Lima council passes stalled ordinances, budget cuts near

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — After examining related issues in committee this past week, Lima City Council resolved three ordinances awaiting approval during its Monday night meeting.

The first, Ordinance 72-20, would give a pay bump to the salaried position of the chief technology officer, which was reviewed by council’s utilities committee. Under the original hiring agreement, the position was slated to start at $88,000 a year, with additional steps in pay range and raises expected to come down the line.

By changing the city’s legal code clarifying employee compensation, the ordinance would agree to the first change in pay, which would increase the pay range by $1,108. Utilities Director Mike Caprella said even with the adjustment, the chief technology officer would still be making $2,000 to $3,000 less than he did last year working under the city, according to the meeting minutes.

After hearing about the agreement in more detail, Councilor Jon Neeper agreed to pass the ordinance on third reading. Councilors Derry Glenn and Jamie Dixon retained their “no” votes on the ordinance.

The second and third ordinances confirmed board members to a number of city boards. Under Ordinance 76-20, Robert Fitzgerald and Cathy Clerk were approved for appointment to the city’s Design Review Board, and under Ordinance 77-20, Steve Young, Brett Caven, Ross Vennekotter and Bryant Kesler were approved for terms on the city’s Urban Forest Council.

During an earlier meeting, council members had held onto passing such ordinances until they could meet to talk about board diversity, which they did on April 21.

Lima City Councilors decided to examine the member diversity of City of Lima boards after being prompted by Lima African American Chamber of Commerce President Tim Callahan in April, and councilors largely agreed that council could act positively to increase member diversity on local boards after examining the issue the first time around.

What policy issues will come from that discussion, however, remains to be seen.

Council’s economic and community development committee plans to meet again to discuss ways to increase board diversity next Monday.

In related news:

• Mayor David Berger spoke briefly to council about the city’s financial situation. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and an expected decrease in revenue from income tax, Berger said the city is preparing for a 20% shortfall in revenue this year, and voluntary furlough is being examined to help balance budgets.

Part of the difficulty, Berger said, is that the city won’t know exactly how much of revenue has been reduced until August due to the late tax season, so planning for the drop has required some estimation.

“The problem is the question marks aren’t going to be resolved any time soon,” Berger said.

• A housing project located on 1414 Hazel Road will get a more in-depth look from council members after a neighbor of the project communicated concerns to council. The additional construction — intended to flip a single-family dwelling into a duplex — had been approved back in December of 2019 by the city’s board of adjustments, but the resulting construction has caused neighbors to question if the property owner is following the letter of the law. Council plans to discuss the issue during a May 11 committee meeting.

• Council approved the acceptance of a donation from the Basement Doctor. According to a council communication, the company will clean and seal the four “Welcome to Lima” limestone signs and beautify the planters that the signs sit in at no cost to the city.

• After being approached by Verizon Wireless, the city administration and council agreed to the installation of a 5G antenna on the Paul Street water tower near the refinery. Councilor Jamie Dixon said he had received a number of calls from citizens worried about the safety of the device. In response, Caprella emphasized that there was no cause for concern and that all parties, including the residents of the south end of Lima, would benefit.

Under the agreement, Verizon would pay the city $18,000 a year over five years.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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