Here are my notes from tonight’s council meeting:
SSN number issue
Council discussed an administrative accident that caused 5 letters to be issued to residents with their social security numbers posted on the outside of the envelope. It appears to have been a Microsoft spreadsheet-related slip-up. These things happen. Council was concerned about the accident, but more concerned about the Finance Department’s response. The department issued a vague letter to these 5 residents that said an “error” had been made, and the resident should call in. Some of us believed that message did not adequately express the seriousness of the matter. We learned tonight, however, about a second letter that was sent after Councilman Lowdermilk expressed his concerns. The second letter fully explained the issue and outlined the remedies to be taken. Administrative oversight is an important function of City Council, and I’m glad we were able to help get things back on track.
Clerk of Court’s budget
Stow’s Clerk of Courts visited council to request her 2016 budget to be increased by $45,000. In the spring, we disallowed her request for a 14.5% increase, giving her office an increase of 8.5% ($71,000 more than the 2015 budget). She expressed tonight that our allocation would lead to a shortfall of $40,000. Clerk Colavecchio makes a fair point that labor needs will decline in 2017, when technology improvements will streamline a lot of time-intensive processes. But I still thought our original 8.5% increase was sufficient. Council approved the extra $45,000 by a 5-2 vote (Rasor and Lowdermilk voted “no”).
The administration asked for us to increase our spending on fiber-optic data to two fire stations–from 12 MB per second, to 50 MB/S. The cost would increase from about $12,000 per year to about $20,000 per year. To me, there was not a compelling reason why the extra data was necessary. But it was approved by a 6-1 vote (I voted “no”).
Tomorrow, construction crews will begin demolishing the bridge at the junction of Route 91, Fishcreek and Norton Road. This will cause some traffic issues, so please be aware of that.
Council will meet next on September 8.
Here are my notes from Thursday’s meeting:
Storm Water Fees
On Thursday, we discussed a joint proposal by Sara Kline, Jim Costello and Brian Lowdermilk to raise storm water fees in order to make substantial improvements in Stow’s infrastructure.
If you remember, in the spring, these three each made a separate proposal relating to the storm water fees. Rather than deal with competing legislation, I appointed each of them to a special committee, with the goal being to come up with one piece of legislation that they could all support.
Their proposal will increase each ERU by $2, and then increase it by 10 cents per year thereafter.
Quick ERU crash course: An “ERU” (aka Equivalent Residential Unit) is a unit by which we charge property owners for storm water fees, and those fees are used to prevent flooding. Each single-family residence has 1 ERU. Each commercial property has 1 ERU per 3,060 square feet of impervious surface (with a minimum of 1 ERU per parcel). A property owner pays a monthly fee equal to the amount of ERUs times the cost per ERU. Sara, Jim and Brian’s proposal is to raise the cost per ERU from $3 to $5, and then $5.10, $5.20, etc. in subsequent years.
The new money (i.e., $400,000 per year, derived from the extra $2/ERU) will be segregated for new projects, and likely be used to pay a 25-year bond that will raise about $6 million. And, according to our engineering department, we need $6 million for immediate improvements.
If this proposal is successful, each resident’s bill will be increased by $2 per month. The increase will be substantial for commercial owners, depending on how much impervious surface they own, but it will be a smaller increase than the increase to $8/ERU that was originally proposed.
As President of council, I will give this proposal plenty of time to air out in the public before council votes on it.
Senior Snow Plow Program
Council renewed the senior snowplow program on Thursday, approving up to $12,500 for the winter months of 2016-2017. Last year, the bill came to $3,676.75, which is a function of the mild winter. But in 2008-09, the amount was about $44,000. This was before council implemented some important reforms that ensured only needy seniors were receiving this benefit. Also, last year, the city began asking for volunteers from the Stow football team to plow sidewalks, and they were dispatched twice, which saved money. More importantly, the seniors were reminded that the younger generation cares to help them through the difficult winter months.
As you might have noticed on Thursday, a water main broke under Route 91 between Hibbard and Commerce, and it caused the road to collapse. It looks like a repair that will cost between $60K-$75K in pavement alone to fix.