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Routine business not so routine at Falls Council meeting

1/16/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

In its first regular meeting of the new year, Cuyahoga Falls City Council conducted routine business — but not in a routine manner.

At the Jan. 13 meeting, Councilmen Paul Colavecchio (D-Ward 5) and Vincent Rubino (D-Ward 1) vocally opposed amendments to pending legislation they said would limit the new administration’s ability to conduct the city’s business. The amendments put “not to exceed” spending caps on a project to upgrade the city’s voice and data network and the budget amounts for routine purchases by the Electric Division, Water and Sewer Division, Sanitation Division and for the purchase of vehicles by the directors of Safety and Public Service. The “not to exceed” amendments to five pieces of pending legislation were proposed by Finance Committee Chair Carol Klinger (R-at large) and Public Affairs Committee Chair Vic Pallotta (R-Ward 3).

An amendment to a sixth piece of legislation required notification of the Council president and Finance Committee chair should the Garage Division exceed its budget, which includes fuel for all city vehicles. That amendment was amended by Klinger to include notification to all Council members and subsequently passed.

Klinger, Council President Mary Ellen Pyke (R-Ward 2) and Pallotta all said the “not to exceed” amendments were a response to the projected $1.5 million deficit in the city’s 2014 budget. Although the city has sufficient reserves to weather the deficit, the three said Council should exercise increased vigilance on spending. All denied the amendments were an effort to handcuff the new administration.

Pyke said she had an extensive meeting with the city’s new law and finance directors and was satisfied the new administrators support Council’s effort to more tightly oversee the city’s spending.

Rubino said he was unaware Pyke had met with the administration. He said, in the interest of good communication, he thought any such meetings should be reported to all Council members.

Under the city’s codified ordinances, city administrators have authority to spend up to 7 percent over budgeted amounts approved at the beginning of the year by City Council, said Colavecchio. The “not to exceed” amendments require administrators to come back to Council for approval of spending above the preapproved amounts. Klinger and Pallotta said their intention in proposing the amendments was not to deny administrators additional funding if needed, but to exert better oversight on the city’s spending.

Ultimately, City Council approved the proposed amendments to the spending measures on split votes.

There was a snag, however, when the five amended spending authorizations came to a vote. All five contained language that would allow them to be enacted when signed by the mayor. However, since all five were approved by a 6-4 vote, they instead would take effect 30 days following the mayor’s signing, said Pyke.

Pyke admonished the dissenting Council members, saying she hoped the delay would not hinder city services. The four “no” votes on each of the five spending measures came from Colavecchio, Rubino, Gary DeRemer (D-Ward 6) and Carrie Hummel Snyder (D-at large). Councilman Jerry James (D-Ward 7) was absent.

Mayor Don Walters also expressed concern the delay in enacting the legislation would negatively impact the city’s ability to conduct business.

Rubino then suggested to Pyke that Council move to reconsider the five pieces of legislation that were approved with a 6-4 vote. Council approved the reconsideration, and the new vote on each piece of legislation was 10-0, allowing them to become effective upon the mayor’s signature.

Legislation approved by Council included:

  • authorizing the director of public safety to contract with AdvizeX Technologies LLC for hardware and software to upgrade the city’s voice and data network core at a cost not to exceed $150,000;
  • authorizing the director of public service to enter into contracts for materials, supplies and equipment for use by the Electric Division for an amount not to exceed $992,700;
  • authorizing the director of public service to enter into contracts for services, materials and supplies for use by the Water and Sewer Division for an amount not to exceed $645,721;
  • authorizing the director of public service to enter into contracts for services, materials and supplies for use by the Sanitation Department for an amount not to exceed $456,900;
  • authorizing the directors of safety and public service to enter contracts for the purchase or lease of vehicles for use by the city in an amount not to exceed $2.2 million;
  • authorizing the mayor to contract with Medical Mutual Service LLC for administration of the city’s self-insured employee medical and dental insurance plans and for stop-loss insurance coverage for a three-year period;
  • creating a 2014 sidewalk and drive approach repair or replacement district and providing for levying special assessments for repair and replacement;
  • authorizing the director of public service to enter contracts for replacement and repair of sidewalks, drive approaches and curbs; and
  • authorizing the director of public service to enter into contracts for the purchase of materials, supplies and services for the Garage Division.

Council will hold committee meetings Jan. 21 and a regular meeting Jan. 27, both beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Natatorium, 2345 Fourth St.

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