Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cities Report - 2015 Summer Caucus

Call to Order/Welcome/Introductions – Michael Beazley, Oregon City administrator and caucus facilitator, called the meeting to order and welcomed everyone present. Introductions were made by everyone present.

TMACOG members who were present included:

·         Cecelia M.  Adams – Council Member At-Large, City of Toledo
·         Jim Bagdonas – Municipal Administrator, City of Waterville

·         Mike Beazley – Administrator, City of Oregon
·         Richard Carr – Mayor, City of Maumee
·         Robert Clark – Mayor, City of Monroe
·         Richard Edwards – Mayor, City of Bowling Green
·         Douglas Haynam – Council Member, City of Sylvania
·         Bruce Jeffers – Council Member At-Large, City of Bowling Green
·         Charles Larkins – Council Member, City of Waterville
·         Michelle LaVoy – Clerk-Treasurer, City of Monroe
·         Angeline Lee – Economic Development Specialist, City of Toledo
·         Vince Leone – Mayor, City of Port Clinton
·         Gloria Rafko – Council Member, City of Monroe
·         Robert Ruse – Council Member, City of Rossford
·         William  Sanford – Economic Development/Administrative Services, City of Sylvania
·         Joseph Smith – Economic Development Director, City of Fremont
·         Craig Stough – Mayor, City of Sylvania
·         Kathy Stout – Council Member, Second Ward, City of Fremont
·         Larry Sykes – Council Member At-Large, City of Toledo
·         Jamie Takacs – Executive Officer, City of Toledo
·         Beth Tischler – Law Director, City of Maumee
·         Lori Tretter – Administrator, City of Bowling Green

Non-caucus members who were present included:
·         Michael Podolsky – Attorney-at-Law, Eastman & Smith, Ltd.

Non-TMACOG members who were present included:
·         Bill LaVoy – State Representative, 17th District, Michigan
·         Mark Chovan – Vice President, West Erie Realty Solutions, Ltd.
·         Stephanie Miller – Regional Urban Forester, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR)
TMACOG support staff that was present included:
·         David Gedeon – Acting Vice President of Transportation
·         Rebekka Apardian – Transportation Planner
Introduce Discussion Topics – The following topics were discussed by the caucus.

·         Harmful Algal Bloom
Mike Beazly: Is Monroe still happy with ozone measurement?
Gloria Rafko: We’ve had no issue with our water so far.
Oregon is editing a contract for an ozone-based treatment system, which will be a $15 million investment. They don’t expect algae to be an issue after that; Toledo will likely end up taking the same path as well.
Mike Beazley: What do we want from our legislatures in terms of the algae issue? Seems only sticks are used. This is a political problem as well. Funding for implementation, education..?
Toledo: We have been watching politicians go out and be surprised about the water quality, but this has been going on for much longer than the media has given attention to it. We have to get past this to promote our region because the “dirty water” is giving the Toledo area a bad image; no one is going to want to live here. It is now an economic development problem. There is only one plant that slipped a little bit in terms of quality.
Mike Beazley: What can we do about the branding problem now?
Let’s have the legislatures do damage control via public relations, now that damage control on water has been done.
Larry Sykes: Now, the media starts the digital conversation and creates issues. We’ve always had a water watch. Media is irresponsible. We have to do a better job of advertising to the public what is really going on.
Does public TV do enough to get beyond hype of media? Is public TV a player?
Mike Beazley: No, they have no news teams. At best, they can make documentaries. Some kids started rumors about shutting down the water last year, hoping to get school canceled. Tweets are powerful and take over where public TV can’t go/doesn’t have a presence.

·         Regional Water
There is a coalition of folks at TMACOG looking at keeping municipalities with Toledo’s water. What if people cut themselves from Toledo and decide to get their own water? What would happen?
There was a water study back in 1990 when a lot of income was coming from municipalities buying into Toledo’s water. It’s time for a new study in order to give the constituents the option. Approval for a new study has been given for about $100,000 to see what it would take to update plants and the system and examine economic investment options. Sylvania received too many calls from residents and businesses asking why everything had to be shut down when their water hadn’t tested badly? Recommended redundancy in the system, i.e. valves you can open throughout the region, etc.
Mike Beazley: First Energy has a 300 million+ gallon/day intake capacity that goes largely unused in the bay that is close to both Toledo and Oregon’s plants that could be thought of as an option in the future.
Fremont: Had reservoir issue that went from $9 to $44 million dollars; peaceful resolution of the dam is waiting on a federal court case. Fremont is investing $63 million in a waste water facility that will reduce the number of violation days. They currently have a 23 million gallon capacity with amp generator and are not even close to reaching capacity at this point.
Oregon is going to try to be more engaged in water options and studies; Mike encourages everyone to be more engaged as well. The region’s brand is at stake and nobody can thrive if one of the members is suffering.
Maumee- Has to make a decision very soon about whether or not to stay with Toledo water.

·         HB 5 and Income Tax Updates
Mike Beazley: Is anyone worried about this or are we letting everyone else worry about it? We’re going to have to change our tax codes.  Is there anything else the legislature is going to do to erode local authority? Are they going to try to take home rule?
Bruce Jeffers: We tried to uphold local gun ordinance but had no authority to do so, said it was state issue. Urge legislators to pay attention to this and focus on gun safety.
Mike Beazley: Be on the lookout for groups that are aggressively targeting cities who haven’t updated their code, even if they aren’t enforcing it; look over your codes.

·         Local government funds shifted to townships
The rational is that townships don’t have authority to have income tax, and therefore have no revenue. Cities are now subsidizing townships and unincorporated areas.
Ask the question: will legislators take care of cities in the same manner they’re taking care of townships? The county engineer understands the inequity of this. Could we press the county commissioners to change the definition of a county road? Should states take care of county roads in townships the same way they take care of state roads?
JEDD issues:
Maumee: Moncolva Township comes into Maumee, raids biggest tax paying business to come out there, then collects income tax from them and gives 50% back to company. Then Moncolva Township formed a joint coalition with Whitehouse, which is nowhere near them. They took business from city, kick back money to the company, and are still taking the money given to the townships from the city.
If you neighborhood township is going to “raid you,” then they will have to do business with you. JEDD can be used as a tool, but not a total solution. Bill sponsors are likely to be supportive.
Also looked at the courts. The municipalities don’t have actual authority over their own courts, just the obligation to pay for it. City residents shouldn’t be the only ones paying for the courts when the townships also use them. Lucas County cities are very interested in it joint funding. For most counties in Ohio, the cities don’t have this burden; it is a county burden. Cities of Columbus and Cincinnati has budget of $0 for their court; the county picks up cost.
Mike Beazley: Interested in keeping cities together to drive towards that goal. Oregon is leading this.
Maumee: Wants to consolidate the services, also. The court’s case load is down 45% but operating costs have quadrupled. Toledo is just as bad and also needs new facilities. It would be very helpful if the entire county paid for the resources, rather than just Toledo, since everyone uses them.
Mike Beazley: It’s also time to stop subsidizing the townships and unincorporated areas with free police. A study was done for the Dayton area that looks at funding inequities; it’s worth reading over.  
Michigan has a slightly more equitable system where townships pay for extra deputies if they want them; still not entirely equitable in places where they only have to pay for a portion of costs.

·         Roundtable Discussion
Mike Beazley: Are there any other issues we should ask about?
Why can’t the state take the same responsibilities for state highways in unincorporated areas?
Grant opportunities/Police cameras: Larry Sykes – Toledo does a lot of grant seeking. The biggest budget is fire/police. We want body cameras for our police, but we don’t have the money for that. Are there any grant money/contracts that you know of to help with this?
Mike Beazley: There are grant websites you can subscribe to and they will send you grants that you could qualify for.
Health and Wellness: There is an aggressive wellness program in Oregon, have seen healthcare costs and utilization rates fall in the four years they’ve been using it. Anyone else try a wellness program for a workforce?
Kathy Stout: We set up a health and wellness committee that set up a program via Fremont Public Schools; employees can take a health assessment and are able to earn up to 10% off premiums, now including spouses, too. Most of the state will see a 15% hike in premiums, but participants in this program will only see a 6% increase. The program includes cooking classes, yoga classes, and other wellness classes.
Are we going to talk about economic development?

The biggest challenge is shortage of labor over next 10-15 years. We will need more workers to replace the retirees and we’ll have to find a way to stop shipping out educated young people to other states, also.

How’s the revenue going in your respective municipalities?

Maumee: Our income tax highest it’s ever been, but our expenses also really high.

Oregon: Revenue from refineries is strong.

Generate questions to present at the Forum – The following questions were generated by the caucus for the Forum with State Lawmakers.

1.      Last year’s water crisis created a negative public image locally and nationally. What can the legislative do to assist with the negative media/public perception associated with the algae and water issues?
2.      Why can’t the state take the same responsibility for state highways in municipalities that they take in unincorporated areas?
3.      Is the state planning any more reductions to municipal home rule authority?

Adjourn – The chair adjourned the meeting

Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments |

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