By Jane Ernsberger
Times-Junction News Editor
With state mandates calling for 9-1-1 operations to consolidate within Huron County, Willard City Manager Shawn Tappel said a number of meetings have been held to see what the best option will be for emergency dispatching.
“What looks like the best option is to consolidate all dispatching to try to alleviate a financial burden on everyone,” Tappel told members of Willard City Council. “If we must consolidate 9-1-1, and it must be staffed to state regulations, then we must look at consolidating all dispatching to be prudent.”
Tappel said the biggest hurdle for consolidation is funding a new operations center.
“All involved realize that it needs funded with other options besides the entities’ general funds,” he pointed out. “We are looking at many options. A levy or possible property assessment are a couple of ideas.”
According to Tappel, consolidating the 9-1-1 dispatching would have an effect on the local police department.
“If the center becomes a reality, we still need staff in our city to run our jail and do the other duties our dispatchers already do,” he told members of city council. “We have good dispatchers, and I want to make sure that they either have an opportunity to obtain employment at the new center or we keep them on staff to do their other jobs.”
Tappel said the committee looking at the consolidation is getting close to making some final decisions. Once the plans are set, the other entities will find out what is planned.
The City of Willard has received its new discharge permit from the Environmental Protection Agency for the wastewater plant, according to Tappel. Superintendent Steve Koch submitted some changes in the permit. “The EPA agreed with the majority of the changes.”
Tappel said he has been in contact with CSX concerning the property on Second Street where the proposed train platform will be located. He told members of council he is also looking into the quiet zone.
Council member Josh Gerber asked Tappel about the money the city is to receive for closing the Third Street crossing. Sue Johnson, the city finance director, said she has invoiced the costs.
Tappel told members of council Lori Huff has been promoted as assistant finance director. This leaves an open position for a new tax clerk. The vacancy will be opened in-house. If no one is interested, the position will be advertised.
The city is starting over again to fill the position of firefighter/paramedic. The one person who passed the test decided to opt out and not take the position.
A recent meeting of the Community Development Commission showed some mistakes in the way questions or issues are brought to some of the boards, Tappel pointed out.
“We need to put together some sort of outline to follow that makes it easier for us to know what avenues we need to follow for all jobs that need to go before our boards,” he said. “With that being said, council has the final say on these issues, but we want to make sure it goes to the proper board so they can give their opinion to council.”
There was also a park board meeting on the same night.
“Bryson Hamons spoke about the changes within our parks over the last several months and also about the upcoming year,” Tappel said. “The maintenance building is finished. They added a storage room inside.
“The playground equipment that the school donated to us has been installed at the soccer complex and Keefer Park,” he added. “There will be a zip line, expression swing, hill slide, outdoor ping-pong and cornhole added to the park this year.”
Some improvements will be made at the baby pool. Tappel said members of the park board discussed possible rate changes. The park board will meet with the finance committee to review the suggested changes in the rates.
The main entertainment at the festival this year will be the Marvelous Mutts. Tappel said the Marvelous Mutts are all rescued dogs that do numerous tricks.
Council member James Johnson said he has had citizens talk to him about traffic problems in the area of the school when school gets out and traffic does not move. Some of the traffic is backed up onto US 224, and the back log is worse in winter.
“I drove through it coming south from 224,” he said. “If there’s cars waiting to turn left to go north, you cannot see those cars coming out. It’s kind of nerve wracking. You have no idea who’s going in and who’s coming out.”
Tappel said council has looked at it in the past. One suggestion was a flashing light but told council members that would not really help the problem.
Members of city council adopted the following on a final reading:
• An ordinance to unappropriate $1,000 for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2016 and
• An ordinance adopting a statement of the investment policy of the city.
Robert Owens was reappointed to a two-year term as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. David Frye was reappointed to a two-year term on the Board of Review on Income Tax.
Council committees for the year will include the following:
• Charter/Legislative - Chuck Danhoff and Josh Gerber;
• Finance - Josh Gerber, James Johnson and David Sattig;
• Public Works - Joe Daniel, Michael Elmlinger and James Johnson;
• Safety - Michael Elmlinger and James Johnson;
• Utilities - Chuck Danhoff, Joe Daniel, Josh Gerber and David Sattig, and
• Jobs - Chuck Danhoff, Joe Daniel, Michael Elmlinger, Josh Gerber and James Johnson.
Willard City Council will hold a special meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 5:30 p.m. While no action is anticipated, some of the items that will be addressed include utility rates.
Sattig said the utility committee met. The decision was made to include public input into the fees. “We’re no where ready to go with an ordinance,” he said. “There’s a lot here to do.”There will also be discussion concerning rental properties. The meeting is open to the public.