost three times as costly as replacing asphalt. That is often what delays faster action on Valleyview streets.

WOW, all those flags!

Wonder what’s up with the forest of little flags popping up? From now until the end of the year, WOW Cable will be constructing a network of fiber cable lines in preparation for offering video, internet and phone service to Vermilion. Contractors working on behalf of WOW will have identification on their trucks. Homeowners will receive notification from WOW when contractors are working in their area. If you have concerns about the identity of someone around your home call VPD. WOW construction is beginning in Edison Estates. No services will be offered to residents until construction is done everywhere. Construction should be completed by the end of the year.

Vermilion is NOT in the driver seat.

I have learned that cable companies have a sort of “right of way” when entering a community due to State legislation passed last year. Permission of the municipality is not required as long as a cable company adheres to local laws and ordinances. WOW cable has met with Service Director Valerius and me. They have met with our Tree Commission in preparation for trimming trees. They plan to be considerate of our city’s needs. But, the City has no direct say in the company’s construction schedule or locations. The Administration will keep you informed as we are informed. The City will also receive a royalty of 5% on subscriptions and advertising. Our similar contract with Spectrum yielded $173,000 for taxpayers in 2018.

Get ready for another beautiful Vermilion summer. Good things are on the way!

Vermilion Local Schools District Treasurer provides financial overview

 By Melanie Williamson

At the Monday, April 15, board of education meeting, Treasurer Justin Klingshirn provided those in attendance with a four-page overview of district finances.

In this report, it is stated that the recently passed five-year additional tax levy for safety and security will produce $301,594 annually, which is restricted to only being used for “contracting services for school resource officers (SRO), providing mental health services and counseling, providing training in safety and security practices and responses, and providing for permanent improvements to provide or enhance security.”

In looking at the district operations from 2013 to 2018, it is shown that the district ended positive in five of the six years with fiscal year 2015 being the only year ending in the negative. It is pointed out that the increase in revenue is a direct correlation to the increase in open enrollment.

The district has actively worked to reduce expenses and increase revenue through a wide range of activities including corporate partnerships, open enrollment, increased services for students, and streamlined operations. The majority of district expenses goes to salary and benefits. According to the report, 49% of the total district budget goes to salaries and19.5% goes to benefits.

There are currently 1,847 students in grades kindergarten through 12 attending one of the three schools within the district. The district preschool, which is not included in that number was moved into the elementary school last year in order to further consolidate the district as a whole.

According to the report, the district currently has a positive financial outlook. The administration and board of education continues to look at ways to improve services in a fiscally responsible way, and ways to cut expenses without directly impacting the students’ educational opportunities.

To the winner of the Vermilion-Firelands rivalry goes – The Stillman Cup

By Candace Barczyk

Andrew Stillman has been the athletic director at Vermilion since 2015. A year later, his brother, Ty, became the athletic director at Firelands. Out of the friendly rivalry between brothers was born the Stillman Cup, which is awarded to the winner of the athletic battles between the two schools at the end of each year. The cup travels with the team that won the latest contest, and Andrew said as a result of the trophy, he and Ty have been able to schedule more contests between these Vermilion rivals.

“We keep a tally of wins and losses for the year. My brother was at Oberlin first, and then went to Firelands,” said Andrew. “We started this during the 2016-17 season. During the first year, Vermilion won 5-1-2. During the second year, Vermilion won again 7-2-1. Currently, it’s close, Vermilion is winning 5-4, which I’m not happy about. This is just another thing to create a great experience for the kids.”

“We have cousins playing cousins, brothers playing brothers. There’s a lot of crossover family-wise. When the kids get together, they know each other. It adds just something a little extra.”

Andrew said he has a whiteboard in his office constantly keeping track of the rivalry. There are the more traditional sports like football, but then there is track and field. “Firelands runs at our track meet, and we keep track of the points. At track and field, we keep track of the girls’ points and the boys’ points and come up with the winner. It goes back and forth all year long.”

Until the end of the season, we will all be waiting to see if the Stillman Cup continues to sail in Vermilion or flies back to Firelands.

School board receives update on healthcare partnership, student activities

By Melanie Williamson

The Vermilion Local Schools Board of Education met for a regular meeting on Monday, February 11. All school board members were in attendance along with district Treasure Justin Klingshirn and superintendent Phil Pempin.

During the meeting, the board heard presentations from Sailorway Middle School students regarding a new recycling club that has formed, as well as students from Vermilion High School about an upcoming Leo Club conference.

Healthcare partnership

Superintendent Phil Pempin addressed the members of the board regarding the partnership being formed between the district, Mercy Regional Medical Center, and the Erie County Health Department. He provided everyone with a copy of a contract sent to them by Erie County. Pempin stated that they had just received the contract and did not have time to review it yet, but he wanted to give each of the board members a copy, so they could have time to review it as well.

Pempin went on to discuss the proposed partnership stating that it has been discussed at previous meetings and will be launching in the next moth or two. The partnership will provide a health center within the high school. This will allow students and teachers to receive medical care on the school grounds, which will provide greater access as well as reduced absenteeism. The goal is to provide a “seamless connection between healthcare organizations by creating a facility within the school.”

This partnership will include a mobile dental center and a physical training room for students receiving physical therapy or athletic training. Pempin stated that he believes this will be a great opportunity for the district and is a first step towards having a medical building on campus. He urged the school board members to review the proposed contract and call him with any questions they may have.

Treasure’s report

Treasurer Justin Klingshirn reported that so far revenue going into the general fund, food service fund, and all other funds is on par with what it has been in previous years. When looking at cash balances,there is a slight increase across several areas, but Klingshirn asserted that the increase is due to reduced spending, opposed to an actual increase in revenue. He did note that the food service fund was growing, but that money could only be used on food service, so the access was limited. In order to better utilize that fund, Klingshirn stated he will be allocating some of the money to go towards the salaries of individuals that spend a good portion of their time working within the food service program.

The board voted to approve several donations. They approved a motion to move forward with the purchase of two new buses for next school year, which is part of a multi-year process of replacing the 10 oldest busses in the district’s fleet. Finally, they approved a transfer of funds that Klingshirn explained is to cover health insurance payments that were previously paid out of different funds.

Student events

During open discussion, board president Mike Stark shared information about two events he recently attended that involved Vermilion High School students. The first event was the Tim Tebow Foundation Night to Shine, which was held at Harbortown Community Church. Stark explained that this event was a prom for those with special needs. There were 120 guests, 80 caregivers, and roughly 80 volunteers that attended.

Stark went on to say that members of both the VHS Peer Leadership program and the VHS National Honors Society volunteered helping to serve dinner. Stark stated they put in a lot of time and effort and connected well with the participants. Additionally, VHS Choral members sang at the event making it extra special with live music. Stark stated that all the students make a great impression and reflected the best.

The second event he attended was the Lorain County Regional Scholastic Art Gold Key Program. Stark stated there are roughly 30 districts represented at this event. 1500 pieces were submitted for judging and 550 were recognized. He shared that showcased gold key winners would move on to nationals in New York.

According to Stark, of the 550 art pieces recognized, 92 of them were from Vermilion students, which was the most of any district there. Additionally, 2 of the 3 films recognized were from Vermilion students. He stated that Vermilion had the most gold key winners of any district and several Vermilion students won multiple gold keys. Vermilion student Sam Dewey also won best of show for a ceramic piece he submitted.

 

 

Port Authority looks at events, budget, and needed repairs for 2019

The Vermilion Port Authority met for their first regular meeting of the 2019 season on Monday, February 4, at the South Street Boat Ramp Office. Port Operations Manager Bill Yancar entertained a motion for a Chairman and Vice Chairman for 2019. In response to that, Terry Somers nominated Randy Strauss as Chairman and Dr. Dave Miklos as Vice Chairman. Despite a suggested by Brian Carrick to table the vote until the following meeting, the board voted, and the motion was carried.

Port events

Kayak Event Coordinator of the Vermilion Port Authority Mary Hoholski reported that the Paddle Fest Poker Run will be held on June 16, 2019. Launch time begins at 9:00 am and 9:30 am and sign in starts at 8:30am. They modified the waiver this year to switch the times for launching into two different times so everyone doesn’t show up all at once. This event will not interfere with the Crazy Craft event, which is on Saturday.

She had a form letter which requests donations for the Paddle Fest Poker Run and shared they would like to make up a shirt logo which could include the compass with the paddle design. She asked if the port members would prefer putting the Vermilion Port Authority or the City of Vermilion on the logo. Port member Randy Strauss didn’t have a problem with putting the Vermilion Port Authority on the logo which includes Paddle Fest Poker Run on it. They didn’t put the year on the logo, so it can be used year after year. She stated she will bring the logo back to the members once it has been designed.

She also talked about a Vermilion River Fun Paddle event they would like to hold on the Port Appreciation Day on August 18. Following her presentation, the port members voted and approved support for the Paddle Fest Poker Run and the Vermilion River Fun Paddle.

Hoholski shared that she and Bill Yancar met with Caitlin MacBride on a fundraising event to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that would bring in a lot of publicity to the city. Yancar said it would require some manhours and there would be a modest expense. Dates of interest were September 7 or the September 21. She would like to have a small relay race with the potential route starting at the dock area and they would go around the railroad bridge and come back. This isn’t set in stone at this time. Hoholski stated she will bring additional information to the board later.

Financials

Yancar provided the port members with the November 2018 Statement of Cash from Revenue and Expense and reported that the beginning balance in Fund 214 “Vermilion Port Authority Special Revenue” was $7,721.07. The net revenue year to date was $187,983.26. At the end of November, the year to date encumbrance was $8,639.22, leaving an ending balance of $37,953.52. The year-end revenue jumped to $191,400.88, which makes the ending balance around $41,000. Port member Miklos asked if they will be in the black, and Yancar responded that there is nothing unusual, so he is thinking they will start out at around $13,000.

 

Port operations report

Yancar provided the board with his activity report as of Monday, February 4. He noted that all items are active projects. They have repairs that were approved in the 2019 budget. He said the first of the repairs will be done at Exchange as both docks need work and they must assure access for their lease customers by May 1, 2019. Port member Brian Carrick said that the floats should be under warranty, so they should talk to the flotation guy.

Secondly, they will work on Water Works Marina because it’s a simple repair. Also, a courtesy dock pedestal needs repaired at the South Street Ramp, which needs done immediately for safety. Carrick asked if the ones at McGarvey’s are powered at this time and Yancar responded no.

Yancar shared it was his position that they should start these repairs as soon as the weather changes. Port member Peter Corogin asked when they started the first payroll last year and Yancar said it was mid-April. Yancar added they have a little bit of time at Water Works for repairs due to no major issues until June. He said they increased the labor budget because they knew they had repairs, so they have $67,100 in the budget for labor.

 

The port members reviewed correspondence they received from the finance director who requested amendment of the port’s budget for 2019 to include the establishment of a contingency of at least $16,000 per year. He said Council will approve $195,000 in the Port Authority’s budget for 2019. Corogin asked how she got to the $195,000, and Yancar said the finance director is anticipating that the revenue projection should cover $195,000. He said they have changed the requisition process where they are entered in quarterly and are closed by the end of the quarter. He noted the finance director can change the budget based on what she sees in the revenue stream.

Corogin said he is against starting before April 15. Carrick said they can always decide at the March meeting. Strauss said there needs to be a list of items that must be done and how many manhours they need to get them done. Yancar said they already approved the money for these repairs. Yancar went on to say he would also like to give all the restrooms a fresh coat of paint prior to opening. He said he doesn’t know how extensive the dock repairs will be, so he would like to get ahead of things.

Strauss said if the money is in the budget and they start a couple weeks early than how would it be hurting them, especially if the repairs need to be done either way. Carrick said they just need to make sure manhours don’t eat up their budget. Yancar assured the port members that he would keep an eye on the manhours. After more discussion, the port members agreed in giving Yancar the go ahead on starting these repairs.

Strauss brought up the fact that in November 2018 they made a motion to increase transient dockage at Waterworks and McGarvey’s in 2019 and asked for an update. Yancar said they are raising dock rates to $2.00 for overnighters, but some other marinas in their off days have reduced rates at $1.50 a ft. He wanted to get the boards feelings on this. Port member Terry Sommer said he was a no on giving discounts.

 

Restroom project

Strauss provided an ADA Restroom Addition Proposal for the Vermilion Port Authority for the restroom addition to the existing facility located at 777 West River Road. Corogin said there are grant opportunities the port can utilize for this project. The grant deadlines are February 1 and August 1. The proposal came in at $30,927, and they applied for $10,000 from the Whiteman Weber Foundation and Eileen Bulan will apply for another grant. He noted the port must put forth something, and he thought maybe they could find some money through donations.

Strauss reviewed the proposal in depth and reviewed another proposal for the Vermilion Port Authority for the shower and restrooms at the Waterworks Docks in the amount of $1,350 for the existing shower and baths behind the Water Department to grind the concrete floor and apply two coats of epoxy on floor. He said they need to do this work before the people start using those restrooms. Corogin asked if there was money in the budget to work with, and Yancar responded that it depends on the long dock repairs.

 

Next meeting

The next Port Authority meeting will be Thursday, March 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the ramp office, 777 West River Road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Council members and administration discuss variety of sidewalk issues

By Melanie Williamson

When the Streets, Buildings and Grounds Committee met on Monday, February 11, their agenda included three separate issues all pertaining to sidewalks. The first of the three issues was regarding the ODOT requirements for a safe pedestrian crossing for the Route 6 overpass and the new plan to have sidewalks installed along the south side of Liberty Avenue from the Vermilion River to the overpass.

City engineer Chris Howard shared that he had reached out to ODOT to discuss what the options were for adding a sidewalk to the overpass bridge. However, there is a new bridge engineer working at ODOT now, and they were not able to meet yet. Howard asserted that he will continue working on it and will get back to council on the issue as soon as possible.

Councilwoman Barb Brady asked if they had a list of the accidents that have happened on the bridge. Police chief Chris Hartung responded that they can provide that information. Howard added that it will help their case when presenting a proposal for a pedestrian walkway.

From the audience, Don Neiding of Foxwood Drive addressed the members of council. He shared that the bridge used to have sidewalks before it was torn down and rebuilt over twenty years ago. He also asserted that the city has to have sidewalks. He specifically stated that he didn’t think it mattered if “the car wash guy didn’t want sidewalks.” He stated that as land is developed the developers and owners should be required to install sidewalks as well as extend the sewer, utilities, and streets to ensure the possibility of further development. He made reference to Avon Lake ordinances that ensure just that. “We can’t play games. Owners shouldn’t have a say…they have to have sidewalks.”

Resident Homer Taft of Edgewater Drive also addressed council stating that he was in favor of pedestrian access but had concerns due to the county study on the Route 6 corridor that suggest future changes. He stated that everyone needs to look carefully at the whole plan to ensure they were coordinating their efforts. Later in the meeting, Mayor Forthofer stated that there have been many studies done by different entities, but that they were merely suggestions and ideas. Forthofer asserted that the city has the final say on any changes or improvements.

While on the topic, Howard stated that he was concerned about council voting to extend the deadline for sidewalks along Liberty another year. He stated that he thinks that will only lead people to putting it off longer prices are only going to go up. He went on to say that he thought they should return to the original deadline of 2020 and the work with businesses that may be having trouble.

Councilwoman-at-large Monica Stark made a motion to return the deadline on the ordinance back to 2020, opposed to 2021, as originally stated. Councilman John Gabriel stated that they haven’t spoken to any of the businesses about the sidewalks, and he felt it was best to keep the extended deadline to give them a chance to plan out the expense. “My concern is for the businesses’ added expense.” After some discussion among the council members, the motion to reduce the deadline for sidewalks was voted down.

Stark then made a second motion to amend the sidewalk ordinance, so that it includes Liberty Auto Wash. When they passed the original ordinance, Liberty Auto Wash was excluded because many felt having the sidewalk dead-end there would encourage pedestrians to either walk over the bridge or attempt to cross the tracks. Stark voted no then because she felt it was unfair to require some businesses to pay for sidewalks but not others. She reiterated her opposition when making this motion.

Council president Steve Herron stated that while he originally voted for the ordinance as it was, after giving it more thought, he now agreed with Stark that Liberty Auto Wash should be included in the sidewalk program. Council members discussed if the empty lot between the car wash and the bridge would be enough of a buffer to discourage people from walking and most agreed that it was. After more discussion, council members voted to approve the amendment including Liberty Auto Wash in the businesses required to put in sidewalks along the south side of Liberty.

The second sidewalk issue discussed was brought up by Mayor Forthofer as he explained to council members his vision for improving the east side of Liberty from the overpass to Baumhart Road. He explained that the east side of Liberty has the largest amount of open property and has the greatest potential for development and new businesses, but it also displays the most inconsistency regarding zoning issues and compliance. Forthofer stated that he does not feel it inspired new business.

His proposal is to create mini-corridors to focus on improvement, so that eventually all the mini-corridors will merge together making all of East Liberty customer-friendly, visually appealing, and marketable. The first mini-corridor he proposed is the area around the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Sunnyside Road. He stated that Homeworks and the Vermilion Farm Market already have sidewalks. Whispering Shores development across the street is working on installing sidewalks, and he spoke with the owners of the new Vintage Crossing, and they are in favor of sidewalks.

Forthofer went on to say that once they have ensured sidewalks and redefined the right-of-way, they can make it easier for residents of Whispering Shores to cross Liberty for shopping and they can “start to green up the area.” The goal is to make the area more consistent with the downtown area and appealing to shoppers and businesses alike.

He closed by saying that once that intersection is done, they can choose a new intersection to focus on and keep working until they have improved all of Liberty Avenue.

Finally, council members discussed issues of sidewalk maintenance and repair throughout the residential areas. There are many streets were the sidewalks are so torn up and shifted that they pose a danger to people walking and are impassable by stroller or wheelchair.

Councilman Steve Holovacs stated that they have had ordinances on the books for years, and this comes down to an enforcement issue. He went on to say the problem comes down to the city needs to have money set aside in order to enforce the ordinance. If a property owner is given a deadline to repair or install a sidewalk and doesn’t, the appropriate course of action is for the city to do the work and then assess the property owner’s taxes. However, that requires the city having money set aside to make the repairs until they are paid back through the tax assessment.

Councilwoman Barb Brady added that there are places like Edison Estates where the sidewalks are interrupted due to undeveloped properties within the neighborhoods. Councilman Frank Loucka stated that if a development is 75% full, they are required to ensure all the sidewalks are installed, which brought the topic back to an enforcement issue.

Planning commission approves conditional use guidelines for food trucks

Councilman John Gabriel provided the members of the planning commission with guidelines for conditional use per Ordinance 2018-63 “Mobile Food Units.” He explained that council had multiple meetings to discuss the food truck legislation. He said per the ordinance, property owners will need to come before the planning commission for conditional use approval. Chapter 872.02 of the ordinance states that no person or entity shall operate of Mobile Food Unit within the City of Vermilion without a permit issued by the City. Prior to acquiring a Mobile Food Unit permit, owners of properties zoned B1, B3 or B4 must have conditional use approval from the Vermilion Planning Commission.

Therefore, the planning commission will look at different aspects of the property; parking, ingress/egress for traffic flow and safety vehicles; does property have an existing building/business for many reasons – the foremost is restroom facilities and the proper disposal of grey water waste. Empty lots or properties that do not have water, sewer, or garbage handling abilities should not be considered an adequate location. Also, would this be an extension of the properties existing business use? Properties that already sell food/beverage/alcohol and/or provide entertainment/tourism services should be given positive consideration. More heavy commercial uses should be thoroughly reviewed. Does the property meet minimum ADA requirements? Properties with a least one Handicap parking space is preferable. Also, would the use of the property create an undue disturbance to nearby residential or neighboring businesses? Some properties are in and near residential areas, impact on neighboring properties should be considered.

 

Gabriel said right now food trucks in the Harbourtown district are permitted on public spaces, which is limited to a degree because they want to make sure they don’t harm the existing restaurants that depend on the tourism business as well. He said in the commercial areas he thinks they have adequate places that have a lot of big parking lots and space; not only for their existing customer base, but they could put in another small business as a food truck is and accommodate that parking as well. He said these are some of the things the planning commission could look for when granting conditional approval. He would like to report back to council on a set of guidelines the members are comfortable with. He said the planning commission can vote on a set of guidelines and then council and the administration will know where they are coming from. He said city council will be the appeals process for anybody that comes before planning commission and gets turned away.

Planning commission member Joe Williams asked if the B3 zoning is the only district eliminated. Gabriel responded that the only district eliminated is B2 because it’s Harbourtown and they don’t have parking lots. He said it states under Chapter 872.08 Regulations. (a) Except as provided in Section (i) below, a Mobile Food Unit may only be located and operated on municipal property, property zoned B1, B3 or B4, or in the public right-of-way. (b) No Mobile Food Unit shall operate prior to 10am or after 10pm.

Williams asked how they determined the use of a food truck when the food truck is preparing the food somewhere else and dropping it off – is that catering? Gabriel replied yes, and it’s defined in the legislation. He said they allow food trucks on residential properties, but they limit the timeframes that they can be there. If somebody has a graduation party or something like that, they can have them for a day, but there are no outside sales to the public.

Planning commission member Heidi Strickler asked if the planning commission’s purpose is to only grant conditional use. Gabriel explained that the property owner will come to the planning commission to get a conditional use – this is a one-time deal. All this is saying is that the property is equipped to have food trucks.

The food truck itself separately must register and then they get a license, and they’re required to have safety inspections, etc. as defined per the ordinance. Strickler said when it comes to the appeals and the hearing; they can appeal when the building department says no, but she didn’t see the appeals process when the planning commission says no. J. Gabriel said the appeals process is already built into the planning commission rules per ordinance and anyone can appeal anything the planning commission denies to city council. The planning commission will just be dealing with the property owner. Strickler said the legislation states the mayor has the power to waive fees, and Gwen Fisher explained the intent of this is mainly for festivals and various non-profits.

Planning commission member Heather Shirley confirmed that when somebody applies for a permit, it’s the actual food truck owner that is applying. Also, she addressed background checks and Gabriel said that was stricken from the ordinance. Shirley asked if the VFD would be performing the safety inspections and the mayor said they will make sure the food trucks have all their health and safety inspections. Shirley asked if the city had any idea how many food trucks will be coming forward. Mayor Forthofer said if they grandfather in the festivals, then there should be no more than a dozen under the normal circumstances.

Gabriel said his fear has been that food trucks will hurt brick and mortar places, so they walked a thin line on trying to make food trucks go through a process much like the businesses must go through.

Williams said when the ordinance passed it eliminated the ‘Old Town Hall’ from allowing a food truck. Mayor Forthofer explained the food truck was going to be on public property for the Ice-a-Fair and it would have had to go before the parks department for approval and that board didn’t meet until a month after the event.            Gabriel explained that on public land, you’re only allowed approval once a month. Shirley asked if there was a time specified for the mobile unit if you’re within the proper zoning and meet all the requirements. Gabriel responded no mobile food unit shall operate prior to 10:00 a.m. or after 10:00 p.m. Shirley asked if the mobile food unit is required to get a new permit if they change their location. Gabriel wasn’t sure about a new permit, but the location they are going to needs conditional use approval.

After much discussion, the planning commission approved the conditional use guidelines for Mobile Food Units as submitted.

Council committees discuss several ongoing city projects with administration

By Melanie Williamson

The five city committees met on Monday, February 11. The Legislative Committee, however, had nothing on the agenda to discuss. The meeting started with the Health & Safety Committee, which included reports from Vermilion Fire Department Chief Chris Stempowski and Vermilion Police Department Chief Chris Hartung.

Health and Safety Committee

Stempowski reported that the department responded to 16 incidents in the month of January. He went on to say they maintained extra staff on Saturday, January 19, due to the snow storm to ensure faster response times should they be needed. On Wednesday, January 23, they help rescue three families from the flooding along Riverside Drive, and later in the month they participated in the MetroParks River Days event demonstrating how they perform ice rescues.

Both Stempowski and Hartung reported their departments have been working with LifeShare to ensure a seamless transition and appropriate response times. Hartung shared that he is already very impressed with Lifeshare, and he feels it is a really good situation for the city.

Hartung congratulated the fire department on their response to the flooding on Riverside Drive in January. He stated they responded admirably to the situation. He also stated that he was not happy with the first incident when potential flooding was reported. He went on to explain that the goal is always to ensure ample time to “react accordingly” notifying residents and evacuating the area before rescue efforts are needed. While sometimes the flooding happens so quickly, that is not possible, they are always evaluating their efforts to make improvements. In response to this most recent flooding, Hartung stated that he is relistening to every transmission to reevaluate what could have been done differently.

Hartung also thanked the residents for abiding by the most recent winter parking bans. He stated that he usually gets a number of calls and complaints, but this time people kept their vehicles off the roads allowing the plows to get through.

Finance Committee

Finance director Amy Hendricks updated the members of council on the Transient Accommodation and Excise Tax, which has been applied to short-term vacation rentals by Erie County. She explained that they are already registering properties and collecting taxes, so she asked them when would be the best time for the city to get involved, so the appropriate amount of what is collected comes back to the city. She was informed that April 1 would be most ideal as it is the start of the second quarter.

Vermilion resident Louis McQueen addressed the members of council regarding her feelings on the issue of vacation rentals. She stated that one of her neighbors wants to start renting out her home as an AirBNB. McQueen stated that she wants assurance that the tranquility of her neighborhood will be preserved. She went on to say that she owns over 14 acres and people already ignore property rights in rural areas cited that she has to deal with people on her property all of the time hunting, riding snowmobiles and four-wheelers, riding horses, and much more. She also stated that she thinks people come to rural areas with a party mentality. McQueen stated that she wants to keep the area an agricultural and residential, which means quiet and rural.

Councilman John Gabriel responded that the proposed legislation they were discussing will bring tax money back into town. He went on to say that the second part of legislation regarding vacation rentals is a one-page basic outline stating that the properties need to be inspected and that if they become a nuisance, the owner can lose their permit, which means they will no longer be allowed to rent out the property. McQueen shared that she provided her representative, Brian Holmes with the regulations enacted in Columbus, Ohio as well as a list of things she wants to see enacted. Holmes stated that he will share what she provided with the rest of council.

Before closing the discussion, council president Steve Herron stated that if there is a pattern of bad behavior, law enforcement needs to be notified. He went on to say that it’s hard to do anything when residents wait until the last minute and come to them with a list of issues when law enforcement knows nothing about it and there is no record of the incidents being described.

Utilities Committee

City engineer Chris Howard proposed a new idea to consider regarding the Harcourt Sanitary Sewer Laterals, which have been explored and discussed for several months. Council has been looking at moving forward with work on replacing and fixing laterals to help alleviate the overflow problems they are having in that area of Vermilion on the Lake. Howard suggested they hold off on the repairs, which will be expensive and in the mean time buy or rent some flow meters to place strategically throughout the neighborhood to monitor where the majority of the water is coming from.

The meters would be placed for data collection and then moved every couple months until they have a clear picture of how the water is flowing through the neighborhood based on all the data collected. This would allow the city to spend the money where it is most needed and will have the biggest positive impact on the problem. Council president Steve Herron asked for clarification on what flow meters are and how they work. Howard explained that they will monitor and record the amount of water and where it is coming from. It added that it is logged digitally, so they can view and monitor the results in real time.

Councilwoman Barb Brady stated that she thought it was an amazing idea adding that it was proposed once before, but no one was willing to move forward with it in the past. Councilwoman-at-large Monica Stark also supported the idea stating that it would provide a better big picture of what was going on. Councilman Steve Holovacs asked Howard if he could get pricing for them on the flow meters by the February 25 meeting, and Howard responded that he could, so the discussion will continue then.

Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee

Councilman Frank Loucka proposed that council consider legislation to require dumpster/grease cart screening. He made reference to Chez Francois as they have built a visually appealing screening to hide their dumpsters that matches their building and represents quality. He also made reference to a restaurant just East of the railroad overpass, which he did not specifically name, which has two dumpsters on the side of their building in full view, as an example of the opposite. He stated that Vermilion does not have regulations on dumpster screening, but that other surrounding communities do. He argued that keeping the dumpsters out of view shows a quality business and he believes it would allow Vermilion to be more competitive.

Councilman John Gabriel responded by first stating he thought what Loucka was suggesting was a positive thing. However, he argued that the timing is not good. He went on to say that local businesses have been hit with a wide range of extra expenses. He pointed out that in 2017, local businesses were hit with an increase in stormwater rates; in 2018, they got increases in permit fees and water rates; and now in 2019, they are being told they have to pay for sidewalks. Gabriel reiterated that he thinks the timing is wrong to proposed dumpster screening legislation because it is not fair to businesses. He added that if they are going to make special requirements for dumpsters and they are forced to pour a pad for their dumpsters, that will also increase their hard surfaces, which will increase their stormwater rates.

Councilman Steve Holovacs suggested this is something they could look at for new businesses as they move into Vermilion, opposed to already established businesses. Council clerk Gwen Fischer added that this is something Boards and Commissions is looking at for new businesses. Gabriel spoke up again stating that in the past five years, the city has only received two complaints about dumpsters and both of those were related to construction projects.

Loucka commented about the image we want for our city and added that Chez Francois is nationally known and they even have a roof on their dumpster enclosure. Councilmembers agreed to discuss it further at a future meeting.

Planning Commission asked to look at issue of medical marijuana in Vermilion

Councilman John Gabriel explained the Vermilion City Council is operating under a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana. He said the planning commission should start thinking about this issue because if medical marijuana becomes completely legal and open in Ohio; then this board will have a big decision and input as to whether it will be allowed in Vermilion and where it would be allowed through zoning.

He asked the members if they would want to create its own zoning or would they want to add it to an agricultural zoning, industrial zoning, or business district zoning. His opinion is that he wouldn’t necessarily want the growth aspect of it in any of the b-zoning. He could see it in the agricultural zoning if this body thought the community could benefit from medical marijuana; not only the cultivation but possibly the sale of it.

If it can generate tax dollars and become a medical relief for people in pain and it has positive aspects for medical purposes, then this is the conversation they would like the planning commission to have. Gabriel said they would need to figure out if they want to add it to current zoning or create a separate zoning, or if the planning commission doesn’t feel this is the proper place for the marijuana industry this will also weigh heavy in council’s decision, and it could be prohibited in basically all the city’s zoning districts.

Planning commission member Jim Chapple said the planning commission would need to look at the zoning to grow medical marijuana and the zoning to sell it. Gabriel said city council would like to get the planning commission to start thinking about this issue. He said they have six months until the moratorium expires, so it would be nice to get the members to start discussing this issue and whether they want to start action. However, council could choose to extend the moratorium again.

Planning commission member Heidi Strickler said she would like the clerk to research how other communities in the surrounding areas legislate medical marijuana. Gwen Fisher responded that she will gather information and forward it to the members and will put on the next agenda for discussion.

Mayor Forthofer asked the members to give the administration consideration of any resulting proposed legislation before decisions are made because they would need to know if they would be able to enforce this matter.

 

Vermilion High Swim Team continues to grow with help from the community

By Candace Barczyk

And then there were 14.

What began as one student looking for a swim coach has now become the Vermilion High School Swim Team, and coach Brett Dawson said the team is looking to continue the growth that will keep it swimming along in the future.

It all started with one student, Jack Rini, whose mother, Colleen, had approached Dawson about coaching her son. Dawson, who was a swimmer all four of his years at the College of Wooster, said he would take on Rini. “It was during the 2015-16 school year, and I had Jack in band. We went to the athletic director, who said we could compete.” Rini made 2nd in districts.

After one season with just Rini on the team, last season Dawson added Trinity Patton, a senior who planned to compete for the Ohio State University synchronized swimming team. Dawson said Patton had been involved in the sports for years, but actual swimming is component of the program. Dawson said Patton made it onto the Buckeyes’ B team this year, and she, too was in Dawson’s band class and reached out after hearing about Dawson. Rini was seeded second in the 100 and placed 6th overall.

This year, Dawson said he and interested parents talked to the school board, athletic director, and the superintendent, who said the team has to show it is sustainable. “They are going to look at it in a year to see if it is.” Dawson said he is encouraged by the number growing so quickly, and said now that the word is out, the program can only grow from there. Currently, the team competes as a club sport, and does all its own fundraising. The team’s major cost is for renting lanes at Mercy Recreation Center in Amherst. “It costs $4,465 to rent the pool for the season. A lot of the reason we can do what we do is because of the support of the parents and the community.”

Dawson said Vermilion is fortunate in that it already has two “feeder” teams for those in grades K-8 – the YMCA Torpedoes, which teaches swimming, and USA, which Dawson said is more about the individual swimmer. “Swimming is a sport anybody can participate in. It’s a team sport, but I always tell the students they are really swimming against their past self. The goal is not to get first place, it’s to decrease your time.”

Because Vermilion is a city on Lake Erie, Dawson said when he started in the district, he asked who was in charge of the swim team. “They said ‘What swim team?’ We want to see the team serve the kids. The more kids we have, the better, and the cheaper it is. We have kids who want to be a part of it, but they are financially disadvantaged. I tell them to come to practice and we’ll figure it out.” Practice runs Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Mercy.

The team, which has the longest season of all the winter sports, starts in early November, and, if all goes well, will run into the end of February. “We are cautiously optimistic about Jack getting a state berth.”

Dawson said he is encouraged by the community support and said the program will continue to grow from its infancy with its continued backing. Local businesses and individuals looking to support the Vermilion swim team and help the Sailors grow their program can contact him at bdawson@vermilionschools.org about making a donation.