Village council tables Blue Line contract

Published 10:20 am Thursday, February 23, 2017

Water rate discussion becomes heated

Coal Grove Village Council revisited the Blue Line contract on Wednesday evening, but moved to table the contract for now.

The contract, which would provide Coal Grove police with radar speed measuring devices equipped with cameras in exchange for a 60/40 split of all speeding revenue gathered, has proved divisive in the community.

Councilman Shawn McDaniel asked police chief Eric Spurlock about rumors that the Ohio State Highway Patrol was upset about the move, and the chief replied that he had reached out to the state patrol and there was no issue.

Email newsletter signup

Councilman Eric Holmes said that he was concerned because he had “been approached by a lot of people in the community” who were not happy with the proposed move. Holmes moved to table the ordinance until all councilpersons could be present to vote on the matter, as councilperson Kim McKnight was not present. All councilpersons voted aye to table the measure except for councilman Joe Ross, who had expressed concerns about the move in the past.

Village solicitor Mark McCown said that he had some concerns with Blue Line’s indemnity clause, but that the decision was “a policy issue for council,” and not a legal one.

McCown said that he would move forward with drafting new civil violation legislation so that if the village moved to approve the contract at a future meeting, they could have the correct legislation on the books to make such speeding tickets civil rather than criminal violations, as required by law.

Council also entered into the second reading of ordinances 2017-5, 2017-6, and 2017-7, related to fees and rates for water services and sewage. While discussing Ironton’s move to increase water and sewage fees, and the fees of other nearby municipalities, councilman Holmes asked Mayor Larry McDaniel to recommend a new water and sewage rate structure that council could vote on, prompting a heated exchange between Holmes and councilman Shawn McDaniel.

McDaniel said that council had attempted to address the low water rates in the past, with little success. Holmes, who said he would like for council to broach the subject again, noted that in cities like Huntington it was the mayor who proposed new water rate hikes, and council that then voted to approve or deny them.

McDaniel, who didn’t actually say he was opposed to a proposed rate increase, became upset with Holmes, repeating that council “tried” to address the water rate issue in the past before admonishing Holmes for his attendance at council.

“If you’d come to a meeting every now and then,” McDaniel said, “you’d know.”

McDaniel accused Holmes of “pushing it off on (the mayor) to be the bad guy” for raising water rates, but Holmes repeated that he merely wanted the mayor to come up with a proposal to suit the village’s needs that council could vote on.

Mayor Larry McDaniel attempted to cool the heated debate by noting that he was “used to being the bad guy” before council moved on to other business.

Council then moved into executive session to discuss union negotiation with village employees.

In other action on Wednesday night, council moved to enter into the first reading of ordinance 2017-10 related to impounded vehicles, to accept police and fire reports, to accept the auditor’s report, including clarifications about funds raised under the current municipal income tax reciprocity agreement, approve various invoices, and to adopt a resolution related to upcoming sign maintenance on US 52.

Fiscal Officer Dylan Markins clarified the numbers related to income tax reciprocity that he had provided to council at a previous meeting.

Markins explained that without a reciprocity agreement, under a system where all taxpayers in Coal Grove paid a full one percent income tax regardless of where they worked, the village could expect to see $60,000 in tax income.

With their current reciprocity agreement, where those who work in another municipality that charges them income tax only pay .25 percent in income tax to the village, the village had raised $16,000 in income tax during the 2015 tax year.