The Van Wert County Courthouse

Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022

City Council OKs utility rate increases

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Van Wert City Council approved legislation increasing water and sewer rates, authorized extending fire protection to unincorporated areas of Pleasant Township, read for the first time an ordinance placing a income tax increase on the ballot, and again debated whether to allow limited alcohol sales on public property during its last meeting of the year on Wednesday.

Kurt Schalois (second from right, a board member for the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, reads a statement from the Chamber supporting limited liquor sales on public property. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent
Kurt Schalois (second from right, a board member for the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, reads a statement from the Chamber supporting limited liquor sales on public property. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Council voted 6-0 (First Ward Councilman Fred Fisher was absent because of recent surgery) to approve legislation authorizing a 5 percent increase in water rates and a 7 percent increase in sewer rates. The increases, the first in nearly four years, are needed to pay for an EPA-mandated sewer separation project, as well as increased costs due to inflation.

Council was also unanimous in its support for allowing Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming negotiate an agreement with Pleasant Township to provide fire coverage to unincorporated areas of that township, as designated. Fleming will be working with township trustees to come up with an agreement to cover costs of extending coverage to the area.

City Council also read for the first time an ordinance that would place a .28 percent city income tax increase on the May primary ballot. City Auditor Martha Balyeat has been pushing for Council to take action on the city’s worsening financial situation for several months, noting that declining state funding, disappointing income tax revenues, and normal increases in operating costs are expected to result in General Fund deficits possibly next year, or 2018 at the latest.

Council has looked at ways to reduce General Fund spending, but spending cuts significant enough to make a positive financial impact on the General Fund would likely have to include reductions in the police and fire departments, which together comprise, by far, the largest portion of General Fund spending.

Balyeat has said in the past that city department heads have done a good job of controlling costs, but cost-cutting alone won’t solve the city’s budget woes.

The increase would raise the income tax from 1.72 percent to 2 percent, if approved by voters.

Finance Chair Joi Mergy said much of the problem stems from state funding reductions, as well as inflation. “We’ve been able to get by, but now we’re to the point that we need to do something or the services that are provided to the public are going to change,” she noted.

Also on Wednesday’s agenda, Council heard discussion of an amendment to a city ordinance banning alcohol sales on public property. The amendment would allow holders of the F state liquor permit, which is available only to non-profit organizations, to sell alcohol on public property during festivals and similar events.

Speaking in favor of the proposal was Main Street Van Wert Program Manager Adam Ries, who again stressed that there have been no documented problems related to city events that have included alcohol sales. Ries has stated in the past that events such as the Van Wert Ribfest, held at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds, have served alcohol in a designated area for a number of years without any negative effects.

Kurt Schalois, a board member of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, also attended Wednesday’s meeting and read a statement by the Chamber board supporting the amendment.

“We support the responsible enjoyment of adult beverages on public property as part of a community event or festival,” was the Chamber’s stance on the legislation.

Seven people also spoke out against the amendment, with one woman calling alcohol “evil” and others stating their opinions that the measure would have an adverse effect on a community already dealing with substance abuse problems.

The amendment, which was read for the second time on Wednesday, will come up for final passage at City Council’s January 9 meeting. All seven voting City Council members have voted in support of the measure during the two readings of the legislation.

City Council also approved a then-and-now certificate, per the request of Balyeat, as well as ordinances allowing for end-of-year supplemental appropriations and fund transfers.

The next meeting of Van Wert City Council will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday, January 9, 2017, in Council Chambers, on the second floor of the Municipal Building, 515 E. Main St.

POSTED: 12/29/16 at 8:33 am. FILED UNDER: News