Posted on: May 4, 2023
The Martins Ferry City Council met in Regular Session on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at 6:00 p.m., at the Donald Myers Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order by Council President Kristine Davis with the Pledge of Allegiance recited by those present in chamber, followed by a prayer by the Clerk. Answering Roll Call were Bob Hunker, First Ward Council Member, Bruce Shrodes, Second Ward Council Member; Suzanne Armstrong, Third Ward Council Member; Rick Rodgers, Fourth Ward Council Member; Tom Burns, James Agnew, and Jim Schramm, Council at Large Members.
Minutes: Minutes of the March 15, 2023 Regular Council Meeting and minutes of the March 29, 2023 Special Council Meeting were approved as written.
Correspondence: There was no correspondence.
Reports of Officers of the City:
Mayor: Mayor Davies asked Council to pass the Ordinance regarding the position of Assistant Water Superintendent that will be read later in the meeting. This week, Water Department employees fixed 4 breaks on one water line. This line, which is about 700 ft. will be completely replaced soon.
The cameras at the Impound Lot have been installed. City owned vehicles will be moved from that area so the Lot can soon be opened for business.
The Mayor and Service Director met with Columbia Gas Officials about smoothing out rough spots on South Zane Highway where recent work has been done. The next gas line replacement job will take place on 6th, 8th and 9th Streets where the city just completed paving last year. The Mayor informed the Gas Company that if the pavement is torn up, the streets must be re-paved, not just patched. Council was asked to create a list of what streets they want paved this year. The Administration can then coordinate with the Gas Company so paving can be done after the gas lines are replaced.
The Police Chief’s job description is being completed and the position will soon be advertised. Applications will be accepted from inside and outside of the Department. Officer Jerry Murphy is currently serving as Interim Police Chief.
Part-time employees will begin cutting grass in the cemetery next week. The Mayor asked Council for direction on the maintenance of 60 lots, not owned by the city, but which the city cuts the grass and keeps in good condition. Wages, paid to workers cutting these lots, come from the General Fund where spending is being watched closely this year. The Street Sweeper is running this week and warning notices were given to vehicles parked on the wrong side of the street. Next week tickets will be issued for non-compliant vehicles.
Two new pumps and a controller have been ordered for the city’s swimming pool. A large pump will also have to be replaced. Grant money for the Splash Pad, amounting to around $48,000, is expected soon and will be place in the Permanent Improvement Fund.
A Physical Therapist has offered to conduct an 8 week course to help citizens, 50 years of age and older, with exercises and guidelines for healthy living. The Mayor asked Mr. Stecker to check if the city’s liability insurance will cover this program at the Recreation Center.
Mayor Davies met with Congressman Bill Johnson regarding developing a Trunk Water Line that would run from Martins Ferry to Powhatan Point. Congressman Johnson will check with the EPA to see if there is any funding available for this project. If a water problem would develop south of Martins Ferry, the city could supply water to the affected areas. The Mayor has also scheduled a meeting with Senator Sherrod Brown to discuss this matter.
A letter addressed to the Mayor from Jim Fogle, Martins Ferry City School District Superintendent, was shared with Council. Mr. Fogle requested information regarding maintenance of the roads leading to the school campus. The Mayor asked Council how to proceed since these roads do not belong to the City. After a 7-minute discussion, it was decided that a “10 ton weight limit” sign and a “No Semi-Trucks Allowed” sign will be placed on the road. The Mayor will contact Mr. Fogle and invite him to meet with Council to further discuss this matter.
The city has received a check for over $17,000 for a class action lawsuit that was filed in California regarding a water dispute.
Service Director: It was emphasized that by purchasing the new pool equipment, it will be easier to regulate the chlorine and maintain the pool. The money granted to the city for the Splash Pad should arrive within 30-90 days.
Mr. Sutak has researched the city’s Enterprise Zone Program which is separate from the County’s Program. He is working to get an abatement on taxes for a company that would like to construct a business in the northern part of the city.
Mr. Sutak is working on the city’s Storm Water Management Plan as mandated by the Ohio EPA. A draft of the plan has been sent to the Ohio EPA. The Administration will meet with the Engineering Company to discuss possible funding for the project.
A $25,000 grant was awarded to the city for new lights in Fodor Field. The grant is for 75% of the project’s cost and the city matches it with 25% of the cost. Although the grant money was to come directly to the city, some of the money was paid directly to the company that installed the lights. Mr. Sutak asked Council to consider paying the contractor costs ($18,750) from the Permanent Improvement Fund which would then be reimbursed when the remainder of the grant was received. The Civics will reimburse the city $6,250 in either a lump sum or through payments.
Auditor: A list of city owned vehicles was distributed. Auditor Regis clarified that the Mayor’s insurance costs are taken from the Street and Sanitation Department not the EMS Department.
Phone lines have been reduced to 33 lines. Special phone lines for front-line employees responding to disasters, are being researched.
Three purchase orders will need motions from Council to be paid. Two are for the Water Department for recent waterline emergency repairs and one is for Clemons and Nelson Law Firm which is over the $3,000 limit. Auditor Regis reminded Council that motions to accept the Payroll Report, Finance Report, and the New Hire Report will be needed.
Auditor Regis asked Mr. Hunker to schedule a Finance Committee Meeting to talk about some of the budget line items and future projects.
Law Director: Mr. Stecker asked Council to go into Executive Session at the end of the meeting to discuss pending litigation.
Safety Director: Director Regis distributed revisions to the By-Laws of Fire Department. Proposed changes were highlighted and discussed. Council’s approval, in the form of an Ordinance, will be needed. The Mayor asked Director Regis for a “clean” copy by the next meeting. Mr. Schramm motioned to allow the distance for membership to be reduced from 15 miles to a 7 miles radius of the Martins Ferry City Building. Rev. Agnew seconded the motion. A roll call vote was heard with Schramm, Hunker, Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns and Agnew voting yes. The motion carried.
Betty Zane Days will be held August 2-5, 2023. The Fire Department received a $3,000 grant from the Belmont County Tourism to help with the cost of advertising and the bands performing at the Festival. Director Regis asked Council’s permission to use the city park from July 31, 2023 to August 6, 2023 for this event. He also requested permission to block off Zane Highway from Grant Avenue to Hickory Street every night of the event, and allow the fire department to have a “water battle” on Saturday, August 5 on Zane Highway in front of the American Legion.
Director Regis said he has comprised a list of all the vehicles that will be sold at auction this week. Next week he will work with Auditor Regis to get a list of equipment that can be sold at the auction. The Auction may be held in May or early June. Mr. Shrodes asked that a list be given to members of Council of all the vehicles and equipment to be sold at the Auction.
Police Department: No report.
Fire Department: No report.
Code Administrator: No report.
Park District: No report.
Water Department: No report.
Reports of Committees of Council:
Finance and Audit: Mr. Hunker scheduled a Finance Committee Meeting for Wednesday, April 26 at 10:00 a.m. in Council Chambers.
Street: Mr. Rodgers scheduled a meeting for Thursday, April 27 at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the roads leading to the School Campus. Mayor Davies will invite Mr. Fogle to this meeting.
Ordinance: Mr. Shrodes reported that the Ordinance Committee met on April 11, 2023. Discussion included creating an organizational chart for the city, limiting the number of speakers at Council Meetings that represent the same group or organization, and replacing the existing Assistant Water Superintendent Ordinance. Minutes of this meeting were received and will be included with the Council Minutes.
Sewer/Sidewalk: No report.
Code Administration: No report.
Safety: Mr. Schramm thanked Officer Jerry Murphy for agreeing to be the Interim Police Chief.
Service: Mr. Shrodes thanked Mr. Suto and the Water Department employees for working 24 hours straight on the recent water breaks in the city.
Cemetery: Mr. Burns would like to meet with the Administration regarding cemetery needs. This item will be added to the Finance Committee Agenda.
Public Relations: The Chamber of Commerce will host their Annual Academic Awards Banquet at the Wesbanco Arena in May. Mrs. Armstrong gave the Mayor and Service Director a flyer promoting Small Businesses in the city.
Real Estate/Utility: No report.
Income Tax: Beginning July 1, 2023 the Committee is suggesting reducing the income tax credit to 75% which would generate additional revenue of $21,000 per year. Then, January 1, 2024, reducing the income tax credit to 50% which would generate additional revenue of $43,400 per year. Mrs. Armstrong made a motion to authorize Mr. Stecker to create an ordinance to decrease the income tax credit to 75% beginning July 1, 2023 and to decrease the income tax credit to 50% beginning January 1, 2024. Motion was seconded by Mr. Shrodes. A roll call vote was heard with Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns, Agnew, Schramm, Hunker, and Shrodes voting yes. The motion was declared passed.
Citizens To Be Heard: President Davis reminded citizens to limit their speaking to 5 minutes.
Frances Green, 519 South Zane Highway, asked for help in selling 2 cemetery plots at Riverview Cemetery. President Davis asked Mr. Burns to discuss this at the Cemetery Committee Meeting. Ms. Green also inquired why the Street Sweeper did not sweep past the First United Methodist Church on 3rd. and Clay Street. The Mayor said he would check with the Street Department on this issue.
Richard Hord, 915 Virginia Street, asked for comments regarding former Police Chief John McFarland. The Mayor gave a brief history of Chief McFarland’s career and said it was unknown how long it would take to hire a new Chief. Mr. Hord asked for Council’s consideration to paved Broadway Street to Etna Street. Permission was given to Mr. Hord to arrange a Town Hall Meeting with the Belmont County Commissioners. Sealed Bids will be accepted for the former Curley property (Jefferson Street) and the former Martins Ferry Booster’s Building (Broadway Street), with a minimum bid of $5,000 on each. Mr. Stecker will prepare an Ordinance to be read at the next Council Meeting before the bid is advertised in the paper.
Ordinances and Resolutions:
Motion was made by Mr. Shrodes and seconded by Mr. Hunker to suspend the 72 Hour Rule. A roll call vote was heard with Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns, Agnew, Schramm, and Hunker voting yes. The motion carried.
An Ordinance Establishing The Position Of Assistant Water Superintendent And Establishing The Annual Salary Therefore.
Motion was made by Mr. Shrodes to suspend the rules. Motion was seconded by Mr. Burns. A roll call vote was heard with Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns, Agnew, Schramm, and Hunker voting yes. The motion carried. Motion was made by Mr. Hunker to pass the Ordinance as read. Mr. Schramm seconded the motion. A roll call vote was heard with Hunker, Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns, Agnew and Schramm, voting yes. The motion carried and the Ordinance was passed.
AN ORDINANCE AUTHORIZING THE CITY OF MARTINS
FERRY TO ENTER INTO A CONTRACT FOR THE ZANE
HIGHWAY 12” WATERLINE CONNECTION TO AETNA
STREET BOOSTER STATION AND DECLARING AN
Mr. Shrodes made a motion to authorize payment of the invoice for $6,856.26 to Clemins Nelson for professional services during the Police Department negotiations. Motion was seconded by Mr. Rodgers. A roll call vote was heard with Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns, Agnew, Schramm, and Hunker voting yes. The motion carried and the invoice was approved for payment.
Mr. Hunker made a motion to authorize payment of two invoices from Air Technology, one for $3,778.72 and one for $5,535.75. Motion was seconded by Mrs. Armstrong. Both of these invoices are for the Water Department for a recent water break. A roll call vote was heard with Hunker, Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns, Agnew and Schramm voting yes. Motion carried and the 2 invoices were approved for payment.
Mr. Hunker made a motion and Rev. Agnew seconded to note that Council has received and accepted the list of new hires as of April 19, 2023. New Hires include: Marissa Cika, Rebecca Perry and Burton Oh. After an affirmative voice vote, the motion passed.
Mr. Shrodes made a motion to note that Council has received and reviewed the Payroll Summary and Financial Reports for the month of March, 2023. Mr. Burns seconded the motion. After an affirmative voice vote, the motion passed.
Mr. Shrodes made a motion to go into Executive Session under Ohio Revised Code 121.22, Section G1 (for employee salary and benefits) and G3 (pending litigation). Motion was seconded by Mr. Schramm. A roll call vote was heard with Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns, Agnew, Schramm, and Hunker voting yes. The motion carried.
Mr. Rodgers made a motion to go out of Executive Session. Mrs. Armstrong seconded the motion. A roll call vote was heard with Rodgers, Burns, Agnew, Schramm, Hunker, Shrodes and Armstrong voting yes. The motion carried and Council returned to regular session.
Mr. Schramm made a motion to reflect Council has received reports from the Officers and Management, and to incorporate these reports into the minutes. Motion was seconded by Rev. Agnew. After an affirmative voice vote, the motion passed.
Mr. Hunker made a motion to allow the Fire Department to use the City Park on July 31-August 6 for the Betty Zane Festival, closing Zane Highway from Grant Avenue to Hickory Street each evening on August 2-5, and allowing the Fire Department to have a “Water Battle” on Saturday, August 5 on Zane Highway in front of the American Legion. Motion was seconded by Mr. Schramm. After an affirmative voice vote, the motion passed.
Mr. Rodgers made a motion to allow the Law Director to settle the impending lawsuit. Rev. Agnew seconded the motion. A roll call vote was heard with Rodgers, Burns, Agnew, Schramm, Hunker, Shrodes and Armstrong voting yes. The motion carried.
President Davis referred the issue of grass cutting maintenance on the 60 lots, not owned by the city, to the Finance Committee.
Mrs. Armstrong moved to adjourn, which was seconded by Mr. Hunker. After an affirmative voice vote, the meeting was adjourned at 7:53 p.m. with a salute to the flag.
Kay H. McFarlan, Clerk of Council Kristine Davis, Council President