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Council renews $8 fee

Ironton residents can expect to continue paying a municipal fee.

The Ironton City Council unanimously voted to renew the $8 monthly fee at its regular meeting Thursday night.

The highly debated fee was originally established in February 2006 and renewed in 2008.

Pam Wagner, an Ironton police officer and member of the Ironton-Lawrence Fraternal Order of Police, spoke to council before the vote, asking them to renew the fee.

Her department, she said, is the one that would suffer if the fee was eliminated.

The past two years the police department has given back 5 percent and 10 percent of its budget to go back into the city’s budget, she said.

“Our morale at this particular point is not a whole lot,” Wagner said. “This is a thankless job. Everyone already knew that when they took it. That’s just the nature of the beast.”

But Wagner said that officers feel like those who are supposed to be supporting them are not doing so.

“Let’s face it, if this fee goes down we’re probably going to lose half of our department,” she said told council.

City departments have been asked to cut expenses that they can. To that end, the police department is not replacing two officers who have recently left the department.

The vote came close to not taking place when Councilman Frank Murphy made a motion to table the ordinance.

Murphy argued that the council and the finance department should come up with a better solution, one that would not require the police department to cut the two positions.

The council has until March to pass a budget, he said, and the work would stop if the ordinance for the fee passed.

Councilman Chuck O’Leary opposed tabling the measure. O’Leary said though he wanted to reduce it as much as any other person, the council needs to pass it.

“(If we table the fee) it projects to the community that we don’t know what we’re doing,” O’Leary said. “We should pass it tonight.”

Council chairman Kevin Waldo said he agreed wholeheartedly with O’Leary.

“By tabling this we will be even further causing harm to the department,” he said.

Councilman Mike Lutz said he’s been impressed with the finance committee’s work at trying to find other ways of solving the city’s financial problems. He argued that the council can change the fee at anytime.

“I think it would be asinine to table it tonight,” he said.

Murphy recanted his motion to table the ordinance on the condition that the finance department and the council continue to seek out other ways to fix the financial problems. The ordinance passed unanimously.

Mayor Rich Blankenship praised the council for its decision.

“I’m glad that council stepped up,” he said after the meeting.

Ironton Police Chief Jim Carey said, even with the municipal fee in place, the department will suffer.

“Even though it was passed, we’ve still lost two officers and that really hurt us,” Carey said after the meeting. The department had planned to start a drug enforcement program.

One officer would have been assigned to drug enforcement full time. With the cuts, the department will not have the program, he said.

In other business, Ironton City Council also:

Heard the first reading of an ordinance that would reduce the percentage of garbage collection fees deposited into the Garbage Equipment Reserve Fund from 6 to 1 percent. It would also allow the fund to be used for the purchase of new or use equipment, repairs, refurbishing and maintenance of equipment.

Heard the first reading of an ordinance authorizing Mayor Rich Blankenship to award bids for construction materials and concrete for the year 2010.

Heard the first reading of an ordinance authorizing the mayor to award bids for the purchase of chemicals for the year 2010.

Approved the appointment of Jennifer Willis to fill an unexpired term of the Ironton City Health Board.