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Water damage at Falls City Hall covered by insurance

1/30/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

Water damage that could have reached a cost in the six figures and shut down Cuyahoga Falls City Hall for half a day Jan. 27 will be entirely covered by insurance, said Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters.

Walters told City Council at the Jan. 27 meeting the city’s $5,000 insurance deductible will be waived, and a disaster recovery company was at work drying out the basement.

Walters said a fire alarm was triggered at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 27 when water from a broken hot water line caused an electrical short. The broken water line was unrelated to the severe weather the area has been experiencing, he said. The water leak shut down the city’s telephone and computer systems and its website for most of the day, Walters said. Police and fire department 9-1-1 services were unaffected, he added.

The mayor told Council he closed City Hall at noon since very little business could be conducted. He offered furlough days to affected city workers who wanted to go home, but some workers stayed for the remainder of the day. Walters said he expected city computer systems to be operational that evening.

Also during the meeting, Finance Director Bryan Hoffman gave Council a brief recap of 2013 revenues and expenditures. The city spent about $200,000 more in 2013 than it took in, with receipts of $31.2 million and expenditures of $31.4 million, Hoffman said. Notable items included a decrease of $1.1 million in state aid to local governments from 2011 to 2013. Hoffman said he did not expect further significant decreases in state aid.

Hoffman said elimination of estate taxes will cause a loss of revenue to the city. Although some dollars still will trickle into the city’s General Fund this year, the revenue source effectively has dried up. The city saw $1.3 million in estate tax in 2013, and Hoffman estimates only $150,000 will be paid to the city in 2014.

There was an uptick last year in one revenue source, Hoffman said. A policy of “aggressive ticketing” for traffic violations last year triggered an increase of $60,000 in 2013 Mayor’s Court receipts.

Hoffman also gave Council early warning that a grant that funds salaries of four firefighters will expire in September. Hoffman said he expects the city to reapply for the grant, but if it is not awarded, the city will see an additional $200,000 in expenses for those positions.

Council passed one piece of legislation, an ordinance creating a parking enforcement unit that will allow the mayor to call upon the city’s unpaid reserve police officers to issue parking tickets in snow emergencies. Law Director Russell Balthis said the ordinance will free the city’s police officers to assist citizens and respond to accidents during times of severe weather. The reserve officers will ticket vehicles parked on the street in violation of the city’s snow parking ban. Reserve officers are unarmed, unpaid volunteers who wear uniforms different from the city’s police force, Balthis said.

Cars parked on the street during snow bans hamper the city’s ability to clear streets and, in some instances, prevent passage of city emergency vehicles such as fire engines, he said. The ordinance will take effect upon the mayor’s signature.

Council will hold committee meetings Feb. 3 and a regular meeting Feb. 10, both beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Natatorium, located at 2345 Fourth St.

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