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Norton City Council amends special election ordinance

10/3/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Julia Kazar

At a special meeting Sept. 30, Norton City Council approved an amended ordinance regarding the upcoming city-wide special election Dec. 10.

According to Council Clerk Karla Richards, at Council’s meeting Sept. 23, when the date to hold the special election was approved, Council members did not use the correct wording for the ordinance.

“Last week, none of the Council members used the word ‘amended’ when approving this ordnance,” Richards explained. “It was amended when the date of Dec. 10 was set.”

After much discussion, Council members settled on the date of Dec. 10 to hold a special election for another citizen-initiated ballot issue. The proposed charter amendment would limit the amount spent by property owners for water and sewer improvements to $5,000. The petition, circulated by resident William Paluch, states, “No city of Norton resident or property owner shall be assessed a total combined fee for construction of and connection to water and/or sewer lines in excess of $5,000. City of Norton residents or property owners currently paying assessments, who have paid a total combined fee of $5,000 or more for water and/or sewer lines, shall have future payments of their assessments paid by the city of Norton from the date this charter amendment is approved by the electors.”

The petition got the necessary number of signatures but was not submitted in time for the Nov. 5 General Election ballot. A special election for the issue must take place within 120 days of Council’s adoption of it, according to city officials.

Now that the wording is correct, Richards will submit the ordinance to the Summit County Board of Elections.

“This delay in submitting changes nothing,” Richards said. “The election will still be held on Dec. 10.”

Council members voted 5-2 in favor of the amended ordinance, with Council President Don Nicolard (Ward 2) and Councilman Scott Pelot (at large) voting against it. Both Nicolard and Pelot also voted against the original ordinance, stating they could not support something that an overwhelming majority of residents in their wards voted against in August.

Norton voters rejected a similar proposed charter amendment in the Aug. 6 Special Election. That charter amendment would have eliminated assessments for sewer and water lines and capped water and sewer charges.

Council members also discussed and approved the transfer of $4,000 from the city’s General Fund into the Special Events Fund to be used to purchase fireworks for the Norton Cider Festival, which will take place Oct. 4 from 5 to 10 p.m., Oct. 5 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Oct. 6 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most activities take place at Columbia Woods Park, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

According to Finance Director Laura Starosta, the city has been actively looking for donations to fund the purchase of fireworks and hopes that more continue to come in up until the time of the event. The money transferred from the city’s General Fund would be a sort of “safety net” to make sure enough fireworks could be purchased, she said. Starosta added that funds not used for this year’s event will be held over to be used in future years. At the time of the meeting, there was about $1,000 in the Special Events Fund, that amount coming from resident donations, according to Starosta.

Starosta said the fireworks would be purchased once again from Garden City Fireworks, the company that has been used for the past several years.

When Councilman Bill Mowery (Ward 3) asked if it was really necessary to spend such a large sum of money on fireworks when city residents have several levies, potential sewer charges and other bills, Mayor Mike Zita said he knows there will be thousands of Norton residents out on Saturday night enjoying the fireworks display, and he is proud to be able to offer community members this unique event as part of the annual Cider Festival.

Councilwoman Charlotte Whipkey (at large) also said she had received several phone calls from concerned resident asking her to vote no on this issue because of monetary concerns.

“I wish people from both sides would have called me on this one,” she said, “because I know there are a lot of children and adults, too, myself included, who enjoy watching fireworks, and I can’t take that away from them.”

Council members voted 6-1 in favor of transferring the money, with Mowery casting the only “no” vote.

Council next will meet for a work session Oct. 7 and for its regular meeting Oct. 15 (a day later due to Columbus Day), both at 7 p.m., in Council Chambers at the Safety-Administration Building, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

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