Mount Vernon City Hall

MOUNT VERNON — Nine projects made the city's revised 2020 street resurfacing list, with North Mulberry Street and Belmont Avenue topping the list.

North Mulberry (from Belmont Street to Calhoun Street) and Belmont Avenue (from Sandusky Street to Mansfield Avenue) get priority because they are the city's cost-share portion for receiving grant money. Other projects on tap include:

— Eastern Star Road (All)

— Plum Alley (Public Square to Sugar Street)

— Plum Alley (East Ohio Avenue going south)

— Shellmar Park (parking lot and basketball court)

— Spice Alley (East Gambier Street to Howard Street)

— Ohio 229 (curbs and gutter from Edgewood Road going east)

Of the $887,150 available for resurfacing, the city will fund about $766,500. The remaining $120,650 will come through a cost-share partnership program with private entities.

The city started the partnership program last year, and, according to City Engineer Brian Ball, it has been very successful. Under the program, private entities pay for half of the cost for resurfacing alleys; the city pays the other half. Ball is working with the YMCA, Ariel Foundation, the Elks Lodge, and Knox Community Hospital for 2020 partnerships.

A Feb. 24 preliminary list included Dixie Drive. However, because Columbia Gas will be working on Dixie Drive this fall, the city had to push that resurfacing project back to 2021.

The 2020 brick street project includes two blocks each on Oak and Catherine streets. Ball said design plans are 90 percent complete and include complete utility replacement of water, wastewater, and storm water lines.

Although the city has to wait until more money comes into the water/wastewater and stormwater utilities, Ball expects to complete the project this year.

“I think this project could bid as early as September,” he said. “It's great winter work for the contractor.”

Utilities Committee

Council gave city administration the go-ahead to bid and contract for a waterline project involving Eastmoor Drive, Upland Terrace, Dogwood Terrace, and Country Court Nursing Home.

Each of those lines is a dead-end water line, something the Environmental Protection Agency frowns upon. Dead-end lines have a back flow that, when it meets the incoming flow, creates a pressure that bursts the line.

The lines have had multiple breaks in addition to being old. The plan is to replace each of the lines and loop them into a line on Coshocton Avenue. Plans also call for new water meters and new line from the main lines to the new meters at no cost to homeowners.

The project lies within the Coshocton Avenue TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District. In a TIF district, property tax revenue goes into a special fund designated for infrastructure and other improvement projects within that designated area.

“The estimated $850,000 cost will be 100 percent TIF money and would not be burdening the utility for the construction of the project,” said Ball.

The project will take about three months to complete.

Employee and Public Relations Committee

Law Director Rob Broeren provided a synopsis of the 2019 caseload for his office. Broeren is requesting the city hire a second assistant law director so that he can be freed up to do more non-criminal work.

Last year, the law director's office prosecuted around 2,410 criminal and traffic cases in 251 work days.

“That means that we had to resolve an average of 10 cases every day,” he said. “When you think the county prosecutor's office has 2.5 lawyers for criminal work and about 380 cases, that's an awful lot of work for two people.”

In addition, his office handled 70 probation violations and 387 potential criminal cases sent for review. Time spent in court, which means he and Assistant Law Director Brittany Whitney cannot be doing anything else, accounts for almost half of the week. Domestic violence convictions increased from 23 in 2016 to 42 in 2019.

“What we want to be able to do is expand the services to the city,” said Broeren, citing lack of contract reviews as one area that has cost the city time and money. “If we're doing [contract reviews], we're falling behind on criminal work.

“Between 400 and 500 cases is a good annual docket for a city prosecutor. We are not quite three times that,” said Broeren. “We're pretty much going all out.”

By hiring another attorney, Broeren said that “we can give each case more attention, and we think we can do like we did with domestic violence cases: get on top of them earlier and get better results.”

Other areas Broeren wants to expand or get more involved with include electronic contracts, zoning, and property enforcement.

“These are the sorts of things we can't do right now or can't do at the level we should be doing,” he said. “Having this other lawyer to do the criminal work will allow me to turn my attention to these things, and I think that will be a positive net to the city by providing these services and cutting down on having to contract out other departments.”

For his part, Safety-service Director Richard Dzik said, “I have made it a policy I am not putting pen to paper on any contract that hasn't been reviewed by the law director's office. … There's plenty that I would like Mr. Broeren to help us out with.”

In its legislative session, council members gave a second reading to legislation authorizing the hiring of a second attorney.

Other business council addressed in its legislative session includes:

— A first reading to bid and contract for the North Sandusky Street water and sanitary sewer project. Council will hold a committee meeting prior to the March 23 council session.

— Adopting as an emergency legislation authorizing Dzik to bid and contract for engineering services relating to the wastewater treatment plant. Both digesters, the equipment that breaks down sludge so that it is safe to spread on a farm field, were built in the 1950s; the last upgrades were in 1992. Tank #1 is failing, and both tanks are brittle, corroded, and in need of upkeep and ultimate repair. City Engineer Ball estimates the engineering services will cost around $100,000.

Council members heard about a proposed new senior living community on Venture Drive. Meg Christie, manager at Finishing Touch on West Vine Street, voiced her concerns about parking spots near her salon being used by bank and other downtown employees rather than being left open for clients.

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