SIDNEY — Sidney City Council decided to separate the street and fire station issues into two separate levies on the November general election ballot during Monday evening’s meeting. The issues were combined on the failed 0.30 percent municipal income tax levy in May.
After several discussions and collecting feedback personally from the public on the city’s next steps for the 0.30 percent municipal income tax levy, City Council members determined the consensus among their constituents was the desire for the issues to be separated. Therefore, council members agreed Monday to place a five-year 0.15 percent street levy and a permanent 0.15 percent fire levy on the November ballot.
City Manager Mark Cundiff led the discussion on the matter again by presenting the following three options for the November ballot:
• Place a combined 0.3 percent permanent streets/fire levy;
• Place two levies: a five-year 0.15 percent street levy and a permanent 0.15 percent fire levy;
• Place two levies: a permanent 0.15 percent street levy and a permanent 0.15 percent fire levy.
Barhorst said although he believes streets and fire needs are both one public safety issue, he came to realize voters do not necessarily see it that way. He told council he thinks the street levy should be a five-year levy because he learned residents think the city may have too much money coming forth from the new gas tax. But if the city makes the levy permanent, he said, for others who think 0.15 percent is not enough money, it could be a problem if the city needs greater funds for the roads in the future.
Council member Darryl Thurber said, after careful consideration, he felt the issues should be split, but that council should table the fire issue at this time to focus on passing the street levy. He suggested revisiting the fire department need at the beginning of 2020.
Barhorst disagreed, as did Council member Steve Wagner. Wagner said he came into the meeting thinking they should separate the issues and make them both permanent. But upon hearing Barhorst’s thinking, he agreed to support two levies: a five-year 0.15 percent street levy and a permanent 0.15 percent fire levy.
Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan said she thinks the issues should be split into two levies, but that they both should be permanent. She reiterated her previous comments in past council meetings that the “roads are not going away.” She expressed “appreciation” for Thurber’s suggestion to table the fire issue, only, she said, because a lot more education on the topic is needed.
Barhorst asked Milligan if she could support a five-year 0.15 percent street levy and a permanent 0.15 percent fire levy. She said she could, but asked if he could support a permanent 0.15 percent street levy and a permanent 0.15 percent fire levy. He said he could, but it would not be his choice. She also said it also would not be her choice to have the street levy be for five years because street repair needs are not going away. Barhorst repeated the voters’ comments he heard on both sides, regarding the city having too much money coming forth from the gas tax or voters’ concern of not having enough funds for roads. He said if the city needed to adjust the funding need, they would know by the end of the five-year levy.
Milligan noted, although they will put the funds to good use, they do not know how much Sidney will get from the gas tax in the end. She said, “The state giveth, and the state taketh away.”
“That is a good reason to do it for a five-year period, and see where we are. Because we may find that we do need 0.25 (percent), 0.30 (percent), or whatever it is. And if it’s permanent, I don’t see how voters will want to increase a permanent tax,” Barhorst said.
Brief discussion also ensued about whether to have one or two separate committees run each levy. Further investigation about the requirements will be conducted.
In the end, council decided to move forth with placing two levies: a five-year 0.15 percent street levy and a permanent 0.15 percent fire levy on the November ballot.
In other business, council adopted two ordinances concerning the new Shelby Public Transit System’s rates and on city employees’ pay.
The new Shelby Public Transit 2019-20 contract rates is for July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020. The rates will be increase to $63 from $61 per hour, to $24 from $23.25 per trip, and to $5.15 from $5 per mile. There is no rate increase for non-contract fares.
Council also adopted four resolutions, and they are:
• To authorize Cundiff to apply for and execute a small cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The grant includes two activities, Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth said. The first will provide funding to low-and moderate-income households to make necessary repairs to their sanitary sewer lateral. The second activity is for the acquisition and development of a park for the residents of the Heritage Manor and Stewart Subdivisions on either side of Vandemark Road, south of Michigan Street.
• To appoint Mike Toal to the Airport Advisory Committee. Toal will replace Gregg Anderson, who served the maximum three terms permitted. The term will expire May 31, 2022.
• To show support for the Shelby County Board of Commissioners on the establishment of a complete count committee to support the 2020 decennial census.
• To wave the assessment and collection fees for Sidney utility services at 426 Jefferson St. The property owner intends to donate the property to the Shelby County Land Bank, if the utility fees are waived. The land bank would then demolish the home. The belief is that a former tenant of the property ran up the water bill before the water was shut off by the city.
There was also a brief discussion, led by Assistant Finance Officer Renee DuLaney, to formalize the city’s grant policy to be in compliance with “Uniform Guidance,” to receive federally awarded grant funds. She said usually the city is reimbursed with grant dollars, but in some cases Sidney gets the money in advance. Therefore, when Sidney receives grant funding, DuLaney said, the city must follow the federal uniform guidance grant policy. DuLaney was directed to bring back prepared legislation for further consideration at the June 24 meeting.
Also Monday, council posed no objection to a C1 and C2 liquor permit ownership transfer to 525 North Enterprises Inc. at 525 North St.
Cundiff told council after a review was conducted by the Sidney Police Department for the liquor permit change, nothing was found to object to the change. Council exhibited silence on the matter, indicating consent for permit-holders to move forward.
Council also went into an executive session to prepare for the purchase of public property for public purposes and the appointment of public official, and discipline of a public employee. No action was taken by council when members emerged from the session.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.