GALION — Steps previously taken by Galion City Council and the City of Galion administration seem to be paying off as the city, state and nation continue to work their way through the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial strain it is putting on all.
Some of the decisions made the last four or five years — during and after fiscal emergency — have put us in better position than some,” said Mayor Tom O’Leary from his conference table in the city building. “I believe we should be able to honor our commitments and will be in OK shape at the end of the year.”
He said the administration is doing all it can to make certain two major road improvement projects stay on schedule, the Harding Way road replacement project this year and the Ohio 598 widening project in 2021-2022.
The meeting, held via the Zoom app, with participants at home or in their offices, if a bit disjointed at times, went off without any problems.
Several funding measures directly linked to COVID-19 were passed.
City council members decreased a request to the Freese Foundation for park improvements this year, from approximately $400,000 to $67,000.
“We are significantly reducing our request due to the uncertainty of when the parks are going to be opened,” said council member Richard Ivy. “This will cover just the bare necessities, pool repairs at Heise Park, and safety mulch and grass needs to be installed.”
All other pending Freese Foundation requests have been delayed or cancelled
O’Leary said the foundation has taken a pretty big hit due to COVID-19 and the cutbacks make sense.
“We enjoy seeing the results of projects funded by the Freese Foundation,” he said. “And this is a bummer. But it makes sense to keep our requests very moderate to keep their fund endowment buoyed, instead of reducing its principal.”
O’Leary continued: “I have a high degree of uncertainty of when we will be able to open our parks for any kind of activity.”
However, he says a priority is making sure that if the parks open, there is plenty of sanitizer and cleaning supplies available for Galion’s parks.
Also, city council approved an ordinance that takes $40,000 out of unappropriated general fund money to be donated to the Avita Foundation for its effort to assist Avita Health Systems address critical needs associated with its COVID-19 response measures: Personal Protective Equipment, sanitizer and other critical equipment.
O’Leary is hopeful that some of the funding will be used for devices that might be shared, including ultra-violet cleaning devices.
Councilmember Tammy Siclair-Erlsten questioned whether the city could get some of that money back if Avita receives state and federal funding to pay for those types of items.
O’Leary expressed doubt that such funding would actually be available.
“Avita is the largest employer in Galion and well, we have to take care of our own,” he said. “I would hope that if federal funding comes to them, they’ll be fair with us, as we have been fair with them.”
Ivy added: “If we can help them out, I think we should. Sometimes, Karma can be a good thing.”
City council members also approved legislation that for the time being cancels the 5 percent penalty fee applied to customers who are put on a plan to pay off overdue City of Galion utility bills. It also allows the city the ability to let that bill be paid over six months, instead of the three-month term that is currently an option.
Council members also approved funding that will go toward Phase IV of the ongoing stormwater improvement plan on the east side of town.
“This will allow us to get the design work for Phase IV underway,” O’Leary said. “Phase III is fully funded. Phase IV is on the horizon.”
Also passed was an updated set of rules of to be followed by city council members.
Galion City Council approved a request for $67,000 from the Freese Foundation to make repairs to the Heise Park pool during Tuesday’s Galion City Council meeting.
Email Russ Kent at [email protected]