Members of the Wauseon City Council convened at 5:00 PM on Monday, August 4, with a full agenda. All members were present for the meeting, including Jeff Stiriz, who has been appointment to fill the seat left vacant by former councilor Fred Allen. Stiriz, who has previously served on Wauseon City Council, will be filling the seat for Allen’s unexpired term until December 31, 2015.
After Mayor Doug Shaw administered the Oath of Office to, Council went on to hear from David Burkholder and Matt Rychener, who were on hand to provide information on the Sara’s Garden/New Horizons Academy playground proposal.
Rychener explained that the Academy is attempting to create the first truly accessible and inclusive handicap playground in Northwest Ohio. The playground is designed to meet the needs of all students and children with special needs. Burkholder later explained that what is often considered to be handicap accessible is not and gave the example of ramps, in which children can often get up, but not back down. The motivation behind the playground is to both give students a safe place to play as well to provide an avenue for the students to gain independence and form friendships.
Rychener also gave details regarding the growth of Sara’s Garden and New Horizons. Starting with two students and four employees, the facility has grown to have 17 students and 25 employees in only a few short years and without advertisement. Rychener explained that families are re-locating from other states to be able to enroll their children as students at the academy and that 30 families were present for the Academy’s summer camp in July. Not only does this provide resources for the families and students, it also adds to the local economy as families eat and shop in local businesses as well as stay in local motels.
Playgrounds such as the one the Academy is proposing can be expensive, which is why the Academy will be using volunteers to help build the playground. This should help bring the cost of installing each pod, or section of the playground, down from $4000-$10,000 to $600-$1200.
The playground has been designed with these pods, each named with their own color and shape as well as tied to a specific piece of playground equipment, to promote learning while playing as well as to help with expenses. Pods will be installed in phases, as funds are raised, as opposed to trying to build the entire playground all at the same time. Pods included in the first phase of the plan include a slide that provides access through hills as opposed to ramps and various types of swings, including a wheelchair platform swing. Each phase of the construction plan is designed to ensure that children of all levels of functionality can use the equipment as well as to address differing needs of the students. The four pods planned for installation during Phase One of construction, including the purchase of ground materials and equipment, is estimated at $181,000.
In terms of funding, Rychener explained that the Academy is seeking funding through donations from various organizations. The Academy has secured $78,000 thus far, including a $10,000 pledge from the Fulton County Commissioners.
Councilor Shane Chamberlin inquired whether or not the project would meet the criteria for Revolving Loan Funds. Regional Planning Director David Wright explained that the project does meet the limited clientele criteria and that an income study would not be needed. Council President Heather Kost noted that a Finance Committee meeting will be scheduled to look more closely at the proposal and that council will be in touch with the Academy to let them know how Council would like to proceed.
Moving on to Committee Reports, Councilor Kathy Huner reported on behalf of the Safety and Code Committee that the committee had met and was recommending that the city designate Wood County to do commercial building permits. Those doing the permits would be Wood County employees but would be licensed by the State. Huner explained that the permits could be done more quickly through Wood County than they are currently being done. Council unanimously approved the recommendation to move forward and adopt legislation to provide for this service.
Councilor Chamberlin reported on behalf of the Park Board that the Board had called a Special Meeting to reconsider the location of the proposed new pool. The Board is recommending that the pool be built at Biddle Park, which conflicts with recommendation coming from the Building and Grounds committee to have the pool located at Reighard Park.
Councilor Rick Frey spoke for the Building and Grounds committee and reported that Steve Truax, a representative from Astro Pool Compnay, presented a proposal for a pool at Reighard Park and noted that the existing bathhouse at Reighard Park might make that park a better location.
Council’s recommendation following both reports remains unresolved as the matter was tabled until more information can be gathered to aid Council in determining which recommendation to follow. Council President Heather Kost noted that the Park Board report included additional costs that were not in the original quote, which was given as a rough quote. Councilor Kathy Huner suggested that council open the matter up to the public through some type of vote or survey so that Council would have a clear understanding of the community’s wishes on where to place the pool. The matter will remain tabled until that information, as well as other information, can be secured. Huner also expressed, however, that she would like a system for the public to weigh in on the decision to be done as soon as possible.
Moving on to department head reports, council first heard from Regional Planning Director David Wright. Wright is working with Sara’s Garden on the playground project to see if it will be possible to tap into open Revolving Loan Funds. Wright has also spoken with Pete Carr from the Tree Commission about the potential of an RLF grant but an income survey will be needed.
Wright was also very pleased to inform council that a total of 5 of the 10 project applications submitted for the Downtown Revitalization Grant had been approved for a total grant approval of $300,000. Both the Mayor and Council thanked and commended Wright for his work on securing the grant funds.
Fire Chief Rick Sluder reported to council that the department experienced 128 calls in July, which is 30 calls above the department’s normal operating load, as well as that the department had 25 calls in the first four days of August. Sluder also reported that the department did add assistance to Lucas County during their water crisis by sending water tankers into the county to provide much needed water. It was noted that all five counties surrounding Lucas County provided similar assistance but that efforts were made to not drain those counties’ own water supplies. Archbold and Lyons both assisted Wauseon in providing aid to Lucas County while other Fulton County townships refrained in order to ensure that the county would also have enough water for itself.
Police Chief Keith Torbet reported that the Wauseon Homecoming was very successful and that the department had very few incidents. Torbet also reported that the Citizens Police Academy will be starting in September and that the department is currently taking applications.
Director of Finance Jamie Giguere reported that she had distributed the July Income Tax figures and financial reports, showing revenue down 1.8%, and noted that that the city is operating within budget.
Moving on to legislative matters, the following all gained approval:
~Ordinance 2014-11, on first reading – “Amending ‘Part Thirteen – Building Code’ of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Wauseon”,
~Ordinance 2014-12, on first reading – “Authorizing a Request to the Ohio Board of Building Standards to Certify the City of Wauseon for Enforcement of the Non-Residential Ohio Building Codes with the Condition that the Wood County Building Inspection Department Exercise Enforcement Authority and Accept and Approve Plans and Specifications and Make Inspections, and Authorizing an Agreement for Such Enforcement Between the City of Wauseon and Wood County”,
~Ordinance 2014-7, on second reading – “Amending Section 14.08 of the Codified Ordinance of the City of Wauseon (define part time employee hours and full time employee hours).
In new business related to dugout pads at Biddle Park, Council President Heather Kost asked Director of Finance Jamie Giguere whether or not it would be possible to design a form that would allow people who donate funds to designate where they would like the monies spent. Giguere replied that she will create such a form.
The next meeting of the Wauseon City Council will be held on Monday, August 18, at 5:00 PM in council chambers.