• 50°

City council to review budgets, fees

It shouldn't surprise local political buffs, but fees and budgets will be the focus of discussions at the Ironton City Council's next meeting.

Council will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday in the city center to look at a revised municipal fee that includes a increased number of households, a storm water utility fee, several smaller fees and two drafts of the 2005 budget.

Many of the items are familiar but the monthly municipal fee will look a little different. The newest version that would go to the police department would cost households $11.75 per month for the rest of the year and only $8 per month in 2006 and 2007.

Councilman Chuck O'Leary sponsored the new plan

because council was made aware of new household totals - nearly 6,000 compared with the 4,700 from previous calculations. This figure allows the fee to be less but still generate the same amount of money - about $600,000 in 2006 and 2007.

O'Leary said the fee is a compromise of sorts but would still allow the city to move forward and correct some of the damage that has been slowly destroying the city for decades. But the new figures were not the only thing that surprised him.

"For a year now, I was told that the municipal fee was potentially illegal," he said. "Now, we found out last week that there was a $2.50 per month municipal fee under Cleary's administration. Some members were in office at the time."

Staying with the fees, council will hear first reading of a storm water utility fee ordinance. Expected to cost residential households between $13 and $15 per month initially, the proposed fee will cost commercial and industrial companies much more. The cost is determined by the amount of runoff surface a property includes.

The entire purpose of the fee is to allow the city to adopt and implement the Environmental Protection Agency's mandated Combined Sewer Overflow plan and to maintain and improve the city's storm water system as required by the city's EPA permits.

Developing the CSO plan by the December deadline may cost more than $860,000 and actually implementing the plan could cost the city $20 million over the next 20 years. The entire purpose of the plan is to determine the volume of pollutants that go into the Ohio River and to minimize untreated discharges.

"It is a very, very serious situation and a very large pot of money is needed," Biggs said in the past of the fee that will generate $1.2 million a year. "… I think this is probably the biggest financial decision the city has undertaken in many, many years."

But once again, budget will likely take center stage. The council remains divided over the two proposed budgets - one that includes a $15 fee and the other that relies on the city's dwindling carryover.

Both plans were favorably recommended to council for second and third readings and one budget or another must be adopted by the end of the month.

On a lighter note, council will consider resolutions commending the Ironton High School girls and boys basketball teams for their outstanding seasons and to commend the school's drama department for its production of "Damn Yankees."

Other items for consideration include:

4A resolution authorizing applying for a Community Development Block Grant to allow the St. Lawrence O'Toole assisted living project to move forward. The plan would create an assisted living center in the former school next to the church and create a minimum of 19 new jobs.

4A resolution to create a fire and arson investigation unit within the Ironton Fire Department. Fire Chief Tom Runyon would head the unit.

4A resolution to amend the city ordinances involving drinking under the influence of alcohol to conform with state codes.

4Second reading of a charter change that would place the $15 per household monthly fee on the November ballot for voters to decide. Nursing homes, group homes and assisted living facilities will pay $1 per bed or the $15 fee, whichever is greater.