Middleport Village Council met in regular session on February 13, 2023

Middleport Village Council met in regular session on February 13, 2023 at village hall with Mayor Fred Hoffman presiding. Present were the following: Council members Brian Conde, Ben Reed, Tyler Andrews and Matt Lyons. Also present were Fiscal Officer Susan Baker, Village Administrator Joe Powell , Assistant Village Administrator Andy Blank, Police Chief Mony Wood, and Village Attorney Richard Hedges, along with visitors Mary Wise, Bill Lambert and Nancy Burns. Opening prayer was given by Matt Lyons followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

The following items were approved unanimously by council: minutes of the January 23 meeting, payment of bills and finance report.

The Mayor read Larry Byer’s resignation from council effective Feb. 13, 2023. Hoffman stated that Byer had talked to him today and felt that he really had too many things going to provide the time that he felt was necessary for a council member. Hoffman stated he appreciated Byer’s service to the community and felt that he had done a good job while on council. Council accepted his resignation.

The Mayor stated that since council did not fill the vacancy within 30 days after Penny Burge’s resignation, he would be appointing Shawn Arnott to that position in the near future. He stated that Arnott’s new residence is on Broadway Street in Middleport. The mayor stated he thought Arnott had been a great asset to the village and was glad to have him back. Hoffman stated that there was some disagreement between himself and Brian Conde on the Mayor’s authority to appoint someone. In Conde’s message to the mayor he had stated that as follows: “I believe in a spirit of cooperation between you and council you should allow council to decide the issue due to the fact this is one of those three week periods between meetings. If we disagree on this we should ask for the opinion of our solicitor.” Conde stated he had no problem with appointing Arnott and the Mayor stated he had no problem with the person Conde has suggested but the Ohio Revised Code states that if council does not fill the position within 30 days, the Mayor SHALL fill the position. After discussion with Attorney Hedges, no further action was taken.

Hoffman stated that we have $87,719.75 in the Cemetery Endowment Fund which is presently drawing no interest. The fund itself cannot be used but the interest from the fund can be used for cemetery operations. The Mayor informed council that Shawn Arnott had contacted him recently and said that the Farmers Bank was running a one-year special right now and that he could get us 4.5% on those funds which would amount to about $3,947 interest for a year. Hoffman recommended that it be invested that way so we will have some funds coming from it to use for operations in our cemetery fund. At this point, there was some discussion about the number of council members present in regards to taking this action. The Mayor stated that at the present time we only have four members on council and all were present. A majority or quorum would be three members. Council voted with three yes votes and one abstention to invest the funds as suggested. Ben Reed abstained since he worked at Farmers Bank.

The Mayor informed council that he would be meeting with Misty Crosby on Feb. 27 from 9 to 11 AM in his office to discuss our application with the Mayors Partnership for Progress for technical assistance on our many planning projects and also advised that anyone who is available is invited to attend to discuss our projects and various priorities. He said he was talking to John Carey recently and he indicated that they anticipate awarding the technical assistance grants by the end of February, but it appears from other information since then that it will probably be in early March.

The Mayor also distributed copies of the schedule provided by Buckeye Hills Regional Council on the meetings which will be held there in Marietta to discuss the projects of the district as submitted to BHRC. He encouraged anyone who is available to register and attend the sessions which they may be interested in. The Mayor said he would be attending several of the sessions.

The Mayor informed council that Joe and Andy met recently with representatives from the Bureau of Workers Compensation. They learned from this meeting that the village would be eligible for up to $40,000 as a 75% share of purchase of equipment which would make village workers more safe in doing various jobs. Of particular concern was the lack of any type of equipment to safely work on projects at various heights such as Christmas lights, tree trimming, etc. Hoffman stated that this type of equipment was needed by the village and a good used one could probably be obtained for between $50,000 and $60,000. The Mayor stated that he thought an investment by the village of about $15,000 with a $40,000 grant would be beneficial to the village workforce. It was discussed that this equipment would not be used that much and it may be more economical to rent as needed. After a lengthy discussion, the item was tabled until the next meeting.

The Mayor informed council that the Meigs County Health Department made him aware of a program which will provide free steel benches for Senior Citizens, and that he needed to let them know by Feb. 24. If anyone has a location where they would like to see this happen, we need to select it now. The Mayor suggested three at Diles Park and three along the walking path. Sue Baker suggested some at the splash park. Hoffman stated he would incorporate all the selections into our request but that he was not aware of how many would be available.

Hoffman stated he had made a recommendation at a previous meeting about raising Mony’s salary up to the equivalent of the other two supervisors, Joe Powell and Andy Blank and requested that it be considered again. He stated that Chief Wood and Dawn Irwin oversee the operations of the jail, dispatchers and police department, and have been very successful in bringing a lot of revenue into the village. After a short discussion council unanimously approved raising Wood’s salary equal to the other two supervisors.

The Mayor informed council that the Tree Commission will be meeting with Ann Bonner on Feb. 24 at 9 AM here and invited any council members who were available to attend.

Hoffman stated that the utilities committee had met recently to discuss water/sewer rates and he became aware of their recommendations tonight. I appreciate the efforts of the committee and though I do not agree with raising the rates at this time, I do understand what they are saying. We have not had a rate increase in four years which I feel is directly due to the efforts of Andy and Joe in operating our systems efficiently. I feel the contract with Syracuse was great for both communities. We were able to better utilize the employees which we have and provide an additional yearly amount of $60,000 into the water fund. This has definitely helped alleviate some of the expenses for our department and makes the operation of the Syracuse water system more economical also. For the reasons I have outlined in the information I sent to you, I am not in favor of an increase but this is your recommendation to do so and I will not try to get in the way of this move. Susan Baker stated that our expenses have exceeded our revenue each year is why we should have an increase. The Mayor stated that he was not disputing this but our monthly financial report has shown an increase in the water operating fund balance from $72,016 in Nov. 2019 to $151,166 in Dec. 2020 to $175,763 in Dec. 2021 to $208,123 in Dec. 2022.

After a short discussion, council unanimously approved the first reading of Ord. 151-23, An Ordinance to increase the price charged for water services.

After a short discussion, council unanimously approved the second reading of Ord. 150-23, an Ordinance changing refuse service rates and policies.

Chief Wood stated that he and Dawn had discussed Rebecca Carson, a village corrections officer and stated that she had passed her state corrections officer test and does a tremendous job in the jail and in assisting Dawn and himself with the daily operations of the jail. He recommended that she be promoted to a Sergeant position and her pay increased to $12.00 an hour. After a short discussion, council unanimously approved the recommendation.

Wood also discussed how the department handles loose dogs and dog bites. He stated that we do have a leash ordinance and dog owners may be cited for letting their dogs run loose. He said that when a resident has an altercation with a dog, the dog warden is notified and our police and the dog warden investigate the complaint and follow up on it. He stated that the state repealed the ordinance on pitbulls so now they are treated the same way as any other dog.

Joe Powell stated that, on behalf of the fire department, he would like to thank everyone for their splendid cooperation in helping with the tremendous inflow of people at the Kevin Dailey funeral. He stated that he thought it went very well and traffic, parking and guests were handled very professionally with no problems that he was aware of. The Mayor agreed that everything was handled very well and felt that Kevin would have been very proud of the sendoff which he received.

The Mayor stated that he had a request from Fire Chief Jeff Darst that the finance committee meet with him as soon as possible to discuss fire department finances. He suggested that the committee contact Jeff and set up a meeting date with him.

Hoffman stated that he had been contacted by a resident concerning problems with a storm sewer backup that had destroyed their furnace and did other damage. He said that the incident had been reported to our insurance company but nothing had really happened as yet and felt the incident should be taken care of. It was agreed that further contact would be made with the insurance companyy.

Conde inquired about the status of the gate change at Hartinger Park. Powell stated that they had purchased two gates, one for each side which would leave an opening in the middle through which a wheel chair can be maneuvered. He also said the village would be installing the necessary sidewalk section which will make easy access to the handicapped park equipment.

Conde stated that the finance committee had discussed with Susan the time she spends as fiscal officer and council members agreed that they were satisfied with the manner in which the office is shared by her and Margie. He stated that Susan had been with the village many years and should be rewarded for all her work.

Conde discussed the lift which had been rented by the village on a temporary basis to install and take down Christmas decorations, trim trees, and other instances where it was needed. The Mayor stated he would take full responsibility for doing this and felt it was necessary to get the work done safely by the employees. He stated he had not consulted Susan as he thought this was a necessary expense and he assumed everyone knew about it. Susan stated this used up a lot of money in the street fund equipment category for 2023. Lyons suggested that this equipment might be better to rent on a daily basis as needed.

Conde stated that he had not been successful in setting up anything with Pomeroy and Mason on a fireworks display and stated that he was in the position of not knowing how to proceed since the Mayor had stated that the fireworks could not be held below the Dairy Queen due to the amount of debris that was scattered over the area and complaints from residents. He asked Mary Wise if she would consider heading this project again this year. After some thought, Mary said that if an approved site were located before the next council meeting, she would take on the project as she did last year.

Council adjourned with the next regular meeting scheduled for 7 PM Feb. 27 in village council chambers.

(Information submitted by Middleport Mayor Fred Hoffman)