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Budget cuts inevitable if Norton charter amendment passes

6/13/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

During Norton City Council’s June 10 meeting, Mayor Mike Zita said if a proposed charter amendment is approved at the polls in August, cuts in the city’s budget will need to be made.

The proposed change to Norton’s charter, which originated with a citizen petition, is in regards to sewer and water rate assessments, connection fees and rate limits. It seeks to eliminate fees for construction of sewer or water lines within the city, as well as to have assessments for sewer or water lines paid for by the city. Also, the amendment proposes that Norton residents not “be charged to tie into, connect to or otherwise access sewer or water lines” within city limits. In addition, the charter amendment would cap residential water and sewer bills at $35 a month, unless increased by a majority vote of Council by not more than 2 percent per year.

Norton police officer Jason Sams, who approached Council during the portion of the agenda set for communications from the public, said he is concerned if the ballot measure passes, the city’s police department will be affected.

“Although I appreciate peoples’ efforts in doing this and standing together for what they believe in, I’m very concerned that moving forward we’re going to have financial cuts,” said Sams. “And where are those cuts going to come from?”

The question to voters is set to appear on the Aug. 6 Special Election ballot.

“I now and have always supported the police and our safety forces,” said Zita.

However, he added, if the amendment is approved by voters, city officials will have to look at making cuts in the city’s General Fund. City workers in the Service Department, clerical jobs and police all get paid out of the General Fund, he added.

Also at the meeting, following a public hearing, Council waived a third reading and voted 6-0 (Ward 3 Councilman Bill Mowery had an excused absence) to adopt an ordinance to rezone property at 3888 Long Drive, from R-1 (Single-Family Residential) to R-5 (Multi-Family Residential).

During the public hearing, Danny Grether, who serves on the Planning Commission, spoke on behalf of the applicant, noting plans for the property are for single-story housing units, not two-story structures.

The applicant, Joseph Andrews, agent for Seal Real Estate Holdings LLC, said plans are for two three-unit ranch-style buildings, including one handicapped-accessible unit in each building.

Prior to the vote, Councilman Todd Bergstrom (Ward 1) noted the change is for zoning, not the type of building or structure planned.

Also at the meeting, Law Director Peter Kostoff said a reply brief in support of the city’s motion for summary judgment in the Paluch case was filed late last week in the 9th District Court of Appeals. All pleadings in the case have now been filed, he added.

Willam Paluch, a Norton resident, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the court April 1 to have the City Council meetings broadcast on live TV, rather than streamed over the Internet, to comply with an amendment to the city’s charter approved by voters last November.

According to the brief filed on behalf of Zita June 7, Paluch has failed to establish he is entitled to the writ.

In related news, at Council’s next work session, Perkins Communications will give a presentation regarding broadcasting Council meetings on the Time Warner channel, according to Councilwoman Charlotte Whipkey (at large).

“I feel this is an avenue we really need to investigate and look at in order to bring the public the best possible medium for being able to see and hear the Council meetings,” she said.

Council next plans to meet for a work session June 17 and for its regular meeting June 24, both at 7 p.m., in Council Chambers at the Safety-Administration Building, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

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