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Norton moves charter changes to May ballot

2/27/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

NORTON — Norton City Council will proceed with placing two proposed charter amendments on the May 6 Primary Election ballot for voters to decide, according to legislation adopted at the Feb. 24 meeting.

An additional proposed amendment regarding the process for removing certain employees in the administrative department failed to receive enough votes from Council members to be sent on to the Summit County Board of Elections (BOE).

Council moved quickly on the items, waiving second and third readings and declaring emergencies, since March 7 is the deadline to file them with the BOE, said Councilman Paul Tousley (Ward 4).

All seven members of Council voted in favor of asking voters to revise the qualifications listed for the city’s administrative officer, omitting the requirement that the person in the position reside in Norton within six months of being hired.

Councilman Danny Grether (Ward 2) noted the requirement has been deemed unconstitutional and would not hold up if challenged.

Council also ultimately decided to put a question to voters regarding the amount of city spending that would require a competitive bidding process.

If approved at the polls, the item would trigger a call for bids for contracts of $25,000 or more. The proposed legislation also specifies the city’s Board of Control and two-thirds of Council would need to approve contracts of $25,000 or greater. Further, the proposal asks that contracts costing between $10,000 and $25,000 be awarded only with approval from the Board of Control and a simple majority of Council.

Councilwoman Charlotte Whipkey (at large) argued the issue is not currently addressed with an amount in the city’s charter, which she believes was an oversight on the part of citizen petitioners who pushed for a previous charter change, she said. According to current state law, competitive bidding is required for contracts of $50,000 or more, she said.

Law Director Justin Markey told Council the wish to require that an amount lower than the state sets for triggering competitive bidding could be achieved through a rule change — rather than by charter amendment — and would not need to go before voters as such.

While Whipkey called for putting the question to voters, concerns voiced about the legislation from other members centered on costs associated with going out for bid on projects, including for legal advertisements.

Council President Rick Rodgers (Ward 1) said he believes the city saves money when it goes out for bid but questioned whether those savings are offset by costs associated with bidding.

At-large Councilmen Scott Pelot and Dennis McGlone both voted against the proposed legislation to send the amendment to the BOE, and the item was approved 5-2.

Council voted 4-3 to propose a third charter change to voters, one that would spread some of the mayor’s authority to Council — “to remove certain employees for certain reasons,” said Grether, who cast a dissenting vote.

Councilman Dennis Pierson (Ward 3), who voted to allow voters to decide, told Council he’d been handed a citizen petition proposing a charter change regarding the same matter, which may result in a cost of $16,422 to taxpayers to hold a future Special Election.

Along with Grether, Pelot and McGlone voted against it, which was enough to cause the legislation to fail, since charter amendments need at least five affirmative votes from Council to be sent to the BOE, according to Clerk of Council Karla Richards.

Also at the meeting, Council approved a number of other new items, including resolutions of appreciation for serving on various boards and commissions for: Ed Noble, Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA); Kelly Holderbaum, Parks and Cemetery Board; Johanna Edwards, Cindy Mazey, Dalia Spisak and Michael Safron, Health and Advisory Board; and Grether, Planning Commission.

Also, Lisa Merrick and Pam Dixon were appointed to three-year terms on the Parks and Cemetery Board, Angie Wells to a three-year term on the BZA, Ralph Dowling and Larry Chiavaroli to three-year terms on the Planning Commission and Judy Dynia to a six-year term on the Civil Service Commission.

In other action, Council:

  • approved contracting with the Legal Defenders Office of Summit County to provide indigent defense services;
  • approved a two-year contract with AFSCME clerical workers of the city, with a 1 percent increase for 2014 and 1.25 percent increase for 2015. Rodgers noted the contract needs to be in place prior to posting a job opening notice for clerical staff;
  • renewed approvals of placement of farmland located at 4117 Greenwich Road, 4903 S. Hametown Road, 4359 Johnson Road and 4044 Summit Road;
  • approved supporting the formation of the Wolf Creek Watershed Conservancy District, with Tousley and Whipkey voting against it;
  • approved contracting with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for delinquent debt collections; and
  • reconsidered an agreement with Summit County Public Health for storm-water management services, which they voted unanimously to adopt.

Council next will meet for a work session March 3 and for its regular meeting March 10, both at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at the Safety-Administration Building, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

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