LIMA — Mayor David Berger and several other city administrative staff updated members of the Westgate Neighborhood Association on the state of the city Sunday at Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home.
Berger spoke briefly on several topics, including concerns with the railroad crossing on North Cable Road and an air permit hearing that will take place Tuesday.
“We have made several reports to [the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio] and we encourage people to call there when they have concerns with the railroad crossing,” Berger said. “The problem is you have four crossings and a slanted cross so that is several rumblings when you go across.”
Berger said they have had little success in trying to get state funds to fix the problem, and that the cost of the project was high enough that it would limit funding for other needed work from the railroad company.
Berger reported that the energy project has gone from what was originally planned to be electricity production to primarily a liquid fuels project.
“It will be used to produce jet fuel, gasoline and diesel at the Lima Refinery,” Berger said.
He reported that the city had just authorized to give three parcels of property as part of Rhodes State College’s plan to move downtown. Berger said the campus planned to move its health-related and medical programs to downtown and that the move would bring an additional 800 to 1,000 people to the downtown area.
“It’s terrific news for the downtown area,” Berger said.
Berger said the city has heard the concerns of snow removal and keeping roads clean. He said that the season had a higher than normal amount of snowfall, and as a result the city issued more citations for failing to remove snow and had discussed other proposals.
“We hope we don’t have another season like this for a while,” Berger said, “but we will address it early. There is the possibility of having a proposal where people would park on the even numbered side of the street on even days on the calendar and park on the odd side on the odd days. This would keep the cars moving and allow us to keep the roads clean easier.”
Berger said residents needed to be more deliberate in encouraging out-of-town friends to visit downtown with the things it attracts, such as Broadway shows to the Lima Civic Center and its restaurants.
Deputy Utilities Director Mike Caprella reported water lines were a major problem because of the cold winter season.
“January was tough but February was terrible,” Caprella said. “We had our crews stretched to the max. In February we averaged two water main breaks a day. The temperature didn’t matter we have to go out and fix it. We had eight breaks in one weekend.”
He said the city had more than 500 calls for reports of no water and more than 300 calls for emergency shutoffs. Caprella said the city also suffered a line break at the water tower near Proctor & Gamble and two water sewer line breaks that were more than 30 feet below the surface.
He said the city has many current projects, which include the adding of city water services out to Rudolph Foods in Westminster and a $27 million wastewater system improvement.
City financial director Steve Cleaves reported briefly on the city’s budget, saying the city was sitting well compared to many other cities and he contributed that to good fiscal management by the city administration.
“Our biggest savings has been manpower,” Cleaves said. “We have used attrition whenever we could and we have combined jobs. We have had about a 25 percent decrease in manpower costs. That is significant because that is about 75 percent of the city’s budget.”
Cleaves said there is discussion about using temporary service and part-time help to perform city functions, and he said residents should let city officials know how they feel.
“We need to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” Cleaves said. “We would see our cash reserves dwindle if we didn’t use part-time help and contract labor.”
The meeting was part of the mayor’s city focus program, which meets quarterly with community residents to update happenings in the city and take questions from the public.