Committee considers legislation to regulate clandestine drug labs

By Karen Cornelius

The Legislative Committee of Vermilion City Council met on Monday night, April 10, and reviewed sample legislation from Vermilion Township on clandestine drug labs due to the concern of future illegal and dangerous meth labs coming into the area.

 
Legislative chairman Frank Loucka stated that the sample legislation came from Vermilion Township administrator Robert Kurtz, the city’s former service director. The purpose and intent of this legislation is to reduce public exposure to health risks where trained law enforcement officers have determined that hazardous chemicals from a suspected clandestine drug lab site or associated dump site may exist. Such sites may contain suspected chemicals and residue that place people, particularly children or adults of child-bearing age, at risk when exposed through inhabiting the site, now or in the future.

 
Chairman Loucka said the cost burden to clean up and test such sites is with the property owner, and the testing requirements are based on EPA recommendations for clearance levels for residual contamination. Police chief Chris Hartung commented that any lab has to be completely sealed off due to the volatile chemicals which can absorb into all the materials and even contaminate the site for the next tenant who moves in if it’s not cleaned up. Service director Tony Valerius stated that you just can’t paint over drywall, the drywall has to be removed as well as any carpeting, etc. He said it’s really down to the bare stubs and starting over to get rid of it all.

 
Councilwoman Barb Brady wondered why they need a city ordinance if there is existing law and there is a health department. Council president Steve Herron said it is important for the city to have its own restrictions so the police can get search warrants and be more aggressive to close these labs. He said he understood there were children in the suspected meth lab found on Aldrich. Service director Valerius said an ordinance would help to tell any property owner who might not be aware of a lab that he or she has to clean it up by ripping out the interior. “We need an ordinance to do that.”

 
Councilman Jim Forthofer asked chief Hartung how he has to prepare for these drug labs coming into the area. Forthofer heard from a nurse in Los Angeles that meth was sweeping the city last year, not heroin. Chief Hartung responded that these labs are dangerous because of the chemicals, the need for HazMat, and the effects they have on a person. He said while heroin depresses and slows the breathing down, methamphetamines are the opposite. “It’s like the wild, wild west where people run buck naked through glass windows,” said the chief.

 
The chief said they have discovered three such labs in Vermilion. Now the police will need more aggressive enforcement and undercover work. They will also have to adopt self-defense techniques on how to handle users. He said they will rely on the Lorain County Drug Task Force and the DEA who have deeper pockets. The chief sees this all coming in cycles, an ebb and flow, along with more societal problems such as heroin deaths and now resources. With heroin, there’s a concern about imports from Mexico and China. With meth, there’s no distribution chain. “It’s a science kit in a bathroom,” said chief Hartung.

 
Councilman Brian Holmes urged the public to say something if they see something, even if they smell something, to call the police. The Legislative Committee then passed a motion to prepare legislation and also refer it to the law director and building department. The topic will go on the May agenda of Legislative as well.

District to offer severance packages

By: Melanie Williamson

Following an executive session at the Monday, April 10, school board meeting, the board voted to offer a severance package to eligible certified and classified employees within the district. According to superintendent Phil Pempin, this decision is part of an ongoing effort to control expenses and push off the need for a new school operating levy for as long as possible.

The district recently enlisted a company called EPC to conduct a study in order to determine the possible cost savings of offering such a plan, and it was determined that it would be beneficial. Pempin stated that they had conducted a similar study several years ago and found that it was not a reasonable option at that time, but that conditions were different now.

Pempin explained that while not as common within school districts, this is a common practice in the business world. Treasurer Suzanne Wilson added that it was done in Wellington schools with successful results.

Classified and certified staffs that have been with the district for at least ten years will be eligible for this offer. All qualified employees will receive a letter with their personalized severance package proposal. There will also be an open meeting to explain the packages and what is being offered. This will also give employees the opportunity to ask questions. They will then have 45 days to decide if they want to accept it.

According to Pempin, the saving to the district will come in two ways. First, as positions are vacated, the district can determine if a replacement is needed or if the school can function sufficiently without. Secondly, for the positions that require a replacement, there will be a cost savings on hiring in a new employee.

The potential savings will depend entirely on how many employees opt for the severance package and how many new employees are hired in. However, Wilson stated that ideally two to four of the certified staff and one to two of the classified staff will accept the severance package. Wilson also stated that the severance packages will be a one-time offer and not an annual one.

Pempin shared that they did not go into executive session expecting to vote on it. However, after deciding to go forward, they wanted to allow as much time as possible to get through the process. He further stated that he felt this was a win-win situation for many. The district will save money and the employees that may be close to retirement anyway will have the option to leave early.

Council members debate 2017 funding for Streets Maintenance and Repair

By Karen Cornelius

When the Finance Committee met on Monday, April 10, to review several 2017 budget items, the bone of contention was the funding for Streets M&R (Maintenance and Repair). The budget expenses were listed at $680,000 which the administration felt were sufficient funds to be spent for street repair/paving materials including a $5,000 increase compared to actual costs in 2016.

 
However, councilwoman Barb Brady thought this amount was a cutback from other years where she said it often was $800,000. She said their problem is the city’s streets. She said they passed a levy and then decreased the forgiveness for people working out of town to fix streets. She said Streets M&R is a big part of this and they should not cutback and throw this in the face of the residents. “It’s not sufficient, hire people, purchase another Dura-Patcher. You should double M&R.” Brady asked service director Tony Valerius how he could cut funding. “Hire another guy. Get out there,” said Brady. She said with a little fixing they could extend the life of many streets. Brady asked to reinstate the amount to last year’s $846,000 which is now $680,000. She said between 2005-2009 it was $800,000. Streets chairman Jim Forthofer asked who did the M&R budget and why it was less. It was said that finance director Brian Keller and service director Valerius worked on it.

 
Finance director Keller tried to explain the glitch in funding in this account. He said due to his newness of the budgeting process, the 2016 budget for the Street M&R Fund was an exact duplicate from the 2015 budget. With that being the case, approximately $119,000 of the variance between the budget and actual costs can be explained due to loan proceeds recognized as revenue in 2015 for the purchase of two new vehicles. He said the corresponding expense was booked in vehicles and apparatus for $189,000. This created an in-and-out effect on the ledger which has a $0.00 effect on the fund balance. He said when the 2015 budget got duplicated in 2016, it took into account the loan proceeds and corresponding expense that was not going to occur. He stated that when the first loan payment of $67,000 was made in 2016 it created the appearance of being under budget by approximately $119,000 when in reality that amount should not have been budgeted for 2016.

 
Then Keller explained other factors that were reduced in Street M&R. He said snow removal materials were down in 2016 by $33,000 compared to 2015 so this line item was reduced in the 2017 budget. Traffic light maintenance was $3,600 under budget in 2016 so this line item was reduced in the 2017 budget. Also, overtime hours were down in 2016 by $9,600 compared to 2015 so this line item was reduced in the 2017 budget. He added the street foreman retired in September of 2016 and the position was filled by an internal promotion which led to a slight decrease in health insurance costs charged to Street M&R. “The 2017 budget is a reflection of accurate and up-to-date personnel costs including the 2.5 percent wage hikes in 2016 and 2017,” said Keller. “It also allows for sufficient funds to be spent for street repair/paving materials including a $5,000 increase compared to actual costs in 2016.”

 
Despite the explanation, councilwoman Brady asked about considering the history of Street M&R which she thought for 15 years was around $800,000. Council president Steve Herron disagreed and said they asked the administration to do the budget and if they can get everything done at a lesser price then that was sufficient at $680,000. He said history is not the answer for throwing more money at it. “We meet the needs to keep mildly drivable roads. I don’t think another worker is necessary,” said Herron. Mayor Eileen Bulan said they don’t have Brady’s figures and she would like to take a look because she doesn’t recall that budget was ever that high. She said they can always change the budget.

 
Councilwoman Brady responded they have revenue coming in from the forgiveness cut and they can add that to Street M&R to increase the amount. Councilman Frank Loucka agreed with Brady and said there should be no way to cut M&R with all the potholes. In Ward II alone there were guardrails to fix and oceans of places for repairs.”We should not be cutting.” Councilman Fred Ostrander also agreed to put the $800,000 back in the account. He did not think M&R should be spent for equipment, the two trucks. “We’re less because of the two trucks last year and hit this year because of the trucks.”

 
“We are collecting for roads, but the new tax isn’t collected yet,” said mayor Bulan. Finance director Keller said the reduced forgiveness additional revenue won’t be seen for three years and it all will go into the street levy fund.

 
The committee decided to put this topic back on the Finance agenda for May 8 for further discussion and to check past figures.

School Zone

By Superintendent Philip Pempin

Ever since the concept of the “baby-boomer” generation was conceived of, national media has continued to give a name each generation of Americans.  Following the baby-boomers came “millennials”, then Generation X, Y and Z.   These designations are used to research everything from purchasing habits to career choices, with marketers constantly trying to determine the best way to catch the attention of each group of buyers.

Children who are currently enrolled in our schools (ages 5 to 19) are known as Generation Z. According to research by Adobe and the New York Times, this group sees themselves as more creative and technology-savvy than past generations.  That is no surprise to those of us in the education field.

These students are the first generation of true digital natives.  They don’t remember a time before social media.  Many of our youngest students are already using smart phones and other hand-held devices on a daily basis.  The challenges of keeping this generation of learners engaged in learning are increasing every day.

A recent study by software company Adobe, and published at TheJournal.com, offered some interesting insights into how GenZ students see themselves, and how their teachers see them.

Insight 1:  GenZ students see technology and creativity as “important and intersecting aspects of their identity.  Students were most likely to define themselves as “smart” and “creative”.

Insight 2:  Students are mostly enthusiastic for the future, but more than half feel “nervous” or “unprepared” for college and careers.

Insight 3:  These students feel they learn best by “doing and creating”.  The majority of students and teachers prefer this teaching method.  Both groups want more hand-on learning experiences (lab work, creating content, etc.).  They want evolving instructional materials to enhance creativity in the classroom.

Insight 4:  Students believe that creativity will be an important skill as they enter the workforce.

Insight 5:  Both teachers and students believe that technology will be important in future careers, with 94 percent of teachers responding that their students will work in jobs that do not exist yet.

Our District Leadership Team recognizes that we are dealing with a new generation of learners.  That is why we place an ever-increasing emphasis on blended learning and personalized instruction.  Our vision is:  “Inspiring Students to be Leaders and Life-Long Learners”.  The ability to continue to learn and adapt to new technology will be extremely important to our students as they move into adulthood.

One positive to come out of this study is that a larger percentage of students say that math, science, engineering, computers and technology are their favorite subjects.  In the past those subject were viewed by some as difficult or not necessary in the real world.

As those of us in leadership roles look to the future, we know that we must constantly challenge ourselves to stay abreast of trends in the job market, and be prepared to invest in technology and staff professional development so that we can offer the best learning opportunities for our students.   In Vermilion we feel that we are moving in the right direction, and that our staff understands what they will need to do to teach each generation of new students.

 

Committees review outdoor noise, budget, and stormwater inspections

By Karen Cornelius

 

Fire chief’s report/record calls: The Health and Safety Committee met on Monday, April 10. Fire chief Chris Stempowski reported 30 calls in March with a total of 68 incidents so far this year. He said this is the second highest responses he has seen in his 11 years. The 30 calls in March resulted in some multiple calls in one day. He reported on an apartment fire on March 31.

 
He said the Vermilion Fire Department was hosting a driver training course through VFIS on April 21 and April 22 at Vermilion High School with the city service department and ODOT loaning cones for this class. He reported one truck going out for service. He also warned people about open burns with the winds and discouraged it.

 
Police chief’s update/focus on cell phones: Police chief Chris Hartung reported to Health and Safety about the department assisting Adult Probation with a suspected meth lab in the VOL area. He warned they will be seeing a lot more coming. The chief noted that Sergeant Scott Holmes attended an in-service STEP program focusing on leadership. The chief said April 10 marked his 18 years with the city. He said in the next three years the department would be losing some of its top people and there needs to be a plan in place for succession. The chief and captain James Graham attended a disciplinary seminar in Columbus and came back with some great ideas. Also, two new part-time officers were sworn in and started this week. They are Kinzie Rock and Kyle John. He added new body cameras were received with the ability to see at night.

 
The chief stated the department received a generous donation from a citizen, a FATS (firearms and tactics) simulator valued at $40,000. It will be set up on Wednesday, April 12. This is a training tool for officers.

 
The chief reported on the final appeal brief filed by former captain Reinheimer in Erie County. He said the appeal has now gone to the judge and a decision could take a three to six-month wait. Hartung said the judge could make a determination or could ask for more testimony.

 
Lastly, the chief said the department will focus on drivers using cell phones this summer because they are a distraction. He said he experienced a woman going left of center right at him using a cell phone and not paying attention.

 
Places used for entertainment/noise ordinance: The Legislative Committee met after Health and Safety to review a chapter on places used for entertainment concerning noise or loud sound. This was at the suggestion of the police chief who wanted to make sure it was the duty of the service director, not the police, to administer outdoor sound permits. No owner or operator of a commercial enterprise or place used for entertainment can set up a sound amplifying system which is audible outside the structure or building and which is used to transmit any type of music or message until an outdoor sound permit has been issued by the service director. The service director also will set the yearly fee for the permit. Nonprofits such as schools and churches will have the permit fee waived.

 
There were times suggested for places of entertainment with the permit expiring at 9 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The service director can adjust the times, for example, holiday entertainment hours. Police chief Hartung stated that the police will still do the enforcement and report to the service director. He stated that most noise enforcement comes from complaints, about 90 percent.

 
After reviewing the ordinance, the committee made no changes because it did state the reference to the administrative officer would be the director of public service.
Storage of junk vehicles and parts: The Legislative Committee also reviewed a chapter of an ordinance entitled “Storage of Junk Vehicles and Parts.” The police chief also requested this review because there was a problem from some citizens who took exception to the term “junk” when it referred to their inoperative vehicles being cited for lack of a license or unable to move under their own power. According to the police chief, some people get angry and many have a personal attachment to a vehicle. However, they can’t leave it out if it is unusable, beautiful or not. The committee decided not to change the substance of the chapter but to rename the title and take out the word “junk.” Instead, the chapter will be called “Storage of Inoperable/Noncomplaint Vehicles.”

 
Review of the 2017 city budget: The Finance Committee met after Legislative. Finance director Brian Keller answered some questions asked by council members on various aspects of the budget. One was the increase in expenses in the Finance Department. Keller said that was due to hiring back a clerk full time plus wage increases, additional training for the payroll clerk and more funds for software. There was an increase for engineering services and Keller said it was for preventative budgeting purposes in case floodplain management issues arise as in the past such as $36,113 in 2014 for floodplain management services. Another increase in Park Maintenance was due to three employees wage increases. Robbish removal costs in 2016 were $8,788 so $10,000 was budgeted this year. Maintenance of grounds actual costs in 2016 were $54,140 so $60,000 was budgeted for 2017. This is work not done by the city.

 
Councilwoman Barb Brady asked why Boards and Commissions at $25,000 was so high. Keller said he would look into it. Keller said the Park Levy Fund was lower in 2017 because they didn’t spend much money in 2016. Contracted services were $141,000 lower in 2016 compared to 2015. Land improvement was $6,000 lower in 2016 than 2015. The Fire Apparatus Fund was increased in 2017 for fire station improvements, a new command vehicle, and camera/monitoring security system. The 2017 budget was increased for the Museum Property Acquisition Fund due to survey and architecture services.

 
Water fund 2017 expenses: Finance director Keller also addressed the water fund expenses at $2,387,858.99 and why this amount was an increase in 2017. He said personnel services were increased across the fund to accommodate the 2.5 percent wage increase which also affected PERS, workers compensation, Medicare, etc. Contracted services in water treatment were about $63,000 more in 2016 than 2015. Actual 2016 costs were $96,693 and the 2017 budget is $100,000 in anticipation of services as needed. Contracted services in distribution were increased to $200,000 in 2017 for both water main breaks and to begin water distribution line repairs and replacement.

 
He said with the $1 rate increase for 2/3 of this year, they expect to bring in an additional $255,000 and $381,000 in 2018. He stated that new line item expense accounts have been created in the water fund for the $2 EPA fee and the corresponding expenses for EPA mandated items. This will be a solid tracking system for the fee.

 
Councilwoman Brady said she cringes at next year’s cost to residents at $7.26 per unit and this could be higher than buying water from other sources. “It’s expensive to do business in-house,” said Brady. She said this rate increase is higher than the Poggemeyer study and she doesn’t understand how the study could be that far off and how they justify this increase. “It’s mind-boggling to me.” Councilman Fred Ostrander agreed with Brady and said Poggemeyer’s numbers never did add up and they didn’t use the proper units to bill. He said Poggemeyer should re-evaluate the whole process of purchasing water from Huron through Erie County or rural water. There were still questions about including distribution line upgrades, etc.

 
Vermilion Road Rehab Project: The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee met after Finance. The committee at councilwoman Brady’s request asked for a review of the ordinance on the Vermilion Road Rehab Project engineering at a cost of $93,835 to be performed by KS Associates, the city’s engineering firm. Brady wanted to know what they get for $93,835 which she stated was a lot of money. She asked about drainage and assumed it was straight paving. City engineer Lynn Miggins said she gave council a total proposal back in February which includes all the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) services. She said the project is similar to West River Road with under drains for the edges but no new storm sewer pipes. She said there are 14 right-of-way encroachments which will need permits so they are not torn out. Plans have to be sent to ODOT, soil samples have to be taken, and stage two filed in September. Miggins said there is a tremendous amount of work to do and design costs are the city’s responsibility.

 
Stormwater inspection: The Utilities Committee met after Streets to review draft legislation on stormwater inspections for new construction. City engineer Miggins said at council’s request to add a penalty section to the legislation, she recommended a $500 penalty for failure to submit an annual report to the city. She said most cities require $500 to $1,000 penalties if the property owner fails to submit an inspection report. If so, the city can do the inspection and have the owner pay or put it on that person’s tax duplicate.

 
Councilwoman Brady said it’s confusing to her. She said the city doesn’t have good records and some stormwater basins haven’t been maintained and they don’t know what exists. Miggins responded that is different than this legislation which covers a need for developers to enter into an agreement and obligation to continue stormwater inspections into the future. She said this does not apply to going back to old properties. This concerns new property development.

 
The legislation will be prepared and ready for a first reading in May and a penalty clause will be established.

 
Special city council meeting: After all five committees, there was a special council meeting to address five ordinances. A second reading was given to an ordinance to hire KS Associates for additional services to be performed on the Vermilion Road Rehab Phase I Project at a cost of $93,835 for design engineering. The rules were suspended on the first reading of an ordinance to enter into an agreement with Coley’s Inc. providing a tax exemption for real property for their expansion. Council adopted this ordinance by emergency commenting on how beneficial Coley’s was for the community. A second reading was given to enter into a contract for management services for the operation of the city’s cemeteries. A second reading was given to an ordinance to enter into a contract with Brownhelm Township to provide fire protection from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 at a cost of $37,576.99. A first reading was given to an ordinance to approve current replacement pages to the Vermilion codified ordinances.

 
City council’s schedule: There will be no meetings on April 17 and April 24. Vermilion City Council will meet again on Monday, May 1. All five committees will meet on Monday, May 8. All meetings are at the Municipal Court Complex on Decatur Street.

District decides parking lot needs take preference over tennis courts

By: Melanie Williamson

Student liaison updates: The VHS computer science coding class has been working for several months now on building a website for the coffee shop that would allow teachers and students to order their drinks online to be picked up after class. This has been quite an undertaking as students described having to learn several different forms of code in order to create the website design, add color, and content.

Several students taking government classes were given the opportunity to attend the State of the State address by Governor Kasich. Some of the students that attended described the experience as “fascinating” and “really cool.” They shared that Governor Kasich was a great speaker and they were excited to hear about things that actually impacted Vermilion such as protecting Lake Erie and battling the drug epidemic.

Legislative update: House Bill 388 passed on April 6 regarding school transportation. This bill disallows people to drive a school bus if they’ve had a DUI within the previous ten years. Prior to this bill, the law stated someone could not drive a school bus if they had a DUI within the previous six years.

Senate Bill 85 is currently in discussion and would effectively expand the school voucher program providing vouchers to families making within 400% of the federal poverty line. Board member Sarah Stepp stated that this bill favors privatization and works against public education.

Science summer camps: Superintendent Phil Pempin shared that the district will be offering two summer science camps this year. Camp Invention will be open to students in kindergarten through sixth grade, and Invention project will be available for students in seventh and eighth grade. Both camps will be offered in August and will focus on science, technology, invention, art, and math through a wide range of fun activities. There are reduced rates available for students eligible for free or reduced lunches. They need at least 60 students to have the camps, and they are each being offering in part through a grant.

Treasurer report: Treasurer Suzanne Wilson shared the updated financial report with the school board. She explained that at this point in the year, the district is scheduled to be at 75% of the budget for both revenue and expenditures. She reported that for revenue, they are at 91% received due to a recent tax payment, and for expenditures, they are at 76%, which is slightly above the budgeted amount, but she believes they are still on track for the year. Board member Chris Habermehl asked if they should expect any surprises, to which Wilson responded they should not.

Taping basketball games: While it would normally be part of the consent agenda, superintendent Pempin isolated a couple expenses to discuss them further with the board before they were approved for payment. The first being the taping of basketball games. Pempin explained that the coaches want each game taped, so they can review the tapes and how they played. He went on to explain that the coaches get donations to cover the cost of taping, which is why the board has to approve the payment, but that the money is not coming out of the general fund. Board member Nancy Oates asked why they were paying for taping at all and suggested that at other schools students tape the games as part of a class. Pempin responded that the taping and editing is more labor intensive, but again, it is being paid for through donations.

Player uniform washing: Another payment on the agenda that was brought up for discussion was payment to coaches for washing the players’ uniforms. Board president Shelly Innes brought up the fact that paying to have the uniforms washed was only offered for a small handful of teams and this should be all or nothing. Pempin agreed with the statement and went on to say that paying for all the players uniforms for all the teams to be washed was not fiscally responsible. Board member Oates questioned why the players were not being held responsible for their uniforms.

After some discussion, it was determined that it was the boys basketball, boys soccer, and football teams that washed the uniforms for the players. The rest of the student athletes were expected to wash and care for their own uniforms. Both board members Oates and Stepp voiced their concern regarding the players not being held responsible for their own uniforms.

Innes suggested the possibility of approaching the athletic boosters about having all the uniforms dry cleaned at the end of the season to help keep them clean and usable for the following season. She followed this up by saying that is what the band boosters and choral boosters do for their students. Pempin agreed that could be pursued.

Board member Chris Habermehl suggested that the coaches collect and clean the uniforms after each game to maintain control over the uniforms and ensure they are clean and ready for the next game. Oates reiterated her point that doing so is not making the students take responsibility.

Pempin went back to it needs to be all or nothing, so he would talk to the athletic director about the situation and let him know he would need to address this issue with the coaches, but that the district would no longer be paying for uniform cleaning. It was strongly suggested that the coaches come up with a means of making the students responsible including consequences if they are not prepared with a clean full uniform for a game.

Agenda problems persist: Following the discussion regarding washing the uniforms, Habermehl brought up the fact that although they decided to stop the practice of paying coaches to wash uniforms, they still had to approve the payments on the agenda because it had already happened. The payment being approved was for the basketball coaches, who washed the players’ uniforms all season because this had been the common practice year after year.

According to Habermehl, the board was once again approving a payment commitment that was already done and over with. This was an issue Habermehl had raised at the March school board meeting as well. Fund raisers, supplemental contracts, and other issues are consistently added to the agenda after the fact. He insisted that it was important items be put on the agenda for approval before they are initiated and this needs to be changed.

Tennis courts: Superintendent Pempin shared with the board that the district had received three bids to resurface the tennis courts. The bids ranged from $225,000 to $231,000, which did not include the cost of excavation. Pempin stated that because of the high price, he feels they should hold off on this project, so he can pursue alternative funding. He explained that the Vermilion Parks and Recreation Board offered $5,000 per year for five years towards the project, which would amount to $25,000. Although Pempin has talked to the city about helping with the expense, he stated he would go back to talk to them again since the tennis courts are free and open for use by anyone in the community. He is also going to pursue sponsorship for the project possibly involving naming rights to help cover the cost.

Pempin shared that while he feels the tennis courts are an important asset to both the district and the community, they have to really examine what their priorities are in regards to improvement projects due to the high expense. He went on to say that the parking lots at Sailorway and the high school need attention. Sailorway specifically he described as being in very bad shape. He feels the parking lots need to take priority over the tennis courts, but stated that he is confident they will be able to find sponsors for the tennis court project.

Coleys tax abatement: Pempin presented to the board that Coleys has requested a 10-year tax abatement on a large addition they are planning for their business. He explained that their previous tax abatement will expire soon, so the district will be getting an increase in funds there. Pempin went on to say that Coleys was an asset to the community, and he felt it was important as a district to support the request. The board voted to support the approval of the Ohio Enterprise Zone status for Coleys Inc. for a period of ten years.

Selling of the old VES building: Board president Innes asked superintendent Pempin where the district was at with selling of the old VES building. Pempin explained that they were still waiting for the gas company to separate the buildings’ gas lines, which was being held up by weather. The ground behind the building was still very muddy. However, once that task is complete, they will be ready to put the building up for auction.

Main Street Vermilion shares 2016 annual report

April6Pic16mainstreet3colBy: Melanie Williamson

Main Street Vermilion Executive Director Marilou Suszko presented the Main Street Vermilion 2016 Annual Report to city council at the Monday, April 3, meeting. Main Street Vermilion, an Ohio Main Street Program, strives to preserve and promote our historic downtown commercial and residential district and improve the quality of life in the Vermilion community.

Suszko reminisced that ten years ago the streets of downtown were lined with concrete. Today, thanks to the efforts of Main Street Vermilion and their many volunteers and donors, the streets are lined with flowers, trees, and greenery. This change in aesthetic has earned a lot of attention.

According to the annual report provided by Suszko, Main Street Vermilion has four programs; Vermilion Arts Guild, Vermilion in Bloom, Bridge to Bridge, and the Lighthouse Preservation Committee. The Vermilion Arts Guild was created in 2006 to provide local artists with opportunities to display and sell their creations and provide enrichment in the community. In 2016, the Guild included 41 local artists, hosted four art shows, organized a community art show at Ritter Library, held five artist workshops, sponsored a Vermilion High School art show, and participated in other community events including Third Thursday, Fish Festival, Farmers Market, and Woollybear Festival.

Vermilion in Bloom organizes and funds beautification projects throughout the city. In 2016, Vermilion in Bloom donated 2,738 volunteer hours, purchased flowers for 156 hanging baskets and over 40 containers, bridge boxes and gardens, donated two trees to Vermilion Elementary School and two trees for the city tree lawn on Liberty Avenues, funded the painting of ten historic light posts and necessary electrical repairs, planned and funded seasonal decorations, and organized flower planting activities, flower and tree watering teams, adopt-a-garden program, Pride Day projects, hanging basket and flower removal days, and community service projects.

The Lighthouse Preservation Committee was founded in 2014 and had a monumental year in 2016, which included the purchase and installation of a fifth order replica Barbier and Fenestre Fresnel lens for the Vermilion Lighthouse, the painting of the lighthouse exterior, and publishing and distribution of the book, Lighthouse Mysteries by local author Joette McDonald, which was provided to all third-grade students at Vermilion Elementary School and St. Mary Catholic School.

Bridge to Bridge, the newest program was just initiated in 2016 in an effort to improve the aesthetic appeal of Liberty Avenue when coming in town from the East. So far, the program has accomplished creating a plan and vision, and that plan was presented to the community through a public meeting.

The Main Street Program consists of five main committees; operations, design, business enhancement, marketing, and special events. The operations committee focuses on maintaining and growing support for the organization, as well as mobilizing volunteers based on needs. The design committee includes Vermilion in Bloom, the Vermilion Lighthouse Preservation Committee, and Main Line Rail, which is the committee that maintains the rail observation platform and decorates it for the holidays.

The business enhancement committee includes the Bridge to Bridge program and organizes events such as Light up Vermilion for Shopping, Christmas in July, and Small Business Saturday. The marketing committee coordinates advertising, recruits businesses to host movies in the park, and coordinates businesses to promote collectively during events. In 2016, the marketing committee actively worked to increase Main Street’s social media presence and is working on a new website, which is scheduled to launch in spring of 2017.

As the name suggests, the special events committee plans community and fund-raising events. In 2016, Main Street Vermilion put on 12 such events including Ice-A-Fair, the Vermilion Harbour Triathlon/Duathlon, Farmers Market, and Painting in the Street. The 8th Annual Ice-A-Fair included 60 sculptures and seven demonstrations. The 9th Annual Vermilion Harbour Triathlon/Duathlon had 401 participants and 106 participants in the kids’ race. The Farmers Market held in Victory Park on Saturdays throughout the summer gets approximately 35 vendors each week. In 2016, they debuted Painting in the Street as the newest Main Street Vermilion event. Its first year attracted 28 business and individual participants.

The majority of the funding for Main Street Vermilion comes from events, which accounts for 39% of its total income, followed by donations, which accounts for 26%, and membership, which accounts for 25% of the total income. The remaining income comes from committees and grants. In 2016, Main Street had 325 members; 262 individuals and 63 businesses. As an organization, Main Street members logged 8,240 volunteer hours. During her presentation to city council, Suszko shared that she attends Main Street managers meetings throughout the year and of the 40 Main Street organizations in Ohio, she asserted that Vermilion is far above the rest in volunteer power.

Suszko also shared that this summer Main Street will have two interns, who will be working to create a downtown business inventory. Their goal is to gathering information to create a better understanding of the challenges facing the businesses and then use that information to make a difference. Additionally, Main Street is collaborating with others to provide bike racks and repair stations that will be located around town.

Property will be called Harbor View Park

WakefieldmansionThe Wakefield Mansion Restoration Committee met with DS Architecture on Wednesday, March 29, when DSA provided their preliminary assessment of the condition of the property. DSA also wanted to gather information regarding usage of the Main Street Beach area, so community service organizations such as Shore Thing and Main Street Vermilion were invited to give their input.

DSA representatives Douglas Fuller and Paul Romanic explained initial findings, which includes the original red clay roof is still the primary cover. While the roof has significant leakage problems, there is relatively little water damage inside the building. There are three possible solutions for the roof issue, but DSA asserted that whatever is going to be done needs to be done this year.

The plumbing and electrical will need complete replacement. The unusually thick concrete walls provide their own insulation, so additional insulation is not recommended. Additionally, the interior needs to breathe according to DSA. They went on to explain that it is unusual to find the use of concrete on large buildings outside of bid cities of that era. They also added that most of the original hardware on the doors and windows are still usable.

According to Fuller, the mansion is “in amazingly good condition for a historic building of its age.

They also provided an assessment of the addition, which included excavation and waterproofing was needed, all the dry wall and wooden frames needs to be removed, the roof needs to be updated, and a decision needs to be made whether the renovated plan will have separate upstairs and downstairs rooms or one large room with open access to the two levels.

During the meeting, it was also announced by Wakefield Mansion Development Committee Chairman Jon Logue and mayor Eileen Bulan that the old mansion and surrounding city-owned property will be named Harbor View Park, and it will be a signature park of Vermilion’s park properties.

Two Sailors sign letters of intent

April6Pic12baseballsigning3colTwo Sailor Baseball players signed letters of intent to further their baseball careers at Ohio division 2 colleges. Nik Barkdull will be headed to Walsh University in Canton, Ohio and Tristan Mayer will be going to Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio. Both schools are NCAA Division 2 schools and currently play in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Nik Barkdull will be a returning three-year starter entering the 2017 season. He had a 5-3 pitching record with a 1.80 ERA and 64 strikeouts. He was Honorable Mention All-Lorain County Division 2 and has 9 total career pitching wins. Nik also had a .333 batting average with 25 RBI’s.

Tristan Mayer will also be a returning three-year starter entering the 2017 season. He had a 6-0 pitching record with a .69 ERA and 54 strikeouts. Tristan was 2nd team All-Northwest District 9 and 1st Team All-Lorain County in 2016. He has 11 career pitching wins for the Sailors.

Congratulations to both of these fine young men!

The art of moving big things

lakehousepj (1)By: Rich Tarrant

Prior to our nation becoming a throwaway society folks used to save things – or at least try to save them. When someone wanted, for instance, a piece of property to construct a building, and an old building was on that property it was not a foregone conclusion that the best way to proceed would be to raze the old to make way for the new. To be fair there were very likely some financial considerations involved in such proceedings, but it would also be fair to set forth that the “willy-nilly” wrecking of a perfectly good building to acquire space for another building or project was not generally sop.

Last April (VPJ 04/2016) I wrote about a local mover named Dick Parsons and the many homes and boats that he moved in Vermilion and other towns in Northern Ohio. Dick was probably one of the last persons in the area with both the knowledge and ability to successfully move “big things” like houses from one site to another; the point being, moving buildings is not, as previously suggested, always a practical financial venture. Moreover, it’s hardly a simple task.

One of the best known buildings to have been moved during 20th century Vermilion is the Lake House / Maud-Elton Hotel. Late Vermilion historian Don Englebry wrote about it in his memoirs, “I remember when they moved the Old Maudelton Hotel down to its present location. It was really some job in those days, with none of the modern equipment it took some time but I don’t believe they even cracked any plaster in the process.  F.Y.I. the old hotel (pictured) originally occupied the southeast corner of Liberty and Main / Division streets. Currently, it’s only a shell of its old self, but the new owner has significantly rehabilitated it.

Englebry also wrote about a “small dwelling” and boat livery that once sat between the Sail Loft (now the French Restaurant) and the Waterworks. At one time it was occupied by one of the Goetz brothers (VPJ 06/13/13). He wrote that the dwelling “was moved to West River Road to the entrance of the Olympic Club. Regarding this particular structure, the precise logic regarding its move seems questionable.

Some years ago Vermilionite Shirley “Betty” Reffner (1916-2010) recorded a conversation with a Vermilion guy named Harvey Krapp (1897-1979). During that interview Mr. Krapp (among other things) told about a big house that once stood on the southwest corner of Decatur and Huron streets. It was moved south, across the railroad tracks, and placed on the west side of Decatur just one house north of South Street. The move facilitated the construction of a new brick home for Captain Parsons. Both homes were, and remain, substantial and attractive dwellings.

During the mid-1950s the Burt Hollosy family lived in a mid-sized house near the corner of Ferry and Washington streets. When the Ritter Library was to be built Vermilionite Melba Knott-Gorbach (later Walker) purchased the home and had it moved to the lake bank behind the Great Lakes Maritime Museum and also the house now known as the Gilchrist House Bed and Breakfast. The new site could not have been sweeter.

As has been said, moving a building is hardly a simple task. One of the last big homes in town that was moved was situated on the north side Liberty Avenue between Washington and Perry Streets. It was a nice home of significant size – 2-stories with an attic. The house was picked up and being transported to a site on Cemetery Road south of town. While it did eventually arrive at its new site the journey was fraught with mishaps.

As time goes by things change; people, places and things come and they go. I often wonder while driving through town if my parents and grandparents would even recognize the place. I doubt it. And I doubt that a hundred years from now that Vermilion will resemble the Vermilion we know today.

Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at: rnt@twc.com