Urbana charter amendments headed to November ballot

By Joshua Keeran - jkeeran@civitasmedia.com

Urbana residents in the November general election will vote on six issues pertaining to proposed amendments to the city charter after City Council on Tuesday approved placing the measures on the upcoming ballot.

“The city is obligated to have a Charter Review Committee every decade, but when we see something we need to fix, it’s better to get it to (the voters) sooner rather than later,” Director of Law Breanne Parcels said.

Prior to council approving the ordinance, Parcels highlighted several of the proposed amendments, particularly those that address disposing of residential or real estate acquired by the city that has no significant municipal use, streamlining legislation, residency requirements for city officials, and publication requirements.

By amending the charter section involving disposal of city-owned residential and real estate property, council would be given the authority to pass ordinances to dispose of these properties that have gone to bid and received no interest from the public.

“At this point, our hands are kind of tied in terms of how we can dispose of them otherwise,” Parcels said.

As for streamlining legislation, ordinances and resolutions are currently required to undergo three readings, unless a rules suspension is requested. If passed, each measure must then sit for 30 days before taking effect unless passed on emergency basis. One of the proposed charter amendments would change those requirements.

“We would streamline that process to where unless it’s an expenditure of money or something that can’t be done as an emergency, it would require two readings and then there would be a 14-day waiting period instead of waiting for 30 days (for it to take effect),” Parcels said.

In terms of residency requirements for the city’s three directors (administration, law and finance), the charter requires these employees to live in the city, even though in 2008 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that residency requirements for city employees were unconstitutional. One of the proposed charter amendments would eliminate this requirement since it’s no longer enforceable, Parcels said.

When it comes to the publication of measures approved by council, the city is currently required to place a separate legal advertisement in the newspaper for each resolution or ordinance adopted by council.

Under the proposed amendment, Parcels said, the clerk of council would only be required to post quarterly legal advertisements in the newspaper, while also posting a list of approved legislation in the municipal building and on the city’s website.

The proposed amendments to the charter also include a measure requiring all city boards and commissions to have alternates.

City to be reimbursed for airport work

Council waived the three-readings rule and passed on first reading a resolution allowing Director of Administration Kerry Brugger to accept, on behalf of the city, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Office of Aviation’s Ohio Airport Grant.

Brugger said earlier this spring, the 3,000-foot grass runway at Grimes Field was reseeded for the first time in eight or nine years at a cost of $5,530. Through ODOT’s Ohio Airport Grant, the city will be reimbursed 95 percent of the costs or $5,253.50.

“There are a lot of pilots who like to come in on the grass rather than the asphalt to save on tires and for a little softer landing,” Brugger said.

In other business:

•The North Oakland Street Curbs and Walks Phase 1 Project is a go after council authorized a purchase order in the amount of $65,071 to the Champaign County Commission for the city’s share of the $105,320 project that will replace sidewalks, curb and gutter, concrete pavement for driveways/drive approaches and six catch basins on both sides of North Oakland Street from Miami Street to West Church Street.

•Council awarded the construction work on the Safe Routes to School Phase 2 Project to J&J Schlaegel Inc. of Urbana in the amount of $97,864.36.

ODOT is funding the construction portion on the project, which involves the installation of sidewalks on the south side of Boyce Street from East Lawn Avenue to North Jefferson Avenue and on the east side of Madison Avenue from Boyce Street to Central Avenue.

The application for Safe Routes to School funding was submitted to ODOT prior to Urbana voters passing the bond issue to build new schools, but city officials reported they were advised to keep the project as is.

Crabill said the project does have an added benefit in that the sidewalks on Boyce Street will benefit pedestrians who use the Boyce Street walkway entrance to Melvin Miller Park.

•Brugger was given council’s approval to seek funding for the Powell Avenue/Cemetery Sanitary Sewer Project through the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) State Capital Improvement Program, which provides both grants and loans.

Crabill said the project is needed to relieve the heavy sewer flow that travels down Amherst Drive from the east side of Urbana. To split the flow in half, the project calls for a sewer main line to be installed from the Bon Air Drive/Miller Drive intersection to the large city-owned interceptor sewer at the fairgrounds.

“It’s about a $1 million project,” Crabill said. “We are going to try to get as much grant funding as we can.”

•Police Chief Matt Lingrell reminded citizens that registration forms for this year’s Safety Town program at Melvin Miller Park, due at the Urbana Police Division by May 23, are available online at www.urbanaohio.com and at the Urbana Municipal Building. To participate in either the June 6-10 class or the June 13-17 class, participants must be entering kindergarten this fall.

•Urbana City Schools’ video production students recorded their final council meeting for the Local Access Channel on Time Warner Cable after the city’s Local Access Channel Advisory Committee decided earlier this year to terminate the city’s agreement with the school district.

While Council President Marty Hess didn’t rule out the possibility of the meetings returning to the Local Access Channel in the future, he did note no video recordings will be produced for at least the next several months while the committee decides how to move forward. In the meantime, an audio taping of each meeting will be available on the city’s website at www.urbanaohio.com.

By Joshua Keeran


Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.

Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.

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