Here are my notes from last night’s city council meeting:
I have made it no secret that I believe City Council is overpaid. It goes beyond mere opinion and into fact; compare our council pay with surrounding communities and you’ll see, based on our population, each Stow council member should be paid about $10,000 per year, instead of $15,000. What’s more is that the Council President receives an extra $1,000 — for a salary of $16,000.
I have raised this issue in the past, and it failed to gain traction. In fact, it caused the council to be fractured.
Last night, I proposed a solution that solves part of the problem and was not contentious. In fact, the vote was unanimous.
My idea was to start a tradition for the Council President to donate his/her extra $1,000 every year. The donation must go to a 501(c)(3) charity that supports Stow residents who are in need. This donation would be optional, but if the President declines to donate the $1,000 in a given year, then the Council would be required to consider legislation to lower the President’s salary. The President will use the donation to help publicize the worthy cause.
I donated my $1,000 from last year to Bulldog Bags, Inc., which is a Stow-based charity that provides bags of food to Stow-Munroe Falls students who are on free/reduced lunches–for them to take home during the weekend. It’s as worthy of a cause as we have in Stow, and I think we put the City’s money to good use with this donation.
Council of Governments legislation
As you are aware, the City of Stow is creating a council of governments (a “COG”) for 911 dispatch services with Cuyahoga Falls, Tallmadge and Summit County. The bylaws of the COG will be important, to ensure that Stow is not giving up too much authority, to ensure that the funding mechanism is fair, and to ensure costs are kept under control.
Last night, we voted unanimously to adopt Brian Lowdermilk’s proposal to require City Council to have final approval over the dispatch COG’s bylaws. I added an amendment to ensure that Stow’s COG representative is an elected official — so there will be some accountability to voters.
The law directors are still hammering out the COG documents. At this point, no legislation has been introduced to adopt the COG.
Here are my notes from last night’s meeting:
New condo development – Council unanimously approved a zoning certificate for a new condo development off of Gilbert Road, and just west of Lowe’s and Wal-Mart on the west part of town. It will include 55 four-unit buildings. Each unit will cost about $200K and will have between 1,500 and 1,600 square feet. The tract is 70.4 acres, but will maintain 45% greenspace. The developer will target empty-nesters and senior citizens. It is a $20 million investment. As with the Dollar General issue, the property was already zoned to permit this sort of development, and therefore, council was without authority to issue a blanket denial. But council made some revisions to the plans that satisfied the residents who own property nearby the development.
Council contingency funds – Each year, the budget allocates to council $15K for miscellaneous purposes. Many years, we do not use the money, and it goes back into the general fund. This year, we donated $500 to the UpClose program, which allows Stow-Munroe Falls students to visit Washington D.C. and learn about the federal government. Last night, we donated $500 toward Stow’s police K-9 fund. We then, at Matt Riehl’s suggestion, transferred the balance of the contingency fund toward repairing storm-water issues in Stow.
Dispatch updates – We have a new prospective member of the dispatch Council of Governments: the Summit County sheriff’s office, which dispatches for Summit’s townships and villages. At one point, Hudson considered joining the COG, but has now backed out, according to Mayor Kline. The membership now stands at 4 (Stow, Cuyahoga Falls, Tallmadge and the County). The law directors are busy collaborating on legislation and bylaws. The finance directors are putting together a budget. Expect to read a lot more about this topic from January through March.
Primary Election date – As you might have read in the Beacon Journal, I have proposed to move Stow’s primary from September to May. Two main reasons: (1) It will give overseas military a better opportunity to get their ballots completed and submitted on time. (2) It will cost somewhere between 40-50% less. If Stow held its 2015 primary in May, instead of September, it would have paid about $20,000 instead of about $34,000. The ABJ’s Paula Schleis did a good job explaining the proposal in more detail (see link above). This proposal must go before the voters in 2017. I plan to give it a full 3 readings before council votes whether to place it on the ballot.
Next Meeting – Council will hold its organizational meeting on January 3 at 8 p.m. The next regular meeting will be January 12. Until then, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!