Council tackles variety of issues at work session

By Michael Seffrin -

SIDNEY — Disposing of public property, waiving an assessment for weed cutting, and promoting the river corridor were dealt with by Sidney City Council at a work session Monday night.

Council favored a city staff proposal 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.

Balling recommended that council modify the ordinance 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.

Councilman Steve Wagner liked the idea, but asked that council be apprised of such donations. “I would be all for that,” Balling responded.

Legislation to amend the ordinance will be introduced at council’s next meeting.

Most of council favored waiving a weed-cutting assessment requested by a man who bought a property, improved it, and paid back taxes without realizing there was an assessment for weed cutting that the city had ordered before he purchased it. The property owner, Wade Murray, through his attorney, appeared before council to request the waiver at a previous meeting.

City Law Director Jeff Amick said that when Murray purchased the property, the debt owed to the city had been incurred, but not yet assessed. Amick said the assessment is legally founded and defensible. If the waiver is granted, that decision must be based upon equitable considerations (given the facts, it would be unfair to pursue collection of the assessment).

Several council members noted the improvements Murray had made to the property and felt granting the waiver would be the right thing to do. Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan agreed, but said the city should establish a process concerning assessments that is overseen by the city manager. She said the city needs a way to keep track of assessments.

A resolution will be presented to council concerning this waiver and the city staff will develop a process to avoid future problems.

Council agreed that the city would give $5,000 to continue support of Great Miami River Corridor development.

In 2013, the city agreed to partner with the Miami Conservancy District (MCD) and many other Great Miami River (GMR) communities to fund a study of the river corridor by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, City Manager Mark Cundiff said. The city contributed $3,000 toward this planning effort. The Great Miami River Corridor Study was completed in 2014 and one of the goals identified by the plan is “create a new brand for the Great Miami River Corridor that everyone accepts and utilizes.”

The MCD and stakeholders from GMR communities met with several marketing/communications firms to learn about developing a new brand, name and identity for the river corridor. Studio Graphique was chosen for this project, and will conduct research and analysis activities, and create a brand framework and platform, if the necessary funds can be raised. The work is expected to take six to nine months. The project objectives are to build a brand that promotes tourism and improves quality of life.

This project will cost $50,000. The MCD will partner on the project with a $5,000 cash investment and donate the staff time to manage the contract and oversee its successful completion. The MCD is asking GMR communities to partner in this effort with a $5,000 contribution. They have already received funding commitments from Hamilton, Piqua and Troy.

“Staff views this contribution as a continuing effort to promote the GMR Corridor as a place for people to visit and an important component in furthering the quality of life for Sidney residents,” Cundiff said in his report. “Continuing to be an active partner in these efforts will assist the city with the future development of the GMR riverfront and extensions of the existing recreational trail system. The funds for this contribution would come from lodging tax proceeds.”

Wagner, a member of the lodging tax committee, agreed the lodging tax is the appropriate place to get the funds, but said the committee should “get a heads-up” when use of the tax revenue is being considered.

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.