City moves forward with energy program

By Michael Seffrin -

SIDNEY — With voters’ approval last week of energy-aggregation issues, Sidney City Council Monday night took the next step to establish a program here.

Council also introduced ordinances that would set utility rates and change how the city can dispose of salvage.

Separate ordinances were introduced that would adopt the rules of operation and governance for electrical and natural gas aggregation programs. Council held two public hearings on the rules this fall.

With aggregation, a municipality combines the retail electric and/or natural gas load of its residential and small commercial constituents and negotiates a rate with a competitive energy supplier to provide the customers’ energy supply. The residents benefit because the larger, aggregated load permits the municipality to negotiate a rate with the competitive supplier that is lower than the traditional utility’s current service rate for individual customers.

Council introduced an ordinance that would establish utility and sanitation rates with increases of approximately 3 percent for water-flow rate, 3 percent for sewer-flow rate, 1 percent for stormwater fee, and 3.5 percent for refuse, Finance Officer Ginger Adams said in her report to council. The Environmental Protection Agency compliance fee would be reduced by 30 percent as a result of successful negotiations with the Ohio EPA, construction bids within engineer’s estimates, and lower-cost debt.

The rate changes would decrease the low-volume user’s bill by $5.72 per month. The average family of four should see a reduction of $4.17 per month.

The change in water and sewer rates would become effective Jan. 1, 2016. The change in refuse and stormwater rates would become effective April 1, 2016.

Council introduced an amendment to an ordinance to allow the city to dispose of low-value items with the city manager’s approval instead of council’s OK.

Police Chief Will Balling said over the last several years there have been a few requests to give items of nominal value that have been seized, or found and forfeited to the city, to a nonprofit organization. One reoccurring example of this is a request from Victim Services or New Choices for a found and forfeited bike to be given to one of their survivors. As the section is currently written, this request must be taken before council and approved.

The ordinance would be amended to read that donation to a nonprofit organization of items valued at $250 or less be allowed with the city manager’s approval. Donation of more valuable items would require council approval.

Council will consider the adoption of these four ordinances at its Nov. 23 meeting.

In other business, council passed a resolution waiving a city assessment for weed mowing. The waiver of the $316.25 assessment was requested by Wade Murray, the owner of 105 Hill Ave. The mowing fees were incurred before Murray bought the property at a sheriff’s sale, but before the assessment for those fees was levied, city Law Director Jeff Amick said.

Amick said the waiver is “based upon the unique and specific facts that were involved in the timing of the assessment and Mr. Murray’s purchase of the property, as well as his rehabilitation of the subject premises. The resolution has been worded to reflect that it is not to be considered as precedent for future similar waivers.”

Amick said the city will make some changes to avoid similar situations in the future — including putting a notice on the city’s website to alert property buyers.

Councilman Darryl Thurber still was concerned that waiving Murray’s fee might set a precedent. He voted “no” on the resolution.

Council passed a resolution authorizing the Ohio Department of Transportation’s removal and replacement of the structurally deficient Park Street bridge.

City Engineering Manager Randy Magoto said the construction estimate is about $1.35 million. ODOT will pay 95 percent. The city’s estimated share is $67,783.

ODOT is expected to open bids January 2019 and require a completion date of Aug. 31 that year.

In other business:

• Council passed resolutions appointing Sarah Anne Sharp to fill the remaining unexpired portion of John Laws’ three-year term on the Tree Board and reappointing Assistant City Manager/Public Works Director Gary Clough to the North Central Ohio Solid Waste District Policy Committee.

• Council discussed holding a retreat meeting next year. Council typically holds a biennial retreat to establish goals for the upcoming term and to review topics of interest. This meeting has previously been held in a workshop fashion on a Saturday during the first quarter of the new year. Mayor Mike Barhorst said members may want to consider holding it on a weekday so as not to conflict with weekend activities.

• Councilman Steve Wagner commended police for the “quick apprehension” of a suspect in a purse-snatching in which an elderly woman was injured. He said it was an example of interagency cooperation, as the suspect was caught in Lima.

By Michael Seffrin

The writer may be contacted at 937-538-4823 and on Twitter @MikeSeffrinSDN.

The writer may be contacted at 937-538-4823 and on Twitter @MikeSeffrinSDN.