City offices to be reconfigured

Matt Echelberry

February 27, 2014

The Feb. 25 Galion City Council meeting lasted one hour and fifteen minutes. That’s short compared to past meetings.

A big announcement came during the mayor’s comments. Tom O’Leary said city officials have been meeting lately to discuss space utilization in city offices. Some offices may be moved between the City Building and the Utility Office for greater efficiency.

In particular, there may be changes with the Auditor’s Office, the Building and Zoning Department and the Law Director’s office. They also want to convert the Utility Office into a Business Office that will handle all billing and payments for the city, a one stop shop for payment transactions; building security will be an additional priority. The city hopes to be done with the changes by mid-year.

“If you see things going out the front door, it’s not being repossessed,” Council President Carl Watt joked.

O’Leary also announced that Galion City Schools transferred the necessary land for the Hesby Drive project to move forward. The project plans should be done by the end of the week. He noted there was about 700 feet of sidewalk added into the plans that will wrap around the east side of the High School parking lot to connect with an existing sidewalk.

There needs to be an improvement plan for the Big Four Depot, if the city is to receive a portion of an available $200,000 grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission. The city could also apply for other matching grants, funding through local foundations and use local government dollars to maximize the investment. Another planning meeting is to be held next month to hash out details on the scope and budget of the renovation.

The city’s Revolving Loan Fund has a balance of about $900,000. Because the state does not want the city to sit on that much money in the fund, O’Leary said they are working on plans to utilize it more. Local businesses can apply for a low-interest loan to cover the costs of expansion or renovation. Additional options the city may consider using the money for include eliminating blighted areas and street paving.

Lastly, the mayor explained ODOT has a program where it could pick up costs of inspecting city bridges, such as the ones that span the Olentangy River on Jefferson, Gill, Market and Columbus. The mayor referred this to the Parks and Streets Committee, so that Council can consider participation in the program.

In legislation, Ord. 2014-23 was an agreement with Connect America, LLC, for medical alarm equipment and monitoring services. This company owns the MedAlert devices seen on TV commercials (they feature the “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” line).

Council member Jon Kleinknecht recalled that the law director had some questions about the contract. “I checked with him and he is now okay with [the contract]. Kleinknecht motioned to suspend the rules to pass it as an emergency.

Council member Susan Bean said the contract mentions a membership database maintained by Connect America that is accessible by the city. “What kind of records does that involve? I don’t want the city having privacy information it doesn’t need to have access to,” she asked. In particular, she was concerned about credit card and other financial information.

Fire Chief Phil Jackson stated that information such as name, address and the nature of the emergency is routinely transferred amongst different entities, but HIPA guidelines must be followed in regards to medical information. The Fire Department and dispatch are really the only city entities that would need the information. Jackson added it is a standard agreement, similar to what the Fire Department has with the hospital.

“There’s no reason we [the city] would have access to any billing information,” Police Chief Brian Saterfield emphasized.

Law Director Thomas Palmer added that there is a confidentiality clause included in the contract, as well as a section that deals with credit card information. According to him, Connect America assumes all liability.

Council then passed this item as an emergency.

Ord. 2014-28 was legislation for the exempt employee pay and benefits. The proposal reflects a 3 percent increase to the salary range for positions like safety-service director, police chief, fire chief and department supervisors. For example, the current minimum in the range 19 positions is $33,750, so if approved the minimum would be increased to $40,568. The maximum for that range would be increased from $72,802 to $79,958.

However, also included are the changes in benefits that bargaining unit employees received, such as the employee paying the pension pickup and an increase in the employee contribution to health insurance, to increase to 15 percent in 2016. To some extent, these changes offset the increase in salary.

O’Leary told Council he would provide a more detailed chart comparing the current and proposed salary figures, to show the change. Council passed the item as a first reading.

Ord. 2014-27 rescinded a previous ordinance. It involved the $120,000 project to relocate utiltiy poles within the construction zone of the Portland Way widening project. Council previously approved an ordinance to put the relocation up for bid because it was previously thought that ODOT would not reimburse the city.

O’Leary explained ODOT has since agreed to pay an 80 percent reimbursement. He asked to suspend the rules due to the expediency of the situation, as the city is having a pre-construction meeting with ODOT next week and any delay in relocating the poles may cost the city additional money. J.W. Didado will be doing the relocation.

Webber asked if there will be any power outages during the project. The mayor responded that there may be some intermittent outages but he needed to verify that with the contractor.

The item was passed as an emergency.

Ord. 2014-8 added the position of Service Department Supervisor to the staffing. This person will oversee the water, utility and maintenance crews. It passed as a third reading. Ord. 2014-13 was an agreement with Richland Engineering for services to address problems with the Pickle Run Culvert, at a cost of $12,773. The services will determine if the city needs to repair or replace it. The third reading passed.

Ord. 2014-14 approved the engineering firm GPD Group to create a 10-year system planning report for the city at a cost not to exceed $24,600. The agreement includes: System improvements for short term (1-2 years), near term (3-5 years) and long term (5-10 years); an investigation of electric system deficiencies; exploring economic growth potential; developing system load projections and prioritizing system improvements. It was passed as a third reading.

Ord. 2014-18 was an agreement with Hyperion Energy Solutions of Ashland for an LED street light study, at a cost not to exceed $3,500. Council member Eric Webber motioned to table this item because he still had some questions and Hyperion did not provide any references, as requested at the previous meeting.

Council member Mike Richart agreed, saying the Efficiency Smart contract was still under consideration. This company could do a similar study that would be included in the program cost. Council has until the end of March to decide on the Efficiency Smart contract; using Hyperion for the study was an second option.

The item was then tabled.

Ordinances 2014-25 and 2014-26 approved alley vacations, one running off of Wagner Avenue and the other running off of Arlington Avenue. Both ordinances passed as emergencies.

Ord. 2014-29 was a fund transfer of $1,900 within accounts in the City Council budget. As discussed during the Feb. 18 Finance Committee meeting, Council is considering the purchase of electronic tablets, instead of using paper for meeting agendas. Council passed the ordinance as a first reading, which will create the funds for the purchase. A separate piece of legislation will be needed to decide whether or not to actually purchase tablets.

Ord. 2014-30 was a name transfer on a hanger lease with no change in the terms. Council approved a first reading.

Ord. 2014-31 modified the post issuance compliance policy, for when the city issues bonds or notes. Due to a change in Federal regulations, when the city issues the bond or note and files an IRS form, it must affirm there are compliance procedures in place. The ordinance satifies that requirement and designates the city auditor as the compliance officer.

Council approved the first reading.

Res. 2014-7 approved three Then and Now certificates. The first was a payment to Sawvel and Associates for $10,755, to cover part of the cost of a utility rate study the firm is conducting. The next certificate was a $22,357 payment to Software Solutions, Inc., for an upgrade to accounting software. The third certificate was a $7,500 payment to the Ohio Regional Development Corporation for administration fees regarding the Community Development Block Grant. The resolution passed as an emergency.

In other business, Galion-Crestline Area Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Joe Kleinknecht announced the Chamber’s annual Economic Development and Business Forecast Breakfast will be March 11 at 7:30 a.m., at the Free Methodist Church.