Galion council OKs energy program after much debate

GALION — Several Galion business owners came to the Galion City Council meeting Tuesday evening expecting an ordinance for the implementation of the Efficiency Smart program to be passed on the third reading.

It happened, but not until after a lot of discussion.

According to Mayor Tom O’Leary, the energy efficiency program will cost the city about $420,000 over the next five years, and with the budget not yet finalized for 2017 — which includes a five-year plan — council member Mark Triplett made the motion to table the legislation until a budget meeting Dec. 7.

Chris Stone, owner of the Eighteen-O-Three Taproom, said he was under the impression the program pays for itself. O’Leary said it is a line item on electric bills.

Council member Bill Comerford said all residents are able to order energy-efficient light bulbs and other items to save money on their electric bills.

Matt Horn of Galion LLC said that tabling the ordinance until Dec. 7 will affect his business.

“I don’t see a need to push this back anymore,” Horn said. “As a business owner, I have time lines to meet. If you push this back it means I have to put production of a contract on hold, which means I can’t hire 15 to 30 employees for the contract until after it passes.”

Council president Carl Watt noted that the current five-year forecast for electric does not look good and that there could be an increase in electric rates. He said the meeting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7 is open to the public and encourages residents to attend.

Eric Flick of Flick Packaging said the ordinance is on its third reading and came to the meeting expecting it to be approved.

“It sounds to me that due to a poor five-year outlook that we would be cutting a program that would help the businesses in town. The fact that you want to kick it down the line is mind boggling,” Flick said.

Triplett said he made the motion to table the legislation because of his concerns about the budget and the fact that he does not want to see electric rates increased.

Horn said that even pushing the issue to Dec. 7 will hurt his business and possibly adversely affect a $35 million contract with the U.S. Army he has entered into.

“Currently, I am utilizing the old Galion Iron Works building, and I had all of the old bulbs replaced with LED. The savings on that alone would allow me to hire one more employee than what is in the budget.”

O’Leary said the program will only cost power users a very small amount while the savings from the program are more than that.

“It is about $420,000 on a power increase of $30 million over three years. The percent would be .4 percent of a new revenue raise,” O’Leary said. “The rate increase is happening regardless. Eliminating the bill would be eliminating what the businesses would be able to save.”

Triplett then made a motion to eliminate his previous motion to table the issue that was seconded by council member Susan Bean. Bean refused to remove her second but was defeated by the whole council with a vote of five to one. With the ordinance back on the floor for approval, council passed it with a five-to-one vote, with Bean being the only one to vote no on the issue.

Council members aslo approved the sale of a Washington Street house that is currently owned by the Galion Police Department.

“It was forfeiture from a drug case years ago. We are paying the property taxes and pay for mowing to be done there,” said Galion Police Chief Brian Saterfield.

Saterfield said the funds from the sale of the house can be used for items such as equipment and training for the police department.

Council also approved a CRA (Community Reinvestment Agreement) with Longstreth Memorials, touted as the oldest business in Galion, dating back to 1868. The business is moving to 1263 Ohio 98. Council approved the CRA which will mean a 50 percent tax reduction over the next 12 years for Longstreth.

Bucyrus attorney Tani Eyer was on hand to discuss a proposed vacation of streets and alleys on paper, but were never developed. The properties would revert to the owner of land in that area while an easement along the Olentangy River will be retained by the city. O’Leary said the area could be part of a future bike path for residents. A motion to suspend the rules and pass the ordinance on the first reading was voted down one-to-five with Bean being the only hold out. Watt said to vote legislation to be passed as an emergency, there must be six votes of approval but there were only five. Dr. Tom Fellner was excused from the meeting, which left only six council members in attendance. The first reading of the issue did pass.

Firefighters Jay Gaffney and Mike Saurers were sworn in as lieutenants at the beginning of the meeting with their families by their sides.

There will be a special council meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 in Council Chambers.

Mike Sauers is sworn-in as a lieutenant of the Galion Fire Department during the council meeting on Tuesday. (Kimberly Gasuras | Galion Inquirer) Sauers is sworn-in as a lieutenant of the Galion Fire Department during the council meeting on Tuesday. (Kimberly Gasuras | Galion Inquirer)

Jay Gaffney is sworn-in as a lieutenant of the Galion Fire Department during the council meeting on Tuesday. (Kimberly Gasuras | Galion Inquirer) Gaffney is sworn-in as a lieutenant of the Galion Fire Department during the council meeting on Tuesday. (Kimberly Gasuras | Galion Inquirer)

By Kimberly Gasuras


Reach Gasuras on Twitter: @kimberlygasuras