2/2/2016 – 10:00 pm
The Findlay City Council moved to have three major issues discussed at a future committee of the whole meeting later this month. At their regular meeting Tuesday night, the council scheduled the future meeting later this month.
The first major item was in regards to a request from Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative to revisit their existing franchise agreement with the City of Findlay. Hancock-Wood CEO George Walton spoke to the council Tuesday about a concern their cooperative has with actions by Ohio Power to encroach in their service territory within the city limits. In rural areas, utilities are prohibited from encroaching upon competing services but cities are allowed to contract their own franchise agreements with utilities. Walton said that while Hancock-Wood does not cover much territory in the city limits they do have some and have made several million dollars worth of utility investment within the city limits.
Audio: George Walton
The section of the city limits in question is near Rowmark and Walton said that if Ohio Power were allowed to continue operating in the area, it could disrupt or prohibit service to existing Hancock-Wood customers in the area. In any case, it creates a logistics issue when servicing transmission lines. Walton said he wanted to present Hancock-Woods position to the council at a committee of the whole meeting for a more through discussion.
The second item is in regards to city plans to work with Findlay City Schools to construct a fiber line for data service to city departments. The council reviewed an ordinance to authorize contracting for several constructions projects in the city limits. Among those were appropriated funds to begin working on the fiber line with the school. Councilwoman Holly Frische questioned if the city had a firm estimate on that project. Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer said they did not as the project was being driven by the school system. Schmelzer said that the funds were for seed money to get the project moving. Councilman Grant Russel said that the requested funds came to around $20,000. The council had also requested Schmelzer to provide an estimate if the city were to move forward with their own project, independent of the school system.
Audio: Paul Schmelzer
Frische moved to amend the motion to remove the funds for the fiber project until more information could be gathered from the school. The council agreed and adopted the ordinance with the fiber funds removed. The council requested that representatives from the school and fiber utility address the committee of the whole.
The third item was in regards to a proposed ordinance to prohibit the city administration from granting raises to city employees that exceed eight percent without council approval. Councilman Tom Klein questioned the logic of the ordinance given that the council sets the pay range for each city position. Given that, the administration could then set the pay for each employee and administrator within the range council approved. Councilwoman Holly Frische said that, in her opinion, the range was more of a guideline, and Councilman Tim Watson, who sponsored the ordinance said that it was in response to previous questions granting pay raises. He noted that authorization would serve as another check on the city administration.
Audio: Tim Watson
Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer said that if passed, effectively the city council would become a body that would be required to approve all pay raises for any employee in excess of eight percent after they have already appropriated budget dollars to do so.
Audio: Paul Schmelzer
Councilman Grant Russel questioned if that would mean that all promotions and pay raises would then be required to be passed by the city council. He said that the legislation says that any pay raise that exceeds an eight percent raise would require authorization from council, and if a person were promoted from employee to supervisor, and they were moved to a new pay range, that could exceed a bump greater than eight percent in pay.
Audio: Grant Russel
Schmelzer said he didn’t believe the legislation allowed for that but noted that the legislation was ambiguous in that regard. Given the questions on the ordinance, the topic was also moved to the committee of the whole meeting for further discussion.
While members of the council wished to discuss all three items at the committee of the whole meeting, Schmelzer noted that scheduling representatives from Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative, Findlay City Schools, and the fiber contractors could be a logistical problem, given how there are no time limits on committee hearings. The council moved to tentatively schedule the committee of the while meeting to be on Wednesday, February 17th at 4:00 pm, saying that date could be revised as needed.
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