ICC talks flood levy, pay raises

Published 11:46 am Friday, July 11, 2014

Resolution 14-26 providing for the renewal of a 1 mill tax levy for flood protection failed to gain favorable approval from Ironton City Council on Thursday.

Instead, council chose to concur with the finance committee’s request to ask for a replacement levy rather than a renewal.

“We didn’t favorably recommend that because the city needs more flood protection,” Craig Harvey, finance committee and council member, said. “We are going to consider a new levy instead of renewing the current one. We are in desperate need of income for flood protection in the City of Ironton.”

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The current levy has generated an average of $120,437 annually for the city’s flood protection and $74,020 to date for the 2013-2014 tax year. Currently a property worth $50,000 would pay $50 toward the levy, or 10 cents per $100 property value.

“I’m really concerned about our timeframe,” Kevin Waldo, council president, said. “I do not want this to go beyond certification measure.”

City finance director Kristen Martin agreed with Waldo, but cautioned council that enough time is needed not only to have a meeting but also draft a new resolution.

“This is the same millage from the day this was first adopted,” Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship, said. “It has never increased over the years.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Blankenship said, is strict in regard to Ironton’s six-mile long floodwall system.

“When (the Corps) does an inspection and tells us things need be fixed and updated, we don’t have the funds to do it,” he said. “We are operating right now with the same pumps that were originally out in there. We replace them and rebuild them, but that is a major cost to the city. While the millage has stayed the same, just as anything else, the costs have gone up.”

The floodwall’s decertification, Blankenship said, is a major concern because it would require the city to purchase flood insurance.

“It would be just like the floodwall not being there,” he said. “With all the restrictions from the Corps in regard to the floodwall, it’s all very difficult to keep up with.”

The finance committee will meet at 4 p.m. on Monday, July 14, to discuss a replacement levy.

Another topic was discussed at length when Waldo suggested a pay raise for members of council and the vice mayor. Waldo referred to ordinance 08-35 from April 24, 2008, which outlined the current salaries for council members and the vice mayor.

“In the ordinance the salaries were reduced from $250 for vice mayor and $150 for council members per month to $200 a month for vice mayor and $120 per month for city council members,” Waldo said. “I was opposed to that legislation and it passed anyway.”

Waldo iterated the importance of people knowing the current council has no authority to affect anything that related to current members’ salaries.

“What I am proposing we do is at least consider an ordinance that would raise these salaries,” he said. “I will propose and sponsor an ordinance calling for a salary increase.”

Waldo’s proposal would pay $600 to the vice mayor and $500 a month for city council members. He wasn’t about to ask for a salary increase, however, without providing reasons.

“The reason I am asking this gets done, again it doesn’t affect anyone who is sitting here, but would go into effect the next term of elected city council members. I think we need to come up with something that’s going to incentivize somebody to run for city council. I don’t think the current salary of $120 is an incentive.”

Waldo added he doesn’t think, with their current salaries, any member of council could pay for the gas used to get to council meetings, especially during the times of the year that require six or seven meetings a month with an increase in the number of committees and committee meetings.

“I just don’t think it’s enough money,” he said. “I would like to propose legislation through an ordinance that would raise that (amount of money). I’m going to keep it on the front burner because I’m not going to quit talking about it unless it’s no good and nobody wants it then I’ll shut up.”

Council member Bob Cleary said he was also opposed to the salary decrease set forth by ordinance 08-35 and he feels council members put a lot of “time, effort and hours” into their positions.

“I agree it needs to be raised,” Cleary said. “None of us sitting here today will see any of it. It’s terrible what we get now.”

Council member Aaron Bollinger also agreed with the need for a salary increase and said at the current pay he fears “a severe decrease in the pool of people to even run for election.”

Council will discuss the salary increase at a future meeting.

Also during the meeting ordinance 14-27 regarding the construction, administration and inspection of the North Fifth and Elm streets sewer separation phase II project. The $71,210 project is in accordance with a mandate from the United States Environmental Protection Agency had its first reading.

Ordinance 14-25 amending the annual operating budget will have its second reading, but the item requests a declaration of emergency was adopted after its second reading by a 6-1 vote with council member Dave Frazer being the lone dissenting vote.

Ordinance 14-23 authorizing the mayor to purchase four new Dumpsters for the Holiday Inn Express and Suites being constructed as part of the Gateway Project on Ninth Street was adopted unanimously.

Resolution 14-28 authorizes the mayor to accept the Adams Lane sanitary sewer extension from the old cement plant property was approved 6-1 with Frazer again being the dissenting vote.

Blankenship is sending a letter to the property owners with cost details.

Blankenship’s recommendation of Mike Gleichauf’s appointment to the planning commission for a two-year term ending June 1, 2016, was approved.