Wauseon City Council Once Again Postpones Water Rate Increases

Fred Allen addressed members of the Wauseon City Council during the regularly scheduled council meeting held on March 17.  Speaking on behalf of the Utility Committee, Allen explained that the committee has found no immediate need to go forward with the planned April 1 water rate increase and that the committee was recommending that the rate increase be postponed until November 1.  The recommendation was accepted with a 5-1 vote with the nay vote being cast by Councilor Shane Chamberlin.  Chamberlin explained that his vote was due to language as he would prefer wording that cancelled instead of postponed the water rate increase.

Later in the meeting and prior to the reading of the necessary legislature to postpone the increase, Councilor Kathy Huner asked Tom McWatters III, Director of Law, to clarify council’s abilities to postpone the April 1 increase since this increase was the last one scheduled.  The original increase, she noted was only written for five years, and she wanted to clarify that council had the right to postpone that increase past that time frame.  McWatters explained that, while the rates were enacted in legislation, council still maintains the right to make changes as they determine necessary.  Director of Public Services Dennis Richardson noted that council always maintains the ability to raise or lower rates if they see need.  McWatters also explained that the actions of postponing the rate increase were consistent with previous practice and in line with precedent.

Subsequently, Ordinance 2014-3, which modifies the rate schedule for water and sewer rates for the City of Wauseon, was passed later in the meeting under emergency language and with a 5-1 vote.  The emergency language was necessary in order to have the legislative procedures completed in time to stop the rate increase from occurring on April 1 and Councilor Chamberlin remained in dissent due to language.

Also reporting to council that evening were the Tree Commission and Park Board.  Councilor Rick Frey spoke for the Tree Commission, noting that Tom Savage has reported the removal of some dead and hazardous trees, including the dead ash tree on Shoop Avenue.  The Tree Commission also has discussed the moving of trees from Richard Mull’s property to the parks and possibly into a tree nursery as well as has begun making plans for the Arbor Day presentation at the schools.  The recommendation of the Tree Commission to appoint Kim Bowles to the commission to fill the unexpired term of Don Mathews through December 31, 2016 was also accepted and later approved on unanimously.

Councilor Chamberlin reported on behalf of the Park Board that due to having a quorum at the last Park Board meeting on March 11, no recommendations were being made on behalf of the board.  Chamberlin did note that topics discussed during the meeting included trees going into Biddle Park, the Memorial Tree program, and the reservation of the South Park Gazebo for weddings.  It has been suggested that a plastic chain be put around the gazebo, marking the gazebo as reserved, as opposed to closing the park in such situations.  Chamberlin also noted that Crossroads, which has had held its Vacation Bible School at Reighard Park in prior years, is again asking to use the park.  It was also reported that several inquiries have been received regarding a pet friendly park.

Moving on to department head reports, Council first heard from Regional Planning Director David Wright.  Wright reported that the 30 day comment period for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) began on February 28, 2014.  The Executive Summary, explaining all grants and programs available, is available on the website.  Wright noted that everything in this regard appears the same as for 2013 and that the city has a good template in place and is ready to apply.  He also noted that application is still available for the Downtown Revitalization Grant if anyone has ideas for the downtown area.  The application deadline to the city office is May 24, 2014 so that the city can have the application submitted by the state’s deadline of June 20, 2014.  Wright did also comment that state funding has declined from the previous year.

Fire Chief Rick Sluder reported that the Fireman’s Association has been working with the Police Department and the Parks Department on preparing for the Fourth of July fireworks celebration for this year.  During Police Chief Keith Torbet’s report, he asked that everyone keep in mind that, as the weather improves, to keep an eye out for children on bikes and people on motorcycles.  Those out walking their dogs also need to remember to clean up after their pets.

Code Administrator Tom Hall reported that he has received the site plan for the new Urgent Care on Shoop Avenue and that the Board of Zoning Appeals has approved the variance for the Haas Door addition.

Director of Public Service Dennis Richardson reported that, based upon the environmental study, there are still some additional borings that will need done for the Linfoot Street Project.  Richardson also commented on Resolution 2014-3, which allows ODOT to conduct bridge inspections on behalf of the city.  The resolution later passed under emergency language.  Councilor Chamberlin inquired as to whether or not the lights at the Water Reclamation Plant that had been discussed in previous meetings had been replaced.  Richardson explained that he is certain that this has been taken care of because such repairs don’t require placement on the capital improvement list.  However, he did note that he has not yet confirmed completion of the task but will do so soon.

Other legislative matters addressed during the meeting other than those above included the passing on first reading of Resolution 2014-4, which authorizes the mayor to advertise for bids for the Secondary Digester Cover Replacement Project as well as to accept the lowest and best bid.  While the resolution passed on first reading, it may be re-written into emergency language by council’s next meeting to assure final passage in time to meet all necessary deadlines.

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