GALION — The May 10 Galion City Council meeting contained an executive session to conduct interviews for the vacant Second Ward seat. Scott Brennemen, Melissa Frank-Elwell, Kathy Stoney, and Amanda Wiggins applied for the position. It was a group of “four very good candidates,” according to council president Eric Webber. After the session, which followed the council meeting, Frank-Elwell was selected to fill the seat, despite a “no” vote from council member Ken Bodkins.
Eight legislative items were on the meeting’s agenda. Four were slated for their “first reading” and the other half were due for a “second reading.”
Legal Services Contract received its second reading and a lengthy discussion. The ordinance continues the proposed ordinance to retain the services of an attorney who specializes in EPA interactions, to assist Galion Director of Law Thomas Palmer in responding to the Ohio EPA regarding the city’s water treatment compliance measures.
Council member Paula Durbin had much to say in opposition to the ordinance: “I don’t think it’s a good idea… I don’t understand it… It’s a waste of public money…It comes down to the mayor’s negligence.”
Council member Tom Fellner said, “The purpose of this is not to fight the EPA; the EPA regulations are important enough that counsel is a good idea… It’s not a waste of money.”
Council member Kara Ault agreed with Fellner, stating, “It will facilitate the conversation… I see the importance of this.”
Council member Mike Richart added, “…from a business standpoint, it’s a good idea to have a specialized attorney in the field so we don’t make a mistake in explanation or understanding [with the EPA]… The EPA is there to safeguard all of us, including the people at this table.”
Durbin continued to challenge the merit of the ordinance, asking, “Why are we at this point?” and “What are we resolving?”
Safety Services Director Nicole Ward clarified, “The GPD Group, the engineers, are already hired [to do improvements and address TTHM levels] but the EPA is a huge organization. This attorney will help us with clear communication and help take us in the right direction… He’s a facilitator, to help us resolve the problems quickly.”
Legal Services Contract will receive its final reading and be subject to a vote at the next council meeting, along with its companion ordinance, Amending 2022 Appropriations.
Bid Authorization – Brandt Road Turn Lane received its second reading and will also get its final reading and vote at the next meeting.
Splash Pad Bid Authorization was another ordinance that got a long discussion, and is the first City of Galion ordinance to be drafted and introduced by a member of council (Durbin). Prior to the discussion, council unanimously voted to suspend the rules and move the ordinance from its second to its final reading.
During discussion, Richart queried Durbin about how she had arrived at the detailed specifications listed in the ordinance. Durbin asserted, “They’re from Powell.”
Webber asked Palmer, “If we pass this and the contractors can’t meet the specifications, what would happen?” to which Palmer replied, “It would have to return to council.”
The ordinance passed with one dissenting vote, from Richart.
In order to meet an application deadline, the rules were suspended for Airport ODOT Grant to move from its first reading to its final reading, although council member Paula Durbin voted against the suspension of the rules. Ward explained that this is the city’s third try for a grant to build a weather station at the airport. Galion’s share of the cost would be 5% of the total project, approximately $14,000. Durbin challenged the ordinance in discussion, asking, “Where does the weather come from?” but ultimately voted with the rest of council to pass it.
Sewer Rates received its first reading. Ault, who chairs the utilities committee where the ordinance originated, explained that the ordinance would increase the sewer rate, which has not been increased since 2014. Ault told Council that the sewer has been running at a deficit and that the rate increase is “out of necessity,” adding, “It’s important to note that we are trying to resolve and manage the city’s issues.”
Amending 2022 Appropriations, which allows for the return of unused funds to the state, passed unanimously as a final reading after a unanimous suspension of the rules moved the ordinance from its first to its final reading.
Then and Now Certificate accompanied the previous ordinance, and it also unanimously passed after a unanimous suspension of the rules.
Palmer used his official report time to inform Council that Central Hotel is still in the process of being transferred, and to remind council members of the deadline for them to file their financial disclosures.
Jack Harpster, Sr., a resident of the Central Hotel, spoke at the meeting as a citizen desiring to address council. Harpster shared concerns regarding fire safety preparation at the hotel, telling council members, “We need some help up there.” Palmer responded, “The city is not yet in a position [as the owner] to take care of this yet, but we will be soon.”