Urbana City Council on Tuesday heard the first reading of an ordinance to submit city charter amendments to voters for approval.
If given council’s blessing after three readings, the proposed changes to nine sections in the charter would be placed on the Nov. 8 ballot.
While presenting the ordinance to council, Director of Law Breanne Parcels highlighted three areas in particular that the amendments address – streamlining legislation, residency requirements for city officials, and publication requirements.
Concerning streamlining legislation, Parcels said, “We’ve heard constantly from city council members as well as city personnel that there needs to be a more efficient process in order to go apply for things like the OPWC (Ohio Public Works Commission) project.”
To address this issue, the amendment would allow council to pass resolutions that are “routine in nature” like grant application submissions on first reading. Two readings would be required for measures seeking to expend city funds.
Ordinances that are permanent in nature, like updates to the city’s codified ordinances or annexation requests, would still be required to undergo three readings, Parcels said.
Another focus of the proposed charter amendments is to eliminate language no longer enforceable under state law like the residency requirements for the city’s three directors – administration, law and finance.
“Those (residency requirements) were inserted into the charter in 2002,” Parcels said. “In 2008, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that residency requirements for city employees were unconstitutional and could not be enforced, so we have language in the charter that cannot be enforced.”
The ordinance also seeks voter approval to change the section of the charter relating to the publication of ordinances and resolutions. Under the proposed changes, all ordinances and resolutions no longer would be required to be published by title in the newspaper. Instead, at least once every 90 days, the clerk of council would be required to submit a list of legislation adopted by council to the newspaper and post that list conspicuously in the municipal building and online.
“A lot of people don’t read the newspaper anymore, but we are still mandated under state law and under our charter to publish things a certain number of times and publish things a certain way when there are more effective ways of getting the word out to the public,” Parcels said.
As for codification and recodification of ordinances and resolutions, rather than publishing them one time in the newspaper, they would be published digitally.
Other proposed amendments to the charter include requiring all city boards and commissions to have alternates and language allowing for additional flexibility when it comes to disposing of residential or real estate acquired by the city that has no significant municipal use.
No more meetings on cable
Council President Marty Hess confirmed that effective May 18, the city is terminating its agreement with Urbana City Schools for the video recording of council meetings.
Hess said the city’s Local Access Channel Advisory Committee made the decision based on what it believes to be a diminishing viewership due to advancements in technology and a decrease in cable subscribers.
“This summer we will not have any meetings taped,” he said. “We are going to take a break, and we are going to see what other options there are.
“We’ve had a great relationship with Urbana City Schools,” Hess added.
There is the possibility that if enough interest still exists, the meetings could return to the Local Access Channel. To determine the popularity of the meetings being broadcast on cable, taking place since 1992, Hess asks residents who watch the meetings on cable to contact a city official.
“I think it’s a very important part of what we provide to the citizens of Urbana, but we need to get it to more people,” Hess said.
While a decision on how to proceed with future broadcasting of council meetings is discussed over the next several months, an audio taping of each meeting will be available on the city’s website at www.urbanaohio.com.
In other business:
•An ordinance establishing a cemetery board at Oak Dale Cemetery was approved by council. The plan is for the appointed board members (yet to be determined) to begin meeting in May.
Director of Administration Kerry Brugger said the board will be working on a short- and long-term planning strategy for operations and development of the cemetery.
“(The cemetery) is something we’d really like to spend the right amount of time and energy to promote and develop to make it one of the nicer cemeteries in the area,” he said.
•With mosquito season having arrived, Champaign County Health Commissioner Jeff Webb addressed ongoing concerns over the Zika virus by stating while there have been 10 confirmed cases of the virus in Ohio, none of the infected acquired Zika in the state.
“We don’t have any cases of Zika in our county,” he added.
Webb said Zika poses the greatest health risk to babies in the womb. None of the confirmed cases in Ohio involve a pregnant woman.
For more information on the virus, visit the health district’s website at www.champaignhd.com.
•The residential curbside community cleanup in the city April 12-15 was deemed a success, Brugger said.
“The event went rather well,” he said. “We had very few complaints.”
Waste Management informed the city it collected just under 68 tons of material during the cleanup.
“It was a pretty significant haul for a first-time event,” Brugger said.
•Council approved the purchase of a 2016 Dodge Charger police cruiser from White’s Chrysler at a cost of $30,179.
Brugger said the new cruiser will replace unit No. 36 – a 2012 Dodge Charger with over 90,000 miles on it. He added no decision has been made as to whether the 2012 cruiser will be given to another division or sold at auction.
•Mayor Bill Bean proclaimed the city will recognize Arbor Day on April 29. He added Urbana University will host an Arbor Day event at 1 p.m. April 29.
•Council authorized a purchase order to Public Entities Pool in the amount of $147,580 to cover the cost of property and casualty insurance for the year.
“All in all we had about a 17 percent increase in insured value, which resulted in a 9 percent increase over last year in our premium,” Director of Finance Chris Boettcher said. “I think we fared pretty well in our renewal this year.”
Boettcher added the increase in insured value is due in larger part to the improvements made at the Urbana Water Reclamation Facility.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.