Vermilion Fire Dept 2016 Summary

The Vermilion Fire Department had another busy year in 2016. As like in the past, we were faced with many challenges, apparatus and building improvements, equipment upgrades, personnel changes, heavy demands and requirements on training and an unexpected, yet well received audit from ISO (Insurance Services Office).

We have had audits in the past from ISO, most recently 1996 with a rating of 5/9, 2009 with a rating of 4/8b and the latest in November, 2016, with those results coming in early 2017 giving us another improved classification rating of 3/3y.
The classification of 8b to 3y remains the same (3y is equivalent to an 8b), as ISO changed their formula for grading areas farther than 1000 feet from a hydrant but within 5 road miles from a fire station within our primary and contracted jurisdiction. So the 3y is equivalent to the previous 8b classification. However, the classification rating from 4 to 3 within our jurisdiction was an improved rating, which will be beneficial to the residents and businesses within our jurisdiction for insurance premiums. This is something that the City of Vermilion and the Vermilion Fire Department can be very proud of.
Through previous audits, constant review of our responses and guidelines, mutual aid agreements and requests, training, communications, water distribution system and water availability, record keeping, departmental and officer meetings, dispatch capabilities and much more criteria, we have continued to be proactive in learning, maintaining, and even improving our ISO rating for our community.
The primary purpose of this department is to offer the most cost effective, well equipped and trained personnel to provide emergency services to our citizens. Not only having a main focus on citizen and firefighter safety, fire prevention and safety education, our department is continually training and preparing for many new roles and responsibilities, as well as public expectations of the fire service. With fire and building codes always improving and public education, fires still do occur, but the number of fires over the years have significantly decreased. Yet the fire department remains a critical component for almost any emergency situation that arises within our jurisdiction.
Not only do our incidents still include responding to reported structure, room and content, vehicle, uncontrolled and illegal burning, brush and field fires, but we also live in a community where many other factors are creating incidents that this department must be ready for. We live in a community with one of the Great Lakes, the Vermilion River, many small ponds and creeks, two major highways, two sets of railroad tracks, steep hills and ravines and many more, sometimes dangerous obstacles.
Our community also hosts a very high number of community sponsored events including festivals, fireworks, sporting and marine events and an annual triathlon, just to name a few, which all not only bring out vast numbers of people, combined with the abovementioned geographical items create logistical planning and unforeseen emergency incidents. The Vermilion Police and Fire Departments spend countless hours pre-planning for all these locations and events to not only prevent emergency incidents, but also to appropriately respond to and mitigate any emergencies with all of our resources and many more available to us through mutual aid agreements from neighboring agencies to local, state and the federal levels if necessary.
The Vermilion Police and Fire Departments, along with the EMS contracted services of NCEMS have a very good working relationship to be able to preplan, coordinate, respond to and mitigate most any incidents occurring within our jurisdictions.
We are sometimes very fortunate to live in a community that is divided in two different counties, affording us the privilege of having two different, but closely coordinated EMA agencies and directors. We also have separate contracts through both Lorain and Erie counties for HAZMAT and specialized Technical Response Teams.

Incident Responses:
There was an eighteen percent (18%) increase in our responses from 2015 to 2016 within all of our jurisdiction, including the unincorporated contractual portion of Brownhelm Township. We responded to a total of 248 incidents in 2016 compared to 203 in 2015.
According to the incidents entered into the Firehouse Software for OFIRS (Ohio fire incident reporting system), 218 incident responses occurred within the City of Vermilion Jurisdiction, 16 responses to the contractual portion of Brownhelm Township and 14 were requests for mutual aid from our neighboring departments or specialized technical rescue teams.
The breakdown of the 248 responses is as follows; 131 incident responses were handled by an “All Call” (all available personnel from both stations), 26 responses from station one only, 32 responses from station two only, the CO (carbon monoxide) team responded to 24 CO detector activations and 31 lift assist requests from NCEMS. The remaining four responses were requests for members of the LC Technical Rescue team (LCTRT) members – twice, and the LC Hazmat team members – twice.
Of the 248 incident responses, 70 were requests for lift assists and medical first responders to assist NCEMS. Of those 70, 31 were handled by the CO / lift-assist team (2-3 firefighters), station one only was requested five times, station two was requested twelve times and both stations (all available personnel) were requested twenty-two times.
The average “emergency” incident response times within the city limits was 7.5 minutes. This is the time from pager activation, responding to the station(s), donning PPE and selecting incident specific apparatus and equipment, to the first unit arriving on scene. This time includes all of our “emergency” responses, day and night combined.
The average “emergency” response time to the unincorporated contracted portion of Brownhelm Township was 10.5 minutes. The same response criteria applies as mentioned above for city limit responses. Fifteen of the sixteen responses were “emergency” responses, and the remaining one was of a non-emergency fashion as described in our protocols.
The average number of personnel responding the our incidents were as follows;
All Call – 12, Station #1 – 9, Station #2 – 6, Lift Assist team – 3, CO Team – 3, LC Technical Rescue Team (LCTRT) – 2, and LC Hazmat team members – 2.
Vermilion Fire Department requested mutual aid from neighboring departments five times throughout the year which included Vermilion Township FD – 2, Amherst FD – 2 and Huron FD – 1.
Our department (and / or specialized team members) was requested for mutual aid to neighboring jurisdictions fourteen times which included requests from; Vermilion Township FD – 2, Amherst FD – 3, South Amherst FD – 1, Lorain FD 4 (fire), 1 (hazmat), North Ridgeville FD – 1 (LCTRT members), Wellington FD – 1 (LCTRT members), Spencer Community FD – 1 (LC HAZMAT Team members).

Medical First Responses:
Our department has been running as Medical First Responders (MFR’s) for a few years now. This program is in place to assist our citizens for any additional assistance North Central EMS (NCEMS) crews may need for our community and the unincorporated contractual portion of Brownhelm Township.
The MFR’s are trained to the minimum level of Emergency Medical Responders per the definition through the Ohio Division of EMS. These individuals are governed under our medical director and MFR protocols, which include pre-hospital patient care and working only at the level of our protocols and drug license, no matter the level of their EMS certification. Some of them carry Emergency Medical technician (EMT) certifications and minimally, all of our personnel are trained to the level of Healthcare Provider, which includes adult and child CPR as well as AED and Heimlich maneuvers. Healthcare Provider is the minimum EMS training level required for employment with the Vermilion Fire Department.
This program also acts as an opportunity for our personnel to be prepared for most medical emergencies in the event of a mass casualty situation that may arise where the contracted EMS crew(s) may be overwhelmed with multiple patients or incidents. Our personnel are trained in patient stabilization and prehospital care.
NCEMS and the Vermilion Fire Department have a great working relationship and coordinate efforts to provide the best prehospital care for our community, whether it is just a lift assist, providing manpower to drive their ambulance to a hospital, provide assistance in the back of an ambulance while transporting a patient or patients, or begin prehospital care and/or patient assessment / stabilization until one of their units arrives on scene from any unforeseen delay.
Our personnel are required to keep their certifications current through refresher courses and are also required to read and understand all of our medical protocols. Most of our medical refresher courses are offered through the NCEMS training academy and usually performed in-house, enabling us to keep our personnel readily available for any incident responses.
After the initial purchase of our medical equipment, we are generally re-supplied through NCEMS for any equipment used in the field. Some equipment restocking falls under our obligation since it is our property and can be used on any incident scene we respond to, providing any medical care required by our personnel, for our personnel. Each station has one fire engine that keeps our EMS supplies on it, including an AED. Both stations one and two also have AED’s housed there. Our medical equipment is kept current, up to date and is inspected as required by the manufacturers’ recommendations and used according to our medical protocols.
It is also important to note that NCEMS provides a squad to every one of our incident responses within our jurisdiction if one is available. They will standby on all incidents in the event they are needed for our personnel or the citizens we serve. They may be requested to remain on standby, or may be authorized to leave any scene as requested per the incident commander.
Fire Prevention Bureau (FPB):
The Fire Prevention Bureau is comprised of two divisions, both the prevention bureau, which consists of six CFSI’s (Certified Fire Safety Inspectors) and the Fire Investigation Unit (FIU). The FPB completes fire safety inspections and educational sessions throughout the year while the FIU is tasked with investigating the cause and origin of any and all fires within our jurisdiction. These two entities work hand in hand to help educate not only the public, but also our own personnel on the causes and learned prevention methods of fires.
The FPB completed 58 regular inspections and 22 follow-up inspections throughout the year. All deficiencies found during regular inspections where corrected within the time allotted by the FPB inspectors. The FPB has a primary responsibility of inspecting all occupancies according to the Ohio Fire Code (OFC), and investigating the cause and origin of any fires within our jurisdiction.
Another important responsibility of the FPB is fire safety and prevention education within our community. Education is a key component of reducing the number of fires within our jurisdiction, which in turn saves lives and property.
Our FPB utilized our fire extinguisher training equipment to educate a total of 146 adults and 143 children on the proper selection and use of fire extinguishers. This education took place at several locations throughout our jurisdiction including our local schools, library, Lucy Idol Care Center, Kingston Nursing home and in-house, at our stations.
Along with the fire extinguisher training system, we also kept very busy throughout the year providing public fire safety and prevention classes to nearly 400 people, children and adults. These education opportunities took place throughout the jurisdiction at public outings such as Touch a Truck, festivals and other special events. We also attended Vermilion Elementary School classes, St. Mary school (K – 2), boy and girl scout troops, churches and day care centers as well as Safety Town, hosted by the Vermilion Police Department.
Nearly 100 hours of fire safety, prevention and inspection hours were accumulated throughout the year. It is our intent to provide the most up to date educational resources to our community to prevent injury, death or property loss, which in turn keeps insurance premiums low and provides a positive economic impact on the community.
Fire safety and prevention literature, junior firefighter hats and badges and other fun, interactive, educational and resourceful information was provided to the public at all of the abovementioned events, and is also available by contacting the Vermilion Fire Department at any time.
The CFSI’s must maintain their certifications through continuing education which is made available at many locations throughout nearby counties, across the state and is also available online.
The other division of the FPB is the FIU, which is tasked with determining the cause and origin of any fires within our jurisdiction. There are six members of our department assigned to this team, all of which are members of the Lorain County Association of Fire Investigators. The LCAFI team is available to assist other fire departments in determination of the cause and origin of fires. If our team needs additional manpower or specialized equipment, we will request assistance from this team as well as resources from the State Fire Marshal’s office or the Vermilion Police Department to assist in our investigations.
Of all the fires in or jurisdiction, the FIU followed up on their responsibilities and completed investigations regarding these incidents. We also provided personnel through mutual aid requests for investigators four times throughout the year to neighboring fire departments.

The members of this team attended as many meetings and trainings as possible throughout the year with LCAFI and also had many in-house discussions on our own investigations and investigative techniques.
Information gathered between these two divisions is shared between them and all members of the fire department for the purpose of educating the public, pre-planning specific site responses and fire safety awareness for our entire staff.
Training:
Continuous education continues to be not only a requirement for maintaining any state certifications, but also is critical for our personnel to know our own equipment, policies and procedures, personnel expectations, and the ability to know that every firefighter on the force has the exact same knowledge as their fellow firefighters.
Every certification held by our personnel requires a different, and mandatory set number of hours each year, and specific topics to be studied within that certification level. Our department provides every bit of mandatory training as possible in house, using our own personnel and equipment. Sometimes specialized training / continuing education must be obtained from specially trained instructors, which causes us to send personnel out for that con-ed. Many sites we use include; Lorain County Fire Academy, BGSU Regional Fire School, Tri-C, State Fire Academy, EHOVE, as well as many other institutions, including online training sites.
Our in house training officer works with officers and members of the department to schedule training according to needs. We often learn where we need some additional training if we purchase new equipment, haven’t used specific equipment in a while, follow the criteria set forth through the Division of EMS for specific certifications, go into seasons requiring specialized pieces of equipment or joint training sessions are offered through or with other neighboring departments.
Sometimes we are offered acquired structures, which enables us to hone our skills in real time, on real structures, making the training that much more beneficial. Last year we were very pleased to have been contacted by the Vermilion Lagoons Association, offering us the structure formerly known as the “Burley Building” located at the corner of Park Drive and Liberty Avenue before they chose to demolish it. They had offered us this structure for any training we deemed necessary and safe for all of our personnel. We spent many hours inside, outside and on top of this structure utilizing every available piece of equipment, specialized tool and apparatus gaining top-notch, hands on training.
This training opportunity was extremely well received by our personnel from the most seasoned to the newest member of the force. Training was not limited to just use of equipment. We rotated personnel through every level of command and scenario to gain the knowledge and experience necessary for every successful firefighter. Topics taught and learned at this structure included; Incident command, size-up, pre-planning, inspection and investigative techniques, self-rescue, hose deployment and advancement, wall breaching, ventilation, building construction, accountability, rehabilitation, firefighter safety, search and rescue, thermal imaging, ladder selection and placement, rapid intervention, SCBA use, proper use of all our PPE and much more.
Each of our firefighters were afforded nearly 40 hours of training through this donation and opportunity. We are very grateful for the community support we receive throughout the year, each and every year, and for this donation we cannot thank the members of the Vermilion Lagoons Association enough.
As previously mentioned, continuing education is not only mandated, but also necessary to keep our skills honed. The Vermilion Fire Department has scheduled training sessions every Monday (except city holidays) from 10 am – noon and from 7 pm – 9 pm. We also schedule training as needed any time during the week or even on weekends to strive to be the best we can be for our community. Again, this in-house training is designed to allow our personnel to acquire necessary continuing education hours for their certifications. A total of 109.3 continuing education hours was obtained by our personnel through in-house training.
We also take advantage of additional training afforded to us through neighboring departments, Lorain County Fire Chiefs’ Association, Ohio Fire Academy, BGSU Regional Fire School, EHOVE, VFIS, LCAFI, Tri-C and many more organizations and schools.
Through “train the trainer” programs we sent personnel to R.I.T. Solutions in Twinsburg for self-rescue techniques after purchasing new harnesses and bail-out bags for every firefighter to use the bail out kit for self-extrication when faced with imminent danger. A prop was designed and constructed at fire station #2 for all of our personnel to obtain the specialized training necessary for use of the kit prior to being issued. The attendees accumulated a total of 42 hours training and knowledge to be able to come back to present this course to the entire department. This is and will be ongoing training.
We also sent a member of the department to a “train the trainer” program a few years ago offered through VFIS for driver training and instruction. Firefighters originally receive drivers training in their initial fire certification classes and the training continues through this program where everyone that drives our apparatus is required to have continuing education for driving our trucks. This training includes 8 hours of classroom time with a written test requiring a minimum of 70% to pass, a road course where they are taught to be familiar with the apparatus and traffic patterns and an obstacle course where they are graded on eight different stations within a ten minute time period. They go through ongoing education for safely driving our apparatus. In 2016, our personnel accumulated a total of 40 hours of continuous drivers training hours.
Taking advantage of a grant offered to LC fire departments through LEPC (classes and instructors pay only), we sent seven of our personnel to “Blue Card Training” delivered through the Lorain County Fire Academy, which included 50 hours of online training and 36 hours of classroom training, totaling 602 hours. This course is designed for emergency personnel on any incident scene the ability and knowledge to communicate simply and effectively to mitigate the situation utilizing clear, simple and concise communications. This course is a NIMS Type IV and V, Local Qualifications for a Hazard Zone Incident Commander.
Six firefighters attended Regional Fire School in March at BGSU for a variety of classes specific to their needs totaling 84 additional continuing education hours. These classes do not only benefit those in attendance for the weekend, as they come back from school and share their learning experiences with all members of the department.
Six firefighters attended a grain bin rescue course offered by Florence Township FD in 2016 where they received 7 hours of classroom and hands on training techniques. They were also able to bring these lessons learned back to the department and share their new wealth of knowledge on operating safely and effectively in a grain bin rescue.
Members of our department belonging to specialized teams including LC Technical Rescue, LC Hazmat, LC Association of Fire Investigators and Swift Water Rescue accumulated 56 hours of team specific training in those disciplines.
Not only is training and continuing education important

for our state certifications, it is also a grading point for our ISO rating and keeps our personnel familiar with our equipment and personnel.
Buildings, grounds, apparatus and equipment:
Many pieces of equipment were upgraded in 2016 throughout the department. Some of the more significant purchases and upgrades, equipment maintenance and yearly performance tests and decommissioned equipment included the following:
Scott SCBA bottles – 13 (86 “out of service” SCBA bottles were decommissioned)
42 SCBA packs were bench tested and passed (Including RIT packs)
Pagers, Minitor VI – purchased 40 new (programmed)
1 3/4″ Mercedes-Kraken Exo attack hose – 7000′
Personnel fit testing – all passed
Breathing Air Systems – serviced, inspected and air quality tested 4 times
Station backup generators serviced, inspected and station #2 load tested
Replaced two overhead door openers at station #1
New internet cabling installed and exterior lighting replaced at station #1
R.I.T. Systems harnesses and self-rescue packs purchased for every firefighter
All ground ladders tested – all passed – new heat sensor labels installed
All fire hose was tested in-hose to NFPA standards.
Crash Recovery Software renewed – updated
NFPA Membership renewed

In 2016, we ordered 7000′ of Mercedes-Kraken-Exo 1 3/4″ attack hose for the fire trucks. We had very limited backup 1 3/4″ hose to restock the apparatus after significant hose usage after some fire calls. This new attack hose is color coded (red, yellow and blue) for the engines to simplify operations and communications between the truck operators and the fire attack crews to increase safety on the fire scenes. This is especially helpful when multiple trucks and hoses are in use at the same time.
This new hose has some special features such as being highly kink resistant, lightweight and a low friction loss. Another safety feature added to the hose was the “way out couplings”, with directional arrows stamped in the couplings to assist fire crews with finding their way out of structures when they become confused or disoriented.
Members of the Vermilion Fire Department felt these added features would increase safety to our fire personnel and improve service to our community.

We also saw a few improvements in the technology department in 2016. The largest of which was the purchase of 40 new Motorola Minitor VI pagers. These were purchased to replace a very aged and problematic fleet of Minitor V pagers, the bulk of which were originally purchased in 2006. The cost of repairs, coupled with their estimated average service life of 7 – 10 years made purchasing new pagers the more economical choice. A programming module was also obtained for programming and testing pagers in-house before incurring unnecessary service costs. This will save the department money by being able to reprogram as the need arises.
The department continues to advance itself into the future with our various computer and networking projects. Two Lenova laptops, one on Engine 84 and the other on Heavy Rescue 98 contain a program from Moditech called “Crash recovery Systems” (CRS). CRS gives us as first responders a wealth of knowledge about nearly any vehicle built after 1992. With the increasing number and complexity of electrical systems being put into vehicles now, CRS truly could be considered invaluable for firefighter and civilian safety. The program gets manually updated monthly with the most up-to-date information, including all variants available for specific models, any high voltage risks to the first responders and special instructions and precautions to take. Along with having CRS on them, the laptops will also be the first part in the next step in the departments’ implementation of Mobile Data Terminals, or MDT’s.

The fire department owns two Sensit Gold G2 4-gas monitors that allow us to both monitor ambient air quality conditions and detect the presence of specific gases. The gas monitors also include a feature that gives us the ability to zero-in on a potential source of the specified leak. Their sensors are calibrated every 30 days provided they are not exposed to their extreme limits, at which point they are inspected and calibrated, or replaced all together if found to be deficient. Vermilion Fire Department has a member that is certified to change the sensors, pump and various other components of these monitors if the need were to arise.

Many issues arose during 2016 requiring most of our apparatus to be serviced and/or inspected by a vehicle technician from Finley Fire. As the trucks age and begin to show signs of wear and tear, the vehicles begin to run into costly repairs.
2016 proved to be a costly year for repairs. Many large scale issues developed that were not able to be repaired in-house due to their complexity. Many of our trucks have newer, computerized systems on them which require special training to repair. Some of the repairs required upgrades to the particular systems or components that have become obsolete. In order to make most of these repairs, we contracted a vehicle technician to review every truck, provide detailed information regarding the necessary repairs, have any necessary parts ordered and schedule time for the trucks / components / parts to be repaired.
Minor vehicle maintenance can be done in-house, but major, intricate components must be contracted for repair either on site or at a repair facility, depending on the issue. Our Chief Engineer is tasked with maintaining and inspecting all of our apparatus and completing minor repairs / concerns if possible, and qualified. A more detailed log sheet has been created to document every single repair or inspection of our apparatus and equipment.
All of the fire engine pumps were tested in cooperation with Vermilion Township Chief and Finley Fire Equipment at the Townships’ station. All but one, our reserve engine #80 (housed at station #3) passed their pump tests. Engine 80 had a vacuum leak which would not allow it to pass the testing process. The truck has since been repaired, it is currently awaiting pump testing. This truck is still in service.

On a separate note, the age restriction ordinance for “maximum age of a newly appointed firefighter” has been rescinded, and now we are able to hire based on the ability to pass all pre-employment requirements without age restrictions. The youngest age for employment consideration is 18, and a high school graduate or equivalent.

Police Beat

 

March 13, 2017
12:25: 600 block of South Shore Court: Domestic violence complaint filed.
16:24: 4000 block of Woodlands Drive: Fraud complaint over internet purchases filed.
18:14: Niagara Road: Motor vehicle accident with no injuries.

March 14, 2017
09:45: 600 Decatur Street: Warrant served for Failure to Appear.
13:32: Edgewater Drive: Motor vehicle accident with no injuries.

March 15, 2017
18:01: 200 block of Mornington Road: Welfare check, subject taken to Mercy for evaluation.
18:56: 500 block of South Shore Court: Domestic violence complaint filed.

March 16, 2017
09:13: 600 block of South Shore Court: Harassment complaint involving neighbors.
14:17: Perry Street: Unruly juvenile complaint filed for missing subject who was later located by the train tracks and transported to Mercy for evaluation.
18:00: Telegraph Lane: Motor vehicle accident with no injuries.
21:07: Liberty Ave: Motor vehicle accident with no injuries.
22:15: Driver from the previous accident was found to have an outstanding arrest warrant from LCSO. Driver was turned over to LCSO for further disposition.

March 17, 2017
10:07: Liberty Ave: Motor vehicle accident with no injuries.
14:07: 1200 block of Sanford Street: Menacing complaint filed.
16:54: 300 block of Roxboro Road: Assist EMS with a transport.
17:05: 3800 block of Edgewater Drive: Theft complaint filed.
19:12: SR2: Motor vehicle accident with no injuries.
2340: 200 block of Aldrich Road: Juvenile complaint.

March 18, 2017
00:52: 300 block of Parkland Drive: Domestic violence complaint filed.
01:32: Nantucket Road: Truck reported left in the road. Vehicle was located and towed. Owner later advised it had run out of gas.
10:59: Amherst PD called and requested our K9 unit to assist with a traffic stop.
11:45: 5600 block of Liberty Ave: Subject reported his phone was taken while he was at a bar. The owner had an App which indicated the phone was in Mansfield and the case was turned over to detectives for follow up.
11:47: 600 block of Guilford Road: Resident reported a vehicle entry sometime overnight.
15:27: 600 block of Guilford Road: 2nd resident called regarding their vehicle being entered overnight.
18:13: 4400 block of Liberty Ave: Menacing complaint filed.
18:22: 1200 block of Sanford Street: Menacing complaint filed.

March 19, 2017
08:18: 200 block of Elberta Road: Domestic violence complaint filed.
11:52: 5600 block of Liberty Ave: Female caller advised she had been assaulted by a male last night. The suspect was interviewed and the prosecutor was sent the report for review.
16:08: 1100 block of Douglas Street: Civil complaint filed.
20:33: 1100 block of Highbridge Road: Barking dog complaint, citation issued.

Brownhelm trustees take action against violations, vote on road projects

The Brownhelm Township Board of Trsutess met for a regular meeting on Monday, March 6. The following is from the unapproved minutes of that meeting.

In correspondence, Marsha Funk, Fiscal Officer, noted that the Engineer sent the ODOT road mileage for approval, the Lorain County Emergency Management Technical Rescue Contract has been received and needs approval, and notice of a SWAC meeting on 3/29/17 at 6 pm at New Russia Township.

            Zoning inspector update: John Schmalz, Zoning Inspector, submitted 3 permits; 2 houses and 1 shed.  He spoke with a Rice Rd resident about a sign indicating the person was running a landscaping business; the sign has since been removed. He stated he will talk with the MetroPark Board about permits for the new bathrooms at the soccer fields west of Mill Hollow.

           Resident complaint: There were complaints to the trustees about Zero 9 Holsters shooting bothering businesses to the north side of the tracks off of Baumhart.  Since the ZBA did not put any restrictions on the shooting times, the township has little if any recourse.

              Brownhelm Historical Association: Marilyn Brill announced the upcoming Chili Cookoff scheduled for Saturday, March 18.  The BHA wanted to know if the trustees were interested in replacing their existing sign in the front of the school.  The trustees replied that they did not feel the sign needed replacement at this time.  The BHA also asked if the trustees would participate in a bicentennial picnic sometime in the summer.  The trustees were supportive of the picnic, but requested a date as soon as possible.

                 Sheriff’s department update: Deputy Vansant made sure that the township was receiving the sheriff’s incident reports.  He also reported the Sheriff’s Citizens Academy was coming up and that applications are due by Monday, April 3. Anyone interested can find more information on the sheriff’s website. Lastly,  Deputy Vansant reported that this was his final meeting as a community policing officer because he was being transferred to the Detective Bureau; township’s new officer will be Deputy Rodriguez.

               Zoning violations: Trustee Leimbach spoke with the prosecutor’s office about the resident on Baumhart Rd that is selling various items; this just needs to be monitored at this time as there are no definitive parameters between business and personal sales.  Another Baumhart Rd resident appears to be scraping trailers for a business; J Schmalz will speak with this resident.

Leimbach made three motions concerning zoning violations, which were all voted on and approved. The first was authorizing J Schmalz to request the prosecutor to take the next step against Lorain County Auto LLC for not obtaining the proper sign permits and to bring them into compliance with township zoning.

The second was authorizing J Schmalz, Zoning Inspector, to request the prosecutor to take action against the Tassone’s on Greystone Dr for the unpermitted detached structure.  The third was  authorizing J Schmalz, Zoning Inspector, to request the prosecutor to take action against the Diaz’s of Middle Ridge Rd for the unpermitted detached structure.

Roads: Leimbach made a motion that Brownhelm Township enter into a joint project with Florence Township on Dean Road, not to exceed $6,000 as the Township’s share per an estimate from the Lorain County Engineer.  This motion was voted on and approved by the board.

Trustee Northeim brought up the possible crack sealing for Rice Rd with the Engineer’s office, but stated that for an additional $1500, the whole road could be chip & sealed.  Leimbach made a motion to add Rice Rd to the 2017 Lorain County Chip and Seal program through the Lorain County Engineer’s office.  The motion was accepted, and Rice Road will be added to the program.

Leimbach made another motion, subject to the City of Vermilion’s approval, to add Cooper Foster Park Rd from Baumhart Rd to Claus Rd to the 2017 Lorain County Chip and Seal program through the Lorain County Engineer’s office, which was also approved.

             Pay increases: Leimbach made a motion to increase the Labor Superintendent’s hourly wage by 3%, to $24.51 effective at the beginning of the next pay period, which was approved. He then made a second motion, which was also approved to increase the Laborer pay rates by 3% with Level 1 at $14.42, Level 2 at $16.22, and Level 3 at $17.76.

Northeim made a motion to increase the Zoning Inspector’s monthly salary from $450 to $500, effective Saturday, April 1, which was voted on and approved.

Charting the Course

By: Mayor Eileen Bulan

This week I wish to explain the unavoidable need for an increase in our water rates.  It is critical that Vermilion continue these services and we must generate the necessary funds to do so.

The City of Vermilion water and sewer funds are called enterprise funds and that means that they should be self-sustaining through utility rates.  In the last two years, the City has already been forced to raise our sewer rates because of the EPA mandates.  At the same time, there have been concerns about all the water systems along the coastal communities.  The Ohio EPA has been inspecting our water plant and set out a list of improvements that must be made at our plant and to our water lines.  We have moved forward with many of these improvements and had to spend the reserves in our water fund in order to accomplish these tasks.

The City had a water rate study completed in 2012 by CT Consultants which recommended rate increases.  We thought we might be able to avoid these rate increases. It is very difficult to raise these rates for our citizens. We now realize that these rate increases cannot be avoided.  We must respond to all the EPA mandates required to keep our water plant safe and operational.

Our water plant was built in 1904.  Many of our distribution lines, especially in the older areas of the City need to be replaced. The EPA has pointed out that we must bring our system up-to-date.  At the same time, we entered into a study with the City of Huron and Erie County to look at a regional water system.   This study is on-going and a very big decision to make for our City.  City Council presently has put this very big decision on hold until we have our water intake line to Lake Erie inspected.  The EPA is telling us we may have to replace this line depending on its condition, which will be determined once we receive the inspection report.  After we receive that report, City Council will be better able to make a decision.  At the same time, we have also contacted the City of Lorain about partnering with them for water service.

 

The laws of the City are such that the Director of Public Service controls the water rates.  The water rates will be will increased by $2.00 per CCF (per hundred cubic feet), and an additional $2.00 EPA fee for all the improvements that are needed.

Unfortunately, we have no choice at this time but to raise the rates to continue this vital service.  No one likes to see a rate increase.  We all struggle with our budgets and to find ways to cut costs.  The City is no different.  The city must take in enough money to operate these services, while we will also reduce expenses to the greatest extent possible.

Please be assured that we are addressing all the issues with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and we are still producing excellent water for our citizens.  We will continue to work with the EPA to address their concerns and will continue to produce quality water for the citizens of Vermilion.

Teen charged with aggravated menacing

By: Melanie Williamson

Saturday evening, a 16-year-old girl was arrested after posting a photo of a male teen holding what looked like a real gun on Snapchat with the caption, “Did someone say mass shooting?” Another local teen saw the snapchat post and brought it to the attention of a counselor at Vermilion High School, who immediately forwarded it to the vice principal, who in turn forwarded it to the student resource officer, Brian Beckwith.

Officer Beckwith then contacted the Erie County Sheriff’s Department for jurisdictional reasons. It was the sheriff’s department that investigated the incident by going to the home of the young man in the photo. It was then determined that the gun in the photo was a BB gun, and the girl, who took and posted the photo was also at his house.

According to the report, she asserted it was just a “joke” and it was “stupid.” She was charged with aggravated menacing and taken to Erie County Detention Center. According to Ohio Revised Code, aggravated menacing is defined as knowingly causing another person to believe the offender will cause serious physical harm.

Officer Beckwith shared that from the time the post was first reported by the student to the time the sheriff’s department was involved was very short. Everyone that became aware of the situation responded quickly and appropriately. While the situation was handled quickly, Officer Beckwith stayed at the school through the musical as extra precaution and visibility.

Police Beat

March 6, 2017
14:08- 300 Block of Elberta: Narcotics complaint.
17:48- U.S.6: Minor two-vehicle accident.

March 7, 2017
15:02- 600 Block of Hazelwood: Verbal domestic complaint.
15:38- 5000 Block of Sailorway: Menacing complaint.
17:14- U.S.6: One vehicle accident involving a semi and traffic lights.
20:02- 5000 Block of Ohio: Disturbance complaint.

March 8, 2017
14:16- 4000 Block of Liberty: Property damage complaint involving a vehicle and shopping cart.
14:28- 2000 Block of Vermilion Rd.: Property damage complaint involving a vehicle and tree.
14:36- 1200 Block of Sanford: Theft complaint.
16:40- U.S. 6: Minor two-vehicle accident.
17:10- 300 Block of Devonshire: Property damage complaint involving a tree falling on a house.
17:32- Vermilion Rd.: Minor two-vehicle accident.

March 9, 2017
03:06- 1000 Block of Adams: Disorderly conduct complaint.
07:31- 1200 Block of Sanford: Juvenile complaint.

March 10, 2017
13:03- Woodridge: Passing a school bus violation.
13:18- 1200 Block of Sanford: Juvenile complaint.
16:00- 1100 Block of Douglas: Burglary.
16:52- 4600 Block of Mapleview: Verbal domestic.
17:48- 4300 Block of Liberty: Disturbance involving a verbal dispute.

March 11, 2017
14:46- 500 Block of South: Dog at large complaint. The dog was returned to the owner.
21:05- 4200 Block of Liberty: OVI arrest.

March 12, 2017
00:24- 300 Block of Erie: Theft complaint.
12:33- South/Decatur: Found bicycle.
17:52- 300 Block of Fairfax: Juvenile complaint.
18:13- 5700 Block of Liberty: Theft complaint.

Streets to be repaved

By Karen Cornelius

 

 

On Monday night, March 13, the Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee debated which streets would receive the city’s attention this year. Limited funding made choices even more difficult, but through the process of elimination a decision was finally made. The streets chosen were Birchview from Hollyview to West River, Woodside north of Liberty, and a section of Sailorway Drive.

 

 

Other streets in the running this year which did not make it for a variety of reasons were Rolling Meadows intersection with Mapleview, Hollyview, Highbridge Road, Lake, Washington, Sunnyside, and Larchmont. The Streets Committee seemed to make their spending limit circling $350,000. Hollyview was out due to the high price for paving. Lake and Washington were not in as poor condition as other streets on the lists. Highbridge Road was put off until after the replacement bridge was constructed. Putting some asphalt on Larchmont was considered a bandaid because the underlay was in terrible condition. Sunnyside was put off due to Brownhelm Township’s plan to apply for a grant to pave from the tracks south to the bridge stop.

As far as Rolling Meadows, city engineer Lynn Miggins explained to council members why that could be problematic this year. She said a Lorain County project to clean the Mapleview ditch would impact their plans. She said the deputy to the Lorain County Engineer’s Office told her this would be a special assessment project with the Brownhelm Township Trustees filing a petition to have the ditch cleaned. She said everyone in this water shed would pay for the cleaning with a portion of the ditch in the city. It would be a major project with trees, fences, sheds coming down, etc. Right now the plans are preliminary and there are no costs or start date. She said affected city residents would have to make their feelings known to Lorain County and the county commissioners would be holding public hearings. This is not a city project.

Additionally, the city engineer said Brownhelm Township has received a grant to replace a culvert on Mapleview near the intersection. Miggins explained because of these two pending projects there would have to be a lot of coordination with contractors to have the city do a paving project in that area as well. Councilman Fred Ostrander didn’t think it was fair to assess the city residents involved in the Mapleview ditch project. He said they pay taxes to Brownhelp Township and get nothing back. He said the township should pay their share. “I would vote against this,” said Ostrander. He was told city council can’t vote on a county project. It was decided due to the conflicts, that the city wouldn’t do Rolling Meadows intersection with Mapleview which was estimated at $210,344.44.

There was more debate about Sailorway and Larchmont because they weren’t on the engineer’s original list the committee was looking at in February. They were added at the request of council members to have the city engineer bring them costs. A section of Sailorway going up to a portion of Douglas in front of the new school was estimated to cost $162,328.99. The city engineer said they would grind off three inches of concrete and replace it with three inches of asphalt to improve the surface of this section. She said that would be an effective fix for that street.

The cost to improve Larchmont was estimated at $184,432.27. Council-at-large Monica Stark asked if there was some way to help Larchmont that would be less expensive and stop the tar bleeding situation. Perhaps a thin layer of asphalt to patch it. The city engineer said the street would be a complete tearout with a deep undercut removing poor soils and there was a need for new curbs and gutters. Miggins said the bleeding was too much Dura-patching.

Streets chairman Jim Forthofer thought they should be considering the original list with Birchview, Rolling Meadows, and Hollyview, not Sailorway and Larchmont. “Valley View continues to have the worst roads,” said Forthofer. Councilman Ostrander said Sailorway was cheaper per foot than Rolling Meadows and others, and experienced more traffic. Councilwoman Brady said the streets Forthofer wanted were all in Ward III and they should spread the repairs around the city, not one ward. It was pointed out that one section of Hollyview was $506,100 and the other section was $623,700 which was way out of their budget.

Council president Steve Herron agreed with Ostrander than Sailorway was worth doing this year. He said it was foolish to do Mapleview this summer and they should wait for the culvert and ditch to be done. “Everybody travels Sailorway, it’s an important avenue for the city,” said Herron. He said it’s a first impression for visitors off Route 60 and visiting sports teams. Ostrander agreed Sailorway was a gateway. Forthofer said if he were paying taxes he would disagree with Herron if he lived on Hollyview. He wondered what was more important, impressing visitors or paving roads for the residents’ benefit. Herron responded if they had the money he would repave Hollyview, but they don’t.

Councilman Frank Loucka stated that he would like to see Birchview paved this year with the engineer’s estimate at $99,790.77. He agreed Sailorway could be in the running. Councilwoman Brady said Sailorway could be used as a sample street, a model for a technique to be used down the road to save some other streets such as those in Edison Estates. She stated to diamond cut a cement street such as Sailorway could be an experiment for them. City engineer Miggins said councilman Ostrander was corect because this could be done on Sailorway because there were few potholes and no tipped slabs. However, this technique would not work in Valley View. She said Edison Estate streets could be helped with joint repairs and catch basin replacements.

Service director Tony Valerius informed council members that he and Mayor Eileen Bulan discussed with Brownhelm Township what they could do. It was said the township was going to tar and chip Cooper Foster from Claus to Baumhart and submit a grant for work on Sunnyside. He said they were meeting the trustees again on March 31. With Sunnyside off the table, councilwoman Brady suggested doing Woodside which was in ugly condition and was estimated around $83,000. Councilman Brian Holmes brought up Nicholson Drive and wished they could do a portion to reach the Lucy Idol Center. The city engineer said the problem was all the heavy construction traffic using this drive so repairs wouldn’t hold up.

From the audience, Neal Norris representing Edison Estates homeowners made another pitch for this development’s streets, and urged council to do a long-range plan so residents would know where their streets fall on the list. He thanked councilwoman Brady, the city engineer, and Tony Valerius for walking the streets with him. Brady responded fixing the catch basins and using some M&R money to seal cracks would help now and later perhaps this diamond cutting technique.

Streets chairman Forthofer proposed a motion to choose Sailorway, Birchview, and Woodside north of Liberty for their 2017 street funding choices. The motion passed unanimously.

Regional water study update

By Karen Cornelius

 
On Monday, March 13, the Utilities Committee of city council decided to table its ongoing discussion on the Regional Water Study which advised Vermilion to close its water plant and purchase water from Huron through Erie County or from Northern Ohio Rural Water or even from the city of Lorain. They voted to table any decision until there is more accurate information on the condition of the plant’s Lake Erie intake and the costs the city of Lorain might offer.

 
Mayor Eileen Bulan reported to the committee that Lorain has not determined its cost for Vermilion to purchase water from them. She said it would probably be another couple of weeks. Utilities chair Barb Brady said this decision concerning the Vermilion water plant just haunts her. “It’s a huge decision to make, and the numbers are still confusing,” said Brady. She said that finance director Brian Keller and councilman Fred Ostrander have been working on their own numbers which do not agree with the CT Consultant’s numbers. She said the elephant in the room is the plant’s intake and questions about the necessity of constructing a new one for $5 million. Before considering a new intake, a study could be required at a cost of $248,000. These figures were from CT.

 
Chair Brady stated that water plant superintendent Eugene Baker indicated that the EPA could accept putting a camera through the current intake to determine its condition. This could be enough to satisfy the EPA rather than going forward with an expensive study. Brady suggested they take the regional water study off the table and put any discussion on the back burner waiting to see what will satisfy the EPA which earlier indicated Vermilion’s intake was deficient.

 
Councilman Ostrander said the other concern is the plant’s water loss which is now quoted at 35 percent, He said this water really isn’t lost, and the city bills 65 percent. The loss is probably because of the fire department’s usage and usage in the city buildings which have no meters. It’s just not billed. He said the plant produces 1.2 million gallons per day. He was looking at 2016 real numbers and they don’t add up if the city uses the study’s numbers. Councilman Jim Forthofer wasn’t sure about the numbers either and didn’t want to risk going into a deal too quickly and closing the plant. “If we close it, we can’t go back,” said Forthofer.

 
Council president Steve Herron said the people manning the plant are doing a fantastic job working with the EPA and have had to put up with management changes in the last few years making the stress level great and working long hours. “They have served the community well. I have no problem taking regional water off the table. We have to see if our intake passes inspection and also have to see Lorain’s cost,” said Herron. “It’s taxpayer money and a difficult situation.”

 
From the audience, superintendent Baker said he has spoken to the EPA about the intake. He will have a camera take a video through the intake and give it to an engineer to evaluate and make a recommendation. He said the EPA’s response was “That’s all we can ask you to do.” Baker said if the engineer sees no problems, he can’t justify $5 million for a new intake. “Our plant is too small.” Baker said the holdup to inspect the intake is the dive team which is tied up right now. He said its Dixon Engineering that would evaluate the video. He hopes the inspection can start in May. The EPA deadline for a determination of the intake’s condition is July. Baker estimated the cost to be around $10,000.

 
Councilman Forthofer asked if there is anything else major other than the intake. Baker answered that the plant is in good shape. He has been there 30 years and knows it’s running smoothly. City engineer Lynn Miggins commented that working with the EPA is like playing good cop, bad cop on TV shows. She said it’stressful and their decisions can be unbalanced at times. You have to know who is serious and who is not about directives. She said those at the plant are doing the best job they can under the circumstances.

 
The committee unanimously passed a motion to table discussion until there is more information coming from Baker and the mayor. Councilman Forthofer stated that it is still council’s responsibility to check out all the alternatives, but not in a hurry. Superintendent Baker added that it is still critical that Vermilion upgrade its distribution system. He referred to a water rate increase so citizens could give the money to replace the antiquated distribution lines. “It’s a brave thing to do, mayor,” said Baker referring to the administration’s decision to increase the water rate.

 
From the audience, Ken Cassell asked if the EPA would wait if council put their decision on hold. Herron said first an engineer will make a determination on the intake and see if it’s substantial for the future. Cassell said back 30 years ago there was a Poggemeyer study indicating Vermilion should buy water from Lorain or Elyria. He wondered how much money has been spent at the plant since then. He advised council to pursue all the options, and not let this go on for another year or more.

March 13: City council updates

By Karen Cornelius

 
Fire chief’s report/insurance rating/Explorers/9-1-1: The Health and Safety Committee met on Monday night, March 13. Fire chief Chris Stempowski reported on 17 incidents in January and 28 in February. He said in the last seven days the department was busy with 14 calls, an average of two a day, an increase from the normal average of less than a call per day. He said some firefighters have returned from classes at the Bowling Green State University Regional Fire School receiving credits for their continuing education.

 

 

The chief announced that its Explorer Post 343 has started with advisors in place. He said this post is the only one in Lorain County and the program is through the Boy Scouts of America. He is excited this is up and running and the participants can do a lot of hands-on learning and help after fire calls. There is a limit of ten and they currently have five explorers. To join, participants have to be out of the eighth grade through 21 years old. They also have to maintain a “C” average in school work.

 
The fire chief said he has been asked about calls to 9-1-1 as some people have expressed confusion about where calls go and who responds. He said no matter where people are at, they should call 9-1-1 for emergencies, not look up direct numbers. People calling 9-1-1 from a landline either 967 or 963 will reach the Vermilion Police Department who will dispatch fire. People using a cell should call 9-1-1- and the closest tower will send the call to Lorain County or Erie County dispatch centers who will transfer the call to the Vermilion Police. If anyone needs assistance, said the chief, call 9-1-1.

 
The chief also announced in April the department will host a Drivers Training Course and will use the Vermilion Local Schools property for an obstacle course. He gave an update on fire station #2 parking lot improvements, and said there has been a pre-construction meeting with everything moving along. The station will remain open during the project.

 
Chief Stempowski additionally passed out the department’s annual report and a packet concerning a recent audit from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). He was pleased to announce the department’s classification rating improved from 4 to 3 which put Vermilion in the top six percent countrywide. He explained this rating will be beneficial to residents and businesses within the jurisdiction for insurance premiums. The rating was based on such criteria as training, equipment, response time, mutual aid agreements, water distribution system and water availability, recordkeeping, dispatch capabilities, etc. He said most insurance companies use this rating information in their decision making when writing coverage for personal or commercial property insurance.

 
Lastly, he reminded people to check or replace their smoke detectors and CO ones with the switch to Daylight Savings Time.

 
Police chief’s update/junk vehicles: Police chief Chris Hartung reported patrolman Sean Bailey has received his Field Training School certification. He said the department is down in part-time officers and he’d like to do some hiring this summer. He said to answer questions on vehicles, the department was not purchasing any new ones this year or next year. He pointed out two cars have very high mileage and their repairs are getting expensive, spending $5,100 on 809.

 
The police chief requested council amend two ordinances on the books for clarification. One concerned outdoor musical entertainment and permits. The chief said they have to clarify who sets the hours, perhaps give it to the service director. The other deals with junk cars. The chief asked council to change the verbage as some people being cited for no license plates are offended when calling their vehicles, junk, when they might see them as classic. He suggested calling these vehicles, inoperative. Service director Tony Valerius said they have issued violations calling the vehicles, noncompliant, a change from the term, junk.

 
Vermilion Road Phase I engineering proposal: The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee met after Health and Safety. City engineer Lynn Miggins explained the city has received federal money through the state of Ohio for two separate phases to repave Vermilion Road. The first phase would be from Liberty Avenue to Brownhelm Station Road to be done in 2019. The second phase would be from Brownhelm Station Road to Jerusalem Road to be complete in 2020. She said they need to prepare plans and specs for Phase One to be complete by September, 2017. She said there is $92,000 in the budget for the engineering portion of Vermilion Road. The project is 80-20 with the city paying the 20 percent. Phase I construction would be just over $1.1 million, and engineering is 10 percent of the construction cost. She expected Phase I and Phase 2 construction would total $2 million.

 
The city engineer said they have to clear the right-of-way of all encroachments and there appears to be 14 properties with encroachments, those houses on the riverside of Vermilion Road. That would include parking areas, fences, and landscaping. However, permits can be issued to allow such encroachments to occupy the easements. She said they can’t take away people’s parking. The engineer asked the committee for an ordinance to do the design engineering by September. The committee passed a motion to approve an ordinance. Councilwoman Barb Brady said this expense would eat up the budget for next year. Miggins said they could look at paving Highbridge Road in 2019 after the bridge is done. She said according to the state’s schedule, Route 6 and Route 60 could be improved in 2022 with 80-20 funding.

 
Stormwater inspection draft legislation: The Utilities Committee met after Streets. City engineer Miggins reported that council had asked for information on requiring inspections on stormwater systems such as retention ponds, swales, and underground systems. She said there is draft legislation for their consideration which would reqColey’s manuire new residential and commercial developments to submit to ongoing annual inspections and maintenance. She said the property owner would absorb the costs and provide a report each year to show any such system is working properly. There would be inspection forms, and the service director and city engineer would ensure the reports are correct.

 
Utilities chair Brady asked about penalties for those who do not comply. The engineer said council should add that to the draft. Brady also noted that the draft would allow the property owner to dedicate the storm system to the city which she thought was something the city did not want. Miggins said the owner can’t impose this on the city, but if a developer went bankrupt, for example, a lack of maintenance could pose a health problem and the city might have to take it over. Council president Steve Herron said it should be a civil penalty, not a misdemeanor one. He agreed there should be some penalty, but this seemed to be a lot of burden on people who want to build. However, if there is no penalty, there is no reason to pass this legislation. The topic will go back on the Utilities agenda for April with suggestions to come on any penalties.

 
Coley’s Manufacturing request: The Finance Committee met after Utilities. Mayor Eileen Bulan informed council members Coley’s, Inc. located near the city limits and Baumhart Road is now planning an expansion. She said the company has purchased ten acres to the west and is asking for a 75 percent tax abatement on this expansion. The mayor said ten years ago Coley’s received a 75 percent tax abatement on the original building, but this will be over. Next year the company will pay its full taxes on the building. She said the expansion would be around $1 million or $1.5 million.

 
The mayor said the tax abatement request also has to be approved by the Vermilion Local Schools and Lorain County Commissioners. She asked council to pass a resolution for Vermilion’s support and that would go to the county. “It’s a win-win situation, and good for Vermilion,” said the mayor. The Finance Committee passed a motion to prepare legislation for the new addition tax abatement.

Water rate increases & EPA fee

By Karen Cornelius

 
The Utilities Committee met on Monday night, March 13, and heard what they termed “uncomfortable news.” The administration determined it was necessary to raise water rates by $2 per ccf (100 cubic feet) plus add a new $2 monthly EPA fee for residents and a $3 fee for commercial. At first it was announced to go into effect immediately with the next monthly bill. After discussion, the new rate and fee would be on hold for one month to provide residents and council members with more detailed information on exactly where this new income would go.

 
Service director Tony Valerius was the one who informed council and the citizens that due to EPA mandates pertaining to the city’s water plant and the city’s failing distribution system, the administration has unfortunately had to raise the water rates. He said all water rates throughout the city will increase by $2 per ccf. In addition, all residential properties will be assessed a $2 EPA fee, and all commercial properties will be assessed a $3 EPA fee per month. “These new fees will help generate the funds for upgrades to the city’s water plant and distribution lines,” said Valerius.

 
The service director added that due to the fact that there was such a small carryover from 2015-2016, and because of all the unforeseen EPA mandated upgrades to the water plant, the water fund is in the red. “In order to bring that fund into the positive, the rates had to be raised,” said Valerius. To be clear, he said the current water rate is $5.32 per ccf and it will be $7.32 per unit.

 
Utilities chair Barb Brady saw a hot spot for her in the increase. She said people inside the city would be paying more than bulk customers outside the city. She said there is already an EPA fee of $4 for the sewer upgrades and each resident pays that now. But, Erie County only pays this fee once because they are bulk customers. Councilman Fred Ostrander looked at his own water bill of six units and computed that his monthly bill would go up $14 plus the new fee. “What’s the $2?” he asked. Councilman Frank Loucka also asked where this fee would go, to distribution or operations? The service director thought it would be split to both, half to repair the distribution lines. Chair Brady said this fee should be kept separate for only EPA mandates. It should not go to salaries or operating.

 
Councilman Ostrander said just the water rate increase could bring in $800,000 per year or close to $1 million based on approximately 5,000 accounts. Finance director Brian Keller said they wouldn’t be able to collect the full year. He said the fund is not doing well and there are increased costs and personnel. “We’re not covering our repairs,” said Keller. “That’s a huge increase. I’d like to see a list,” said Brady. She asked if the increase was based on real numbers or pulled out of a hat. Mayor Eileen Bulan said they have to get to that level to cover their costs. She said this increase is not up to council. There is no vote. “I don’t want to do this, but there is no choice. We’re not making any money,” said the mayor. “I can vote my unhappiness,” said Brady.

 
From the audience, Ken Cassell said the city should tell people what this $2 mandatory fee is for. “What are the EPA mandates?” asked Cassell. He advised the city to wait 30 days because the numbers didn’t seem real to him. He wondered how the rates connect with the regional water study and any decision to close the water plant and purchase water from an outside source. Brady said it looked like a 40 percent increase in rates. Ostrander speculated that if they purchase water from outside this increase would be irrelevant.

 
From the audience, water plant superintendent Eugene Baker said in the past year about $100,000 was spent to address EPA mandates and that was a good number for the coming year. He said they are on track with the EPA and have made great progress. “The EPA is happy with us so far,” said Baker. He said they are able to make these plant upgrades economically. Councilman Jim Forthofer wanted to know what EPA mandates this additional funding would cover. “We should be aware of them.” Mayor Bulan responded they can get this information. “We should be self-sustaining. The longer we put off the increase, the more general fund money that has to go into the water fund.” She added they used the 2012 rate study and did not pull numbers out of a hat. “If we wait 30 days we will just be more in the hole,” said the mayor.

 

City engineer Lynn Miggins added the new mandate is having the city replace its water mains placed in the early 1900’s. She said they are very old and the newer mains are not performing that well. This replacement will cost $300,000 to $500,000 per year. Miggins said whether the city buys water outside or not, they have to do these water main replacements. “There are too many breaks and they are a threat to our health,” said Miggins. “We face those costs.”
“No one is comfortable with it,” acknowledged the mayor. After the meeting, she and the service director agreed to hold off 30 days.