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.
Here are my notes from tonight’s meetings:
Council Rules – Our meeting was brief tonight. We only had two business items. One was a proposed change in the council rules. In order to explain it, I will need to provide context.
Generally, city council works like this: A proposal is made by introduction into one of council’s five committees. The committee discusses it, analyzes it, sometimes amends it, and then holds a vote. Each committee has four members (except Committee-of-the-Whole, which has all 7 members). To advance a proposal through committee for a vote of City Council, it must obtain a majority (i.e., three out of four).
In the past couple months, Jim Costello used a procedure to avoid the committee vote and bring a proposal directly before the full council for a vote. The maneuver is completely legal. It’s specified in the existing council rules. But, frankly, it does fly in the face of what council has traditionally done.
Tonight, Bob Adaska proposed a change to council rules to prevent this so-called “circumvention” of the committees. I was not in favor of it.
My main concern with Bob’s proposal is that it would allow just two City Council members who are on a committee to shut down a proposal by preventing it from getting a majority vote within a committee. It would make a council minority more powerful than a minority in the U.S. Senate, which requires a 60% vote for cloture. Bob’s rule would require a 75% vote to overcome minority objections within a committee.
I think our council operates best when everyone gets a chance to participate. In my first few years on council, I was in the minority — a LOT. And I remember how it felt to get stifled on proposals I thought were legitimate. Although I never went so far as Costello did, I don’t blame Jim for using the rules to advance a cause he thought was important (in this case, it was a proposal to raise storm-water fees).
These complications were discussed tonight. To his credit, Bob withdrew his support for the proposal.
Shawn Porter – Please tune in on Saturday at 9 p.m. as Stow’s own Shawn Porter will be fighting for the world welterweight title against Keith Thurman. Thurman is the undefeated champion, and this is one of the most hotly anticipated fights of the year. To add a little context, this will be the first primetime fight on CBS since Muhammad Ali fought Leon Spinks in 1978.
Shawn is a friend, and one of the most humble, down-to-earth people I know, in spite of his fame and success. He has marched in Stow’s July 4th parade with me for the past couple years. Maybe he will bring the world title back to Stow on July 4?
Next Meeting – Council will meet next on July 14.