GALION — At the May 24 meeting of Galion City Council, a Legal Services Contract was given its third and final reading and passed with a 5-2 vote. Council members Paula Durbin and Carrie Zeger cast the ‘no’ votes. At the opening of discussion on the ordinance, Durbin read a prepared statement in which she restated her previously-asserted stance that the ordinance is “a waste of taxpayer money…” Durbin concluded by stating, “This is all about covering up the mayor’s negligence in managing the city utilities… The mayor just needs to do his job.”
Every council member contributed to the discussion on the issue. Council member Mike Richart pointed out, “This recommendation [to retain specialized counsel] did not come from the mayor’s office… [It] came from the engineering firm that is doing the specs and everything for the water plant… Why penny-pinch on something as important as this?”
Council member Melissa Frank agreed, saying, “When you’re dealing with government entities like the EPA… It’s important to have somebody that has that expertise… who can provide recommendations and help us.”
Amending 2022 Appropriations (-36), which goes with Legal Services Contract, also passed on its third reading with a 6-1 vote, with Durbin being the lone ‘no’ vote. Fellner emphasized the $20,000 cap on legal costs for the specialized counsel, a point raised by Frank in the discussion about Legal Services Contract.
Sewer Rates received considerable discussion at its second reading, as it did at its first reading at the previous council meeting. Ault reiterated that the ordinance came through the Utilities committee after two months of discussion, and that the last rate adjustment for sewer rates (a drop) was in 2014. “We’re trying to be fiscally responsible and not operate at a deficit,” Ault said.
Frank asked for clarification on the amount of increase an average household in Galion would experience, and was told that it would be about $3.20 per month. Sewer Rates will be given its third and final reading at the next council meeting.
Bid Authorization – Brandt Road Turn Lane passed after its third reading, with Durbin voting against the ordinance. Mayor Tom O’Leary told council that the project is anticipated to be started later this year and completed in 2023, and called the project a move toward “positive, responsible growth.”
Three items that were slated for their first readings were all passed after the council voted in favor of a suspension of the rules, for each ordinance to move to its final reading. These three were: Bond Anticipation Notes, ARPA – Sarah Beegle, and Staffing Ordinance. The first of the three deals with paying down existing city debts from completed projects.
The second of the three will disburse American Rescue Plan Act grant money to Sara Beegle Child Daycare Center. Fellner reminded his fellow council members that the facility’s administrators “provided information on how the money would be used.” Fellner further shared that Sara Beegle will give the money its own fund line for accounting, to ensure transparency and its proper usage. Council member Kara Ault called the ordinance “important and a good use of ARPA money.”
Staffing Ordinance — the third of the ordinances that was passed after a suspension of the rules moved it from its first to its final reading — creates a ‘new’ position to replace that of ‘Billing Office Manager.’ Fellner and Safety Services Director Nicole Ward explained that passage of this ordinance will provide appropriate pay to a current city employee who is already acting in the role, without the employee having to lose union membership.
Ward shared that both the civil service commission and the union approved the creation of the position and added, “She is doing the job already and it’s only fair that she be compensated for doing it.” Said Ault, “It’s nice when the administration can see where people are going above and beyond and support them.”
Amending 2022 Appropriations (-42), which deals with debt and deficits in funds, was given its first reading. City Auditor Brian Saterfield concurred with a sentiment earlier voiced in the meeting by O’Leary: “We need to address long-term debt plans.”
Kevin McCane spoke as a ‘citizen desiring to address council,’ requesting help with an ongoing problem. McCane explained that his home has been repeatedly damaged by hit-and-run drivers through the alley by his house, which is next to Rite Aid. Council member Ken Bodkins shared that he, along with Ward, has been working on helping McCane resolve the situation. At the next Laws and Ordinances committee meeting, this matter will be discussed further.
In his report to council, O’Leary thanked the many people who contributed to a successful city clean-up day on May 21st.