Update: corrected electric rate percentage
GALION — Raising electric rates was not approved during the March 22 Galion city council meeting and the splash park improvement was sent back to committee; but a number of ordinances moved to final readings and passed, including appropriations for health department grants, upgrades to police vehicles and Freese Foundation grants.
An ordinance setting the PCA, 2022-18, was one of few pieces of legislation that was not newly-introduced and that did not pass into law at the Tuesday, March 22 meeting of Galion City Council. Council member Kara Ault explained that the Utilities Committee had discussed Ord 2022-18 for two months and had utilized two studies in their recommendation for a Power Cost Adjustment increase to the city’s electric rates (an increase of .00344%, effective April 1, 2022) to offset higher costs that the city is incurring. “We have to cover our expenses,” Mayor Tom O’Leary asserted on the matter, at a later point in the meeting.
“I have received no questions since the last meeting, from council or from the community,” Ault told her fellow council members. Council member Dr. Tom Fellner moved to suspend the rules to move the ordinance from its second reading to its final reading, in order to accomodate the April 1st effective-date listed in the ordinance. However, Fellner’s motion did not receive the six out-of-seven votes needed to pass; Council members Aaron Ivy, Amanda Zeger, and Paula Durbin all opposed the suspension of the rules.
Ord 2022-18 will receive its final reading at the next council meeting, which guarantees that even if the ordinance passes at its next (final) reading, the proposed utility rate increase will not take effect until after April 1st.
Nearly every piece of legislation that was read at the meeting was both freshly introduced and unanimously approved, including three ordinances originating in the Finance Committee. Fellner, who chairs the committee, moved for rule suspensions to move these ordinances from their first readings to their final readings and votes. He cited the need for expedience in these situations in order to keep several accounting matters in order.
Ordinance 23, Amending 2022 Appropriations, saw no council members opposed to the suspension of the rules and the legislation passed unanimously. Fellner explained that this ordinance relates to grants that have been received by the health department. City Auditor Brian Saterfield affirmed that it “tidies up” advances on projected grant money so that the city’s health department is “able to spend appropriately.”
And ordinance 25, Investment Board approval, also passed unanimously, with no opposition to its final reading. According to Fellner, city-owned certificates of deposit are coming due, and this ordinance incorporates the recommendations of an independent financial advisor to achieve the best yield with new short-term CDs.
An oridinance for Police Vehicles (amended), also passed unanimously after moving from its first to its final reading. Although Durbin voiced the sole “no” vote for rule suspension, she ultimately voted with the rest of council, in favor of the legislation. This ordinance, said Fellner, pertains to the continuation of a vehicle-replacement program initiated when Saterfield was Galion’s police chief. Durbin asked current police chief Marc Rodriguez about the additional cost of outfitting the new vehicles with equipment, and whether existing equipment could be re-used. Rodriguez replied that the three new vehicles would require new equipment, at an additional cost of about $15,000, including installation.
Ord 2022-22, Urban Paving – PID 111650, was the only ordinance to pass without unanimous approval. Council member Paula Durbin cast the sole “no” vote against rule suspension and also against the legislation. Mayor Tom O’Leary informed council that the ordinance commits the city to enter into paving projects on SR 61 leading up to US 30, as well as four bridges. O’Leary asserted that funds for the city’s half-million-dollar contribution will be requested later, but that ODOT does share the cost of the projects.
Two ordinances were added to the meeting’s agenda:
Ord. 2022-27, Freese Projects, passed unanimously and no council members were opposed to the suspension of the rules. O’Leary said that this is “an annual ordinance:” each year, a committee is appointed that meets to review applications for Freese Foundation grants that have been submitted by local non-profits. The committee then recommends approval of appropriate projects, although the Foundation still must review and ultimately approve or reject requests. Nine projects are identified in the ordinance as being eligible, including improvements and/or additions to areas around the Splash Park, the Galion Y, and Heise Park.
Ivy asked O’Leary as to whether Freese funds provide for operation and repair costs, or “just upgrades.” O’Leary answered that several of the “upgrades” incorporated repairs to existing facilities and features, specifically noting that one of the nine project requests would provide around ten cameras (depending on pricing at the time of purchase) to install in the city’s parks.
O’Leary emphasized that the deterrent to vandals is valuable. “If we can stop the damage done by vandalism… that’s most of our maintenance cost right there,” he said.
Ault asked for clarification about proposed changes to the park lands located next to the Y, which will be utilized by the Y’s preschool program. “This is a repurposing of the old tennis courts and shuffleboard courts, and new equipment will be installed,” O’Leary informed, adding, “They will use the area for the Y program, but it won’t be locked; it will be open to the public at other times.”
Earlier in the meeting, Jennifer Allerding, Superintendent of Galion City Schools, addressed council to urge members to vote in favor of Ord 2022-27. Allerding referenced the stadium parking lot project, which is one of the nine projects included in the ordinance, citing the fact that the school district has long been entwined with the city’s parks. She said the schools have been thankful for participation in Freese funding in the past that has benefitted many community members. Allerding urged council members to vote “for Freese’s wish” and continue with “joint efforts.”
City Law Director Thomas Palmer agreed that the spirit of Freese’s will has been honored by the previous Freese awards that have included Galion City Schools. Palmer also said that clarification on the committee’s distribution standards and selection process would be helpful going forward.
Ord. 2022-28, Amending 2022 Appropriations, also unanimously passed with no opposition to rule suspension. O’Leary said that the ordinance deals with building repairs in the city’s parks, as well as tennis court repainting: “This will allow us to get quotes from contractors and move along on maintenance.”
Saterfield presented an expense report to council as well, informing that reconciliations “are coming along… and we hope to close 2021 soon.” However, he said he expects the November reconciliation to be a challenge due to overpayments made to the IRS. Saterfield further clarified that Medicare and FICA payments had been made out of the wrong funds: “Mistakes were made but they will be corrected… The auditor’s office is aware and they are helping to resolve the problem.”