Ellie Cline Victim Advocate city

Ellie Cline, left, speaks about her role as victim advocate through the City Law Director's Office at the Sept. 27, 2021, city council meeting. At right is Brittney Whitney, assistant law director and director of the city's Domestic Violence Unit.

MOUNT VERNON — City council amended and then passed by a 5-2 vote legislation establishing a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) at its meeting Monday night. Council members Tammy Woods and Janis Seavolt cast the no votes.

The first amendment reflected that beer or wine will be served in specified DORA cups rather than plastic bottles or other plastic containers. The cup is imprinted with DORA rules and will have a color-coded sticker designating which establishment sold the beverage.

The second amendment changed council's time frame to review the DORA. Council will review it in one year and every five years thereafter rather than within five years.

Woods and Seavolt both cited the fact that the constituents they heard from were overwhelmingly against the legislation. Woods also said that she believes open containers are a bad idea.

Council members Julia Warga and Amber Keener said they received yes and no comments from constituents but found that after speaking with community members, faith-based groups, fire and police chiefs, and other DORA cities, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Keener noted that if you assume DORA events will lead to drunk driving, the city would also have to revoke liquor licenses throughout the city.

Councilman John Francis, who received four emails and no calls on the issue, also referenced the potential of drunk driving, saying that the person who would drive drunk after a DORA event would drive drunk after drinking elsewhere, too. “It's hard to nix something without trying it out,” he said of a DORA, adding that he likes the one year review.

Council member Samantha Scoles also likes the one year review and that the DORA is event-driven, not seven days a week. Additionally, she likes the two levels of approval: the DORA committee and city officials. She noted that the legislation lacks a formal review process, and requested the DORA committee to conduct a review after each event. The review includes areas such as trash pickup, organization, and policing.

Council waived the third reading for two ordinances relating to personnel within the police department and passed them as emergencies. Both were topics of committee meetings prior to the legislative session.

The first ordinance amends the terms of the agreement with the police bargaining unit to allow for lateral transfers. Lateral transfers enable personnel coming in from another department to start at a higher pay scale than a new hire with no experience.

Transfers cannot transfer in at the supervisory level; supervisors will still be promoted from within the ranks. Transfers would start in the patrol division. Depending on experience, the transfer could have a starting pay equivalent to an officer who has one to five years with the city rather than one starting at the base rate.

Transfers will also start at the bottom in terms of seniority, vacation time, and other benefits.

The second ordinance allows the safety-service director to temporarily increase the number of city employees in a department. Safety-service Director Richard Dzik said he has the authorization to hire temporary employees, but as temps they do not get credit for their time of service.

The ordinance applies to any department but is relevant to the police department right now. Currently, for example, if a sergeant leaves but the patrol division is full, Dzik cannot hire anyone until the sergeant's position is filled from within the ranks. That then opens up a position in the patrol division, and the process to fill that position can begin.

Dzik said the current process addresses getting people in the correct rank vs getting the right amount of people in the department. The legislation council passed allows Dzik to hire an additional patrol officer, enabling the patrol division to remain at full strength when someone moves up to fill the sergeant's position.

Council also took the following actions:

•Adopted the city's strategic plan as a guide for future legislative priorities. Dzik said over 500 citizens participated in drafting the plan. The plan will be on the city's website within a few days.

•Approved on a third reading the creation of a Planned Commercial Development District

•Waived the third reading and appointed Sibley Poland as representative to the Regional Planning Commission

•Waived three readings and appointed Duane Barber to the Shade Tree and Beautification Committee

•Waived three readings and accepted supplemental appropriations, fund transfers, and bill payment

•Waived three readings and authorized Dzik to issue a Request for Qualifications for a firm to provide inspection services on the Clintonville and Gilchrist Estates projects. The Clintonville storm water and sanitary project involves residences in the area of Fern, Grange, and Pearl avenues on the city's north side.

•Gave a second reading to rezoning parcels in Cooper Progress Park and the Shellmar parcel

•Gave a first reading to legislation establishing a city-wide community reinvestment area (CRA). Council will hold a committee meeting on the topic at its Oct. 11 meeting.

•Gave a first reading updating the city's codified ordinances based on council's adopted ordinances

Victim Advocate Position

Ellie Cline told council about her role as victim advocate through the City Law Director's Office. A victim advocate works with victims to educate them about their rights under Marsy's Law, provides emotional support, and assists victims in obtaining a protection order as well as many other responsibilities.

Funding for the position is through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) through the Ohio Attorney General's Office. In 2017, when Ohioans adopted Marsy's Law (a victim's Bill of Rights) into the state's constitution, the city received $66,874.

Funding increased through 2019, then dropped to $54,888 in 2020. For 2021, the funding projection is $41,116.

The decreased funding is because of the trend toward non-prosecution agreements: in other words, fines vs convictions. Money received from fines goes into the General Treasury; money from convictions goes into VOCA.

Law Director Rob Broeren said that originally, the VOCA grant paid for Cline's salary, supplies, and other items required through Marsy's Law. Last year, the grant paid for Cline's salary and the required things.

“This year, there is going to be at least some shortfall,” he said, adding that he will probably request $15,000 to $20,000 in the 2022 budget to cover costs and keep the position.

Assistant Law Director Brittney Whitney, who also heads the city's Domestic Violence Unit, told council the city could not comply with the requirements of Marsy's Law without the victim advocate position. The alternative, Broeren said, is to risk a noncompliance fine.

Cline noted that changes in federal guidelines require some of the money to start flowing back into VOCA in 2022 rather than the General Treasury.

Miscellaneous:

•Trick or Treat is set for Saturday, Oct. 30, 5:30-7

•A historical marker dedication for the Mount Calvary Baptist Church is set for Saturday, Oct. 16, at 1 pm. at 13 S. Mulberry St.

•Residents on North Sandusky Street who want to keep their brick sidewalk should call the city's engineering department at 740-393-9528.

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