The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2024

City Council OKs new Civil Service regs

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Columbus attorney Aaron Weare listens to a Civil Service question while Councilman At-Large Stan Agler listens in the background. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

Van Wert City Council approved legislation amending the city’s Civil Service regulations and authorizing Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming to seek bids and award contracts for the city’s annual street striping project.

Council unanimously approved new Civil Service regulations that would provide more leeway in how examinations can be administered – and what is included in those examinations. The action followed a presentation on proposed changes by attorney Aaron Weare, a senior consultant at Columbus law firm Clemons Nelson and Associates.

Councilman At-Large Jeff Agler did have some concerns that the changes would eliminate the veterans’ advantage for Civil Service positions, but he was reassured that no changes were made in that area. The Van Wert Civil Service Commission has already approved the regulation changes, which affect the police and fire departments.

Also unanimously adopted was a measure allowing Fleming to move forward on the city’s annual street stripe painting project. The safety-service director said he was not sure what the cost of the project might be, but indicated the striping project’s cost has been in the $40,000-$50,000 range in the past.

During Wednesday’s meeting, City Council also moved forward on legislation providing water and sewer rate increases and to place a levy on the ballot to fund construction of a proposed aquatics center.

Council voted to prepare legislation authorizing several water and sewer fee increases, including increasing the after-hours water turn-on fee from $25 to $50 and the turn-off fee from $25 to $30. Fleming said the turn-on fee was higher because it was more of a convenience, whereas after-hours water turn-offs are usually emergency situations. The reconnection fee was also raised, from $15 to $20.

The measure also provides an additional five days for the city to send out a final utility bill to a customer, from 10 to 15 days, while most delinquent accounts will no longer be sent to a collection agency, since Mayor Don Farmer said that process has not been cost-effective.

The only change that generated any controversy was one to increase the deposit renters pay from $100 to $150 and make both parties in a joint rental situation sign a contract making them responsible for any unpaid water and sewer bills.

The safety-service director said local landlords had sought the deposit increase, since several have been forced to pay large bills left by their renters.

Water and Sewer Committee Chair Brent Crone, himself a landlord, said he felt the deposit increase was justified. “This is an age-old problem,” Crone noted. “These changes add a little bit of help to property owners, and I see nothing wrong with that.”

Jeff Agler didn’t agree, stating his opinion that responsibility for unpaid utility bills was “part of doing business” for landlords, and added that he feels landlords should adjust their rental fees to compensate. Agler was the only council member to vote against the measure, which was placed on first reading Wednesday.

Pending legislation calling for a ballot issue to construct a proposed aquatics center was voted down Wednesday, due to needed changes in ballot language. New legislation will be prepared to place the issue on the November general election ballot. Legislation would need to be approved and submitted to the Van Wert County Board of Elections by Tuesday, August 6, to be placed on the ballot in November.

The reason for the action was to exchange the old ordinance for a new ordinance written by a legal consultant that would comply with state bond issue language requirements.

Council members also discussed placing an issue on the ballot that, if approved, would increase City Council terms from two years to four years.

Noting that other area communities, including Celina and Delphos, have already done so, Judiciary and Annexation Committee Chair Stan Agler said he feels staggered four-year terms would ensure Council always has experienced members, while also providing more time for new members to “learn the ropes.”

During a committee meeting on the subject, Council members came up with a plan to have the four ward representatives elected together and the at-large and council president positions elected two years later. No decision was made on which group would be elected initially for a two-year term to provide staggered Council elections every two years.

A final meeting on the subject is planned for June 10 prior to legislation being prepared.

Code enforcement was also discussed, with Health, Service and Safety Committee Chair John Marshall reporting that 70 code enforcement violations were issued in a 10-day period this month, with 20 more issued since he compiled his report.

Fourth Ward Councilman Pete Weir also read a letter he wrote requesting that the city consider doing something with the soon to be vacant properties where the former Washington and Franklin elementary schools were located.

Weir said in his letter that he has talked with a number of city residents, adding that those he talked to would like to see those properties turned into either parks or playgrounds, a dog park, community gardens or a skate park – or a combination of any of those uses (click here for the full letter).

“These things help our community grow, help economic development, help property values and, most importantly, our youth need it,” Weir said. “I don’t think we should let this opportunity pass us by.”

Neither Mayor Farmer nor Fleming had any comments to Weir’s letter, but the mayor has said in the past that adding more parks to the city is not feasible at this time, due to the understaffed parks department.

City Council also approved the sale of the city’s Jet-Vac truck to the county for an estimated $50,000.

POSTED: 05/30/13 at 7:30 am. FILED UNDER: News