SIDNEY – Sidney City Council fine-tuned proposed ballot language Monday for two tax initiatives planned for the November election. The levies would benefit future street repairs and a new fire station on the city’s north side. If passed, the income tax levies are expected to generate $1.5 million each annually.
Also, a new council member was sworn in and a recent promotion in the police department was presented. A replat of property was passed.
During its regular meeting, council discussed the levies that must be filed with state election officials by July 22. Council is expected to take action at the July 8 meeting. If the levies are approved, voters will face the separate levies on Nov. 5 election day.
The fire levy calls for permanent 0.15 percent tax. This is in addition to the 1.5 percent income tax currently being collected. Planned uses for the funds are “fire department operations and capital improvements and equipment, maintenance and repair of same and paying debt service.”
The second levy is for 0.15 percent for a five-year period commencing Jan.1, 2020. The funds would be collected for “construction, reconstruction, resurfacing, and maintenance of streets, alleys, bridges, curbs and gutters.” This levy will replace the current street levy which expires at the end of the year.
Citing the recent levy defeat of a combined levy initiative, the council is separating the issues into two different levies.
Councilman Mardie Milligan expressed concern over the streets levy being temporary for five years. She preferred the levy to be a permanent tax. Councilman Darryl Thurber agreed.
Discussion also led to the wording of how the word income would be defined. Councilman Steve Wagner wanted assurance the levy would read “tax on income currently being levied and collected” instead of “earned income” being in the verbiage.
City Manager Mark Cundiff explained the words “earned income” was inadvertently included in the sample wording document they were reviewing. He assured council such change would be made.
Jennifer VanMatre was sworn in as a new member. She will fulfill the council seat vacated by Joe Ratermann, who resigned in May. The term expires Nov. 30, and VanMatre will need to be on the Nov. 5 ballot to remain on council after the first of the year, if elected.
VanMatre is an at-large representative on council. She retired as a school teacher from Sidney City Schools where she continues as a substitute teacher.
Sidney Police Sgt. Tim Kennedy was introduced to a standing ovation regarding his recent promotion to sergeant. He officially took over the post on May 26.
Police Chief Will Balling stated Kennedy joined the local force in 2007. He transitioned into the detective position in 2016 with Balling stating his work ethics and efforts were well above average. Kennedy was named 2017 Officer of the Year.
Kennedy said caring for people is a main concern stating that God rewards him every day in having his job in Sidney. Kennedy and his wife, Angie, have six children.
Council adopted a plan to replat three properties on the west side of Fairview Drive, and east of Fourth Avenue. The plan was proposed by David and Greg Gunnell to define a lot for each of the existing two residences and a third undeveloped lot.
Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth told council all the lot proposals are within the Residential-2 district. Showing an overhead map image, she explained the odd shaped lot would result if the replat was approved. The property abuts Connection Point Church, which may have interest in that section.
Realtor Ed Wentworth of Sidney, on behalf of the Gunnells, said prospective buyers have turned away from home for sale due to them not being interested in the extra acreage. If approved, he felt the properties would be attractive to buyers.
Dulworth said work on sewer lines is nearing completion as directed by city ordinance. She said the Gunnells were working within the city’s guidelines and is expected to improve sewer service in that area.
Wagner said as long as the sewer line installation is approved by city officials, he would support the resolution.
In another matter, Wagner voted no regarding the waiving of past due fees for maintenance on a long-age demolished property.
The property in question is at 1632 Fair Oaks Drive. The home on the abandoned property was demolished 10 years ago through the Neighborhood Stabilization Grant fund, according to Finance Director Ginger Adams. City workers have mowed the site over the years.
A neighboring property owner has offered the city $500 to take over the site, but was seeking to have $2,069.17 in past utility, sewer, refuse and water charges plus interest waived. The property was recently purchased by the Shelby County Land Bank.
Referencing a city resolution allowing such a waiver for properties owned by the Land Bank, Adams explained a portion of the fees under consideration would be due to the city.
Wagner expressed concern of how the fees would be determined regarding the city’s portion. He was the lone dissenting vote; however, Mayor Mike Barhorst abstained from voting citing his membership on the administrative board for the Land Bank.
In other business, council:
• Approved a list of properties subject to assessments for mowing and junk removal. In all, 28 properties will be assessed $7,343.40 for junk removal with another $286.60 assessed against two properties.
• Approved the appointment of James Lehmkuhl to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
• Amended the city’s purchasing card policy to add the concession stand manager of the city pool.
• Adopted the federal Uniform Guidance program to be complied in the administering of grants.
• Reported council’s July workshop meeting has been canceled and will not be rescheduled.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.