MOUNT VERNON — In a unanimous vote, Mount Vernon City Council members rejected the Municipal Planning Commission's recommendation to rezone five parcels at 1350 Yauger Road from residential to office/institutional.
Council did not have an issue with rezoning four parcels on which Country Club Retirement Center already sits. However, council members took issue with the partial rezoning of a fifth parcel, preferring that developer John Holland come back when he is ready to expand CCRC and present plans to the commission.
Under the Ohio Revised Code, council did not have an option to amend the legislation but had to accept or reject in total the planning commission's recommendation. Following council's rejection, Holland has two options:
— Return to the planning commission and request rezoning of the four parcels, waiting until he is ready to expand CCRC to request rezoning of the fifth parcel
— Continue to operate CCRC under its current incorrect zoning and return to the planning commission for rezoning of all five parcels when he is ready to expand CCRC
Speaking on behalf of Holland Development, architect Donald Funk said that plans call for a 29-bed wing to be added to CCRC within 12 to 18 months.
In a financial update, Auditor Terry Scott said that as of Sept. 25, the city's income tax collection decreased another $287,000. That brings the year-to-date shortfall to about $1.9 million.
On the expense side, the city continues to under-utilize its appropriations. In a typical year, the city would have spent about 75% of its appropriations by the end of the third quarter.
This year, spending ranges from 16% to 62% of appropriations. The lone exception is the old income tax fund for safety services, which has spent about 79% of its appropriations. The new income tax for safety services is at 42% spending.
Scott also announced that State Rep. Rick Carfagna notified the city that it will receive approximately $600,000 from the third round of CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) money distribution.
In other business, council:
— Postponed indefinitely the creation of a human resources director position until the city's financial picture improves
— Adopted the county's hazard mitigation plan
— Reappointed Kathryn Burley to the Shade Tree and Beautification Commission
—Reappointed Council President Bruce Hawkins as the city's representative to the Local Board of Tax Review
— Appointed Katie Delozier and Kathryn Brechler and reappointed Steve Jefferson to the Board of Property Maintenance Appeals
— Authorized Safety-service Director Richard Dzik to bid and contract for materials
— Authorized the city to apply for an Ohio Public Works Commission grant for the Buckeye Addition waterline improvement project
— Approved a pay increase for the victim advocate position to $23.75 per hour effective Oct. 1. Funding for the position is through a Victims of Crime Advocate grant through the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
— Gave a first reading to legislation establishing the number of hourly employees for the city and compensation for supervisory personnel
— Gave a first reading to the appointment of Amber Keener as the city's representative to the Regional Planning Commission
Two residents spoke during the public participation portion of the meeting. Speaking on the demolition of the former school building on North Mulberry Street, Laura Tabbut said, “We see that the lack of progress on the school is a public nuisance.”
She cited several issues:
— The demolition site is not adequately secured. There is no safety fence, tetnus and rust are potential risks, loose bricks create a fall hazard, and the site presents potential problems with children, the homeless, and drug activity.
— The prolonged demolition is having a negative impact on property values.
— Increased problems with wildlife, specifically bats, coincide with the start of demolition. Bat remediation for her Curtis Street home has cost her $6,000.
Dzik said that following the city's grant extension, Developer Joel Mazza has until mid-December to complete the demolition. Dzik issued an order for the area to be better secured about two months ago, at which time orange fencing was erected.
The fencing has since fallen down. Dzik said it is challenging to put up permanent fencing due to the contractor moving equipment around to carry out the demolition.
Several council members agreed with Law Director Rob Broeren's suggestion that council review its zoning code before mid-December so that if Mazza does not complete the demolition on time, the city has some teeth in its ordinance to respond.
Speaking for the group Action for Equality but hampered by an unclear transmission, Glen Road resident Matt Snow asked council to imagine a group with which they have a strong connection making headlines and being constantly targeted for their belief. Referencing Andrea White's comment from the Sept. 14 council meeting that it was the police's job to arrest and detain only, Snow said that when he sees black and brown people abused by police, “I see their pain; it's my pain” and therefore he will come forward for reform.
“It's your job to legislate,” he told council. “Where is your action?”
Councilman John Francis said that he read and studied the group's proposal for police reform. Citing five policies included in the city's police manual — use of force, discriminatory harassment, standard of conduct, bias-based policy, and anti-retaliation — he told Snow his questions have already been answered.
“I know what you are asking for, and we have it right here,” he said. “I will not have our police department regarded as a bunch of thugs when we have these policies in place.”
Returning to the issue during the remarks portion of the meeting, Francis said he received not one call from the public about police abuse since giving out his cell phone number (740-507-1777) at the last council meeting.
“If you see a badge and a uniform and you feel so insecure you have to cross the street, answer this question,” he said. “Who is profiling who?”
Employee and Community Relations Committee
Safety-service Director Dzik presented council with numbers relating to the proposed departmental restructuring that combines the streets department with the public buildings and land, cemetery, and parks departments. It creates a Director of Public Works position that will be assisted by three assistant directors/foremen.
According to Auditor Scott, the shift will net $52,169.65 in savings. Dzik said he would like to carry that forward to 2020 and use it to hire a ninth maintenance worker. He also said there might be an opportunity to use the savings on contract labor for activities such as mowing.
Dzik said one of the advantages of the restructure is the ability to use workers in whichever department has the need, such as using parks personnel to supplement snow plow drivers or repair facilities in the winter.