SIDNEY — Sidney City Council wrapped up its review of the city’s five-year financial plan Monday night, with discussion focused upon several questions posed to city staff by council members.
Among the many items discussed about the plan was whether the city intends to get serious about the growing problem of abandoned, deteriorating houses in Sidney and it can afford to add staff to the community services department. Also, some discussion focused on how to make the stormwater fund self-supporting for capital projects and what the fee increase should be.
City Manager Mark Cundiff said an additional employee would cost the city approximately $430,000 over the five-year plan. This addition, however, will not allow for the city to maintain minimum fund balances that is set forth in the city’s financial policy.
He presented several options for raising the money, but staff’s recommendation, which council agreed with, was to leave the five-year financial plan as presented until council can hear the vacant property registry presentation on Oct. 2. The registry, which is yet to be established, will require and charge for annual inspections. The potential revenue from these inspections and fines is currently unknown, Cundiff said.
Authorization for an additional employee, he said, without having a plan on how to pay for the employee and maintain the minimum fund balances would be irresponsible and fiscally imprudent. He said they are also looking to the city of Sandusky for an example of their successful program.
It was suggested by staff last week to raise the stormwater fee by 30 cents per equivalent unit. This would bring the average user’s fee from $1.03 to $1.33 per month. However, this amount would still not be enough for the fund to be self-supporting. After council questioned what would be necessary to provide for capital improvements from it’s own fund, staff returned Monday suggesting an increase from 30 cents to 90 cents. This would bring the average user’s bill to $1.93 per month.
Council member Darryl Thurber ask if the entire 90 cents would go straight to the stormwater fund, and not be touched for any other projects. Cundiff said it would, and $1.93 per month would still be the lowest fee in the area, as the average stormwater fee for surrounding communities is about $3.
Council directed staff to bring back a resolution on the matter at the next meeting increasing the fee by 90 cents.
Council also asked if the city should explore alternative options for the Waterpark’s concession stand, since it is not earning enough to be self-supporting after next year. Staff recommended using the first quarter of 2018 to evaluate options. Other options for consideration, Cundiff said, are to allow patrons to carry-in food and drinks, replace the concession stand with vending machines, close the stand and not offer food or drinks, or find a vendor who will operate the stand and pay a small fee to the city. Council agreed to hold off on making a decision until the first quarter of 2018.
Should the city develop a park in the Stewart subdivision before funding a walking tail in Robert O. New Park, was another question considered. Council admitted the subdivision is under served by lacking a park, and felt maybe they should move the project ahead of the slated 2022 date. Cundiff said unless a donation comes forward they would not be able to tackle the project next year.
Waiting until 2019, Cundiff said, will allow the city to utilize Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, as well as other grants and donations. Also he noted that obtaining the land first could help with obtaining grant funds to develop the park. Development of the park in the Steward subdivision is estimated to cost $135,000. After considering what to switch around, council decided to purchase the land and begin development in 2019.
Council questioned whether city staff had considered the additional costs deriving from the city’s responsibility for the maintenance, repair and replacement of some sewer laterals from the sewer main to some residents’ property lines. Cundiff said it is difficult to determine the liability costs. The current suggestion was to increase water flow rates by 4 percent and sewer flow rates by 2 percent.
There was some concern about the possibility of the county no longer providing the 35 percent of the non-grant costs for the Shelby Public Transit. Cundiff noted the contract is valid until Dec. 31, 2018. Mayor Mike Barhorst said he does not believe this is one of the things being considered to be cut by the county.
A final question posed to council about the five-year plan was if discussion is planned for renewal of the 0.25 percent income tax levy. Cundiff said a discussion is planned for cost estimates for construction, equipping and staffing of future fire station No. 3 and for remaining streets needed to be paved at the Oct. 23 meeting.
Council will consider a resolution adopting the five-year financial plan at its Sept. 25 meeting.
In other business, council considered the ownership transfer of a C1 liquor permit to DB Petroleum, Inc., located at 1301 Wapakoneta Ave. Cundiff told council after a review was completed by the Sidney Police Department, nothing alarming or unusual was found to object to the ownership transfer of the permit. Council exhibited silence on the matter, indicating consent for DB Petroleum, Inc to move forward with the next step to transfer the permit.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Jimmie Martin asked council for help with a speeding problem on his street, East Court Street. Also, he asked if it is against the law for him to sell refurbished bicycles from his home. He said in general, he gives away more bikes than he sells.
Police Chief Will Balling told Martin he will have the speed trailer placed on his road and extra patrol officers in the area. He said after next week, he will have information to report back on.
Law Director Jeffrey Amick told Martin if he is regularly selling retail items from his home he needs to report the income to the tax department, regardless of the amount. Amick said he would leave it up to Martin’s discretion about how he wishes to handle it.
At the end of the meeting, Balling invited the public to the Community Conversation with the police chief, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart the drug task force to address the opioid and drug issue. The forum will be held at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 120 W. Water St., at 7 p.m. He also announced the police department was awarded $50,000 law enforcement diversion grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to help fight opioid addiction.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.