Here are my notes from last night’s meetings:
I had more responsibility than normal last night. With the president of council absent, I served as acting president. I also chaired the committee-of-the-whole meeting and finance committee. If that weren’t enough, it was my turn for the prayer. If you were listening at home, you probably got sick of hearing my voice. I compare chairing a council meeting to being an attorney at a jury trial. You have to be on your toes constantly, often while multitasking. But I enjoyed it.
Finance committee discussed implementation of a donation policy. City council has a contingency budget of $15,000, a vast majority of which is never used, but one way we use it is to grant donations. One cause we have consistently supported is the CloseUp program, which sends Stow high school students to Washington, D.C. We receive a lot of requests–almost all legitimate and worthy of support. However, it’s not our money; it’s the taxpayers’. Also, we can’t say “yes” to everyone. So I drafted a procedure and qualifications by which we would consider a donation. Last night, we modified it to add item No. 9. I have posted the proposed policy below. Council will review it at the next meeting:
- Recipient must be either (i) a tax-exempt organization per Section 501(c)(3) of the IRC or (ii) a government entity or agency.
- Recipient must be either (i) headquartered in Stow or (ii) have an office/physical presence in Stow.
- If a corporation, Recipient must have been in operation for at least 3 years and be in good standing according to the Ohio Secretary of State.
- Funds must be used to primarily benefit Stow residents.
- No city council member (or immediate family member) may be either (i) an officer/director of Recipient or (ii) a likely direct beneficiary of funds.
- Strong preference for Recipients whose work/cause relates to government or civic service.
- Requests for donation must be submitted to president of council in writing, on the recipient’s letterhead, including (i) the name, email address and telephone number of the primary contact for Recipient, (ii) proof of 501(c)(3) status (except government), (iii) certificate of good standing in State of Ohio (except government), (iv) written representation that items 2, 3, 4, and 5 are true and accurate to the best of the primary contact of the Recipient’s information, (iv) amount requested, and (v) proposed use of funds. Application packet to be distributed to all council members before a meeting at which the donation is discussed.
- Recipients having received a donation from city council within the past 12 months of the effective date of the policy are exempt from the above qualifications (i.e., CloseUp program).
- No donation may exceed $500.
City council voted unanimously to hire two police officers. We will likely hire two more in the coming months to replace Chief Dirker and another officer who left the force last fall. It appears as if the administration is aiming to keep the amount of officers to 40. Council also hired one service department employee.
We also considered a routine proposal to renew the city’s outstanding notes. We currently have about $21.6 million in outstanding debt, $4.125 million of which is comprised of notes (the balance is bonds). The good news is, the city has retired a good amount of debt in the past 5 years. We have about $10 million less debt than the year I joined city council. The only new debt since I have been on council has been for the Hudson Drive widening.
For the third-straight meeting, we discussed Jake Brakes. Councilman Bob Adaska took one last shot at fixing his flawed legislation, which passed two meetings ago. Without a fix, the existing legislation would not be effective (something I told them at the time, but no one listened). The same arguments were made (pro and con), along with some new ones, and the new legislation (i.e., the “fix”) failed 2-4. I’d be shocked if there is another legislative body that has discussed Jake Brakes as extensively as this one.
City council unanimously approved the appointment of Captain Mark Stone to be the new fire chief. He has been with the department since 2000. By all accounts, he is a great hire. I look forward to working with him.
Winter is over. We probably won’t need to use more road salt this season (but see Tuesday’s forecast). The city still has 2,000 tons of salt remaining, so we did a good job of estimating our needs. I think, more than any other year, our roads crew deserves serious credit. They did a great job keeping our streets safe.
City council will meet next on April 24.
- We decided a “moral claim” last night. For those of who who are unaware, a moral claim is basically a request from an individual for the city to compensate that individual for some sort of harm in which the city is alleged to have played a role. In this case, a driver on Route 8 South, between Seasons Road and Steels Corners, alleged a piece of asphalt was kicked up by another driver’s tire and went through his vehicle’s grill, damaging the hood. The claim was for between $1,000 and $2,000. … There is no legal basis for the city to be liable here. Council unanimously denied the claim.
- The mayor has requested that City Council authorize $252,000 for the demolition and reconstruction of SKiP Park. The park was constructed in 1991, with expectations that the wood could last 15 years in Northeast Ohio’s climate. A couple of the features have already been decommissioned because of the condition of the wood posts. The city expects that the estimate of $252,000 will be higher than the actual cost of the project. The mayor also stated that she is hoping for $40,000 of corporate sponsorships; John Pribonic suggested perhaps even more. The city will also rely on volunteers; Christ Community Church has agreed to dedicate labor. The new park will have a rubberized surface, instead of the mulch. I held item this within the Finance Committee because there was a problem with the legislation and because there were a lot of questions. Plus, we were under a time crunch last night due to certain discussions taking longer than expected. Finance Committee will discuss the park again on April 10.
- As you likely know, there was a homicide in Stow this month — the first in Stow in 12 years. Kudos to Steve Dunton and the detective bureau for uncovering evidence that led to an arrest of the victim’s roommate. It has been reported that the victim did not have a lot of funds for a memorial, so the community is holding a fundraiser at Applebee’s on Hudson Drive this Wednesday (all day) where a portion of the proceeds will benefit her memorial fund. My prayers are with the victim’s family and friends.
- Jake Brakes — we discussed them again, at length, last night. Two weeks ago, council passed legislation banning engine brakes (aka Jake Brakes) on Route 8 along Wyoga Lake Estates by a 5-1 vote (I was the lone “no” vote). The residents there have complained about noise from the freeway, and engine brakes can be loud. The language contained in the legislation was fatally flawed, and would not be effective. I pointed this out two weeks ago, but no one seemed to care. My main concern, however, was relating to safety. I don’t want a truck driver thinking twice before using his engine brakes if he needs to stop in a hurry. Last night, Adaska introduced another piece of legislation, aimed to cure the language problems I identified two weeks ago. I made my plea about safety again last night, and was joined by Brian D’Antonio, who knows the industry and had a change of heart. Pribonic and Jim Costello joined us. The corrective legislation failed by a 4-3 vote (Adaska, Lowdermilk, Riehl voted “yes”). Therefore, the Route 8 jake brake legislation is a nullity. I respect what Bob was trying to do, but this was not a good piece of legislation. The remedy for the folks who live in proximity to Route 8, including Adaska’s personal residence, is for funding to be allocated for a sound barrier. Not this.
- On Monday, the traffic patterns will change near CVS on Graham Road for the beginning of the Graham Road project. There will be one lane in either direction, as work begins on the north side of Graham.
- City council and its committees will meet next on April 10.