Council OKs eminent domain for bridge project

By Michael Seffrin - [email protected]

SIDNEY — Sidney City Council Monday night authorized eminent domain proceedings to get a temporary construction easement for a bridge project.

Council also adopted an ordinance to assess property owners the cost of weed mowing, junk removal or tree maintenance/removal, and acted on several other matters.

City Engineering Manager Randy Magoto told council the city needs to obtain a temporary construction easement so that a project to replace the Michigan Street bridge over the CSX Railroad, west of Oak Avenue, can proceed. The Ohio Department of Transportation will pay for 80 percent of the project cost. The project is scheduled to be bid and awarded in January.

The city has obtained all the necessary easements for the work except for property at 419 Michigan St., owned by Martin J. Durden. The city has made several attempts to contact Durden, but has been unable to reach him, Magoto said. Because of this, the city must use the eminent domain process to get a temporary construction easement for 0.005 of an acre of Durden’s property.

Responding to a question from council, Magoto said the temporary easement will be just for the term of the contract. City Law Director Jeff Amick added that the appraised value of the land used in the easement will be on file with the court and Durden can claim that money.

Council adopted an ordinance to assess property owners the cost of weed mowing, junk removal or tree maintenance/removal. Each property owner was notified that their property was not in compliance with the city code and was given an opportunity to mow the weeds or remove the junk, Karen Berning, revenue collections manager, said in her report to council. When the owners failed to comply, the city paid to have the work performed. The property owners were then invoiced for the cost of the work plus the applicable fee. For weed-mowing violations, the fee is $50 for the first weed cutting, $75 for the second cutting, and $100 for each cutting thereafter. For junk removal violations, the fee is 20 percent of the cost.

Approximately 16 percent of the properties billed paid the invoices. The remaining 84 percent are being assessed to property taxes. This special assessment will be collected with other property tax obligations. A total of 61 properties would be assessed a total of $15,590.34 for weed cutting and another 32 properties would be assessed a total of $2,736.57 for junk removal.

At a previous meeting, council had discussed whether the 20 percent fee is high enough to cover the city’s costs. Councilman Darryl Thurber brought up that matter again Monday night. Community Services Director Barbara Dulworth said 20 percent is the standard for most cities, and City Manager Mark Cundiff explained the fee covers administrative costs only. If the city has to pay a contractor to haul away a car or other large item, those costs are passed on to the property owner, he said.

In a related matter, council passed a resolution to waive the assessment and collection of mowing fees for property at 320 Jefferson St. Amick said the property was formerly owned by the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. The corporate charter for that entity was dissolved while it remained the owner of the property. As the result of the termination of operations by the local Habitat for Humanity, the responsibility for the maintenance of this lot fell upon the city of Sidney. In 2014, Christopher Halpin agreed to assume ownership of the property provided that he would not incur any expense associated with the transfer of ownership or any previously-incurred taxes or assessments. However, mowing fees of $181.25 had been incurred by the city before Halpin became the owner. Halpin later received a notice from the city that he owed the money. He requested that the assessment be waived based on the agreement he made with the city when he became the owner.

Council passed a resolution adopting the city’s five-year financial plan. The plan, which council reviewed at previous meetings, forecasts moderate growth in the income tax, with some staff additions, and includes numerous street projects and other capital improvement spending. The plan will be incorporated into the 2016 budget, which council will discuss in November.

Council passed a resolution authorizing payment of $1,190.50 to the Anna Rescue Squad. Brad Jones, chief of the Department of Fire & Emergency Services, told council that two of Sidney’s ambulances were having mechanical problems in July, leaving only one medic operable. For several days, Sidney used one of Anna Rescue Squad’s ambulances. While Sidney had this vehicle, the radiator overheated and cracked, Jones said. The payment will compensate Anna for the repairs.

In other business:

• Council passed a resolution reappointing Ralph F. “Rudy” Keister III to a new four-year term on the Sidney Income Tax Board of Appeals. This term will expire Sept. 30, 2019. Keister has served on the board since 2003. The board hears appeals of decisions of the tax administrator.

• Council passed a resolution to appoint Tom Miller to a new five-year term on the Sidney Compensation Commission. This term will expire Oct. 1, 2020. Miller will replace James Kerg Jr., who did not wish to be reappointed. The commission is established by city charter and determines the annual salary of the mayor and members of City Council. Miller is a former councilman and mayor.

• Councilwoman Janet Born reminded council the Senior Center of Sidney and Shelby County will host an open house Saturday, Oct. 3, from 8 a.m. to noon.

• Police Chief Will Balling informed council about the thousands of views that have resulted from the Police Department’s presence on Facebook. He mentioned recent separate posts about a robbery and the work of Officer Mike McRill.

• Jones informed council about upcoming community events. Firefighters will partner with the “Pink Ribbon Girls” foundation and BW3 restaurant for a cancer fundraiser Thursday, Oct. 1. On Saturday, Oct. 10, firefighters and police will partner with the Red Cross to hand out and install smoke detectors for residents. The detectors are paid for by a Red Cross grant; there is no cost to the city. Jones noted the fire department also has carbon monoxide detectors available to residents.

• Cundiff reported on projects using money generated by the city income tax addition approved by voters last year. Revenue from the additional tax are restricted to street work and related projects. He said curb and gutter work is underway in advance of mill and fill work on streets. “We had to wait until we had some money built up,” he said.

• Council discussed the switch to automated trash pickup that was to begin Oct. 1. Republic Services has been delivering new containers to residents. Customers reportedly have run into problems when trying to call Republic with questions about service. Gary Clough, assistant city manager/public works director, said he has been trying expedite the matter by contacting Republic officials.

• Council went into an executive session to prepare for negotiations or bargaining sessions with public employees and to consider the purchase of property for public purposes.

By Michael Seffrin

[email protected]

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.