Council allows liquor sales on city land
DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
After weeks of debate, Van Wert City Council unanimously approved legislation allowing limited sale of alcohol beverages by non-profit organizations in designated areas on public property.
The discussion continued Monday prior to the vote, with several people in support or opposing the measure.
Former city councilman Stuart Jewett may have provided the best analysis of the debate.
“We’ve obviously got two different kinds of people in this room: We’ve got people who would enjoy having a social beverage with each other and people who think that’s wrong,” Jewett said, noting that, while not every future event would likely include alcohol sales, he also felt it was time to “cater” to both those who don’t want alcohol at an event and those who do.
Van Wert Mayor Jerry Mazur also gave his State of the City “year in review” address, first thanking Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming for sharing his vast experience, and Council President Pete Weir for his positive leadership of City Council. The mayor also thanked individual Council member for their guidance and support during 2016, as well as the Van Wert County Board of Commissioners for their aid in providing a unified economic development program.
“With regard to our accomplishment, yes, economic development was my number one goal,” Mazur said. “Working with Council’s guidance, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation was formed (and) known as the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation.”
The mayor also noted that several hundred people became members of the new non-profit economic development corporation and also spoke about the organization’s goal of hiring a new economic development director.
“Making the right decision and getting the very best person in position was the objective,” he said of the rationale behind hiring director Stacy Adam. “Mission accomplished.”
Mayor Mazur also talked of a third goal for his administration: working with neighboring townships to provide emergency services to fringe areas within the greater city limits.
“Fire Chief Steele and Mr. Fleming have taken the lead on this issue and I am pleased to report that legislation has been introduced by Council that will allow for coverage agreements to be drawn up between the city and Pleasant Township, providing emergency services to some seventy homes and critical highway intersections,” the mayor stated.
His also noted his goal to “lead a productive and efficient city workforce”, but gave the credit for meeting that goal to city department heads and workers.
“I have found that all of our departments have a great deal of pride in their area of responsibility, and work tirelessly in pursuing training and new procedures in order to provide the very best of services to the people of Van Wert,” Mazur said.
While noting that the city budget was on target for 2016, the mayor admitted that financial challenges are ahead for the city, and gave several reasons for City Council’s pending decision on whether to place a 0.28 percent income tax addition on the May primary ballot.
Those reasons include declining state revenues, including the elimination of the tangible personal property and inheritance taxes, and cuts to local government funds.
“Making matters even worse is the fact that our investments are not reaping huge dividends or interest,” Mayor Mazur said, noting that the city is down $138,000 in interest payments over pre-2008 levels.
“Van Wert is not alone in this revenue crunch,” the mayor added. “Twenty-seven other cities, towns, and villages are asking their voters to provide the funds necessary for growth and development, and, ultimately, the survival of the place they call home.”
The mayor also spoke of several positives he sees in the coming year, including workforce development efforts at Van Wert City Schools and Vantage Career Center, the availability of several development sites in the city, including the demolition of the former Chrysler Amplex plant and the building of a 100,000-square-foot industrial spec building on the site.
“This is but the beginning,” Mayor Mazur concluded. “I am confident that we will be recognized for what we are: a hardworking community, a great place to raise a family, good churches, good schools, excellent cultural opportunities, and a town that cares for, and supports, its amenities.”
Also Monday, City Council members were unanimously in favor of legislation that would place a 0.28 percent income tax increase on the May ballot during an advisory vote taken during the measure’s second reading. That measure is expected to be adopted at the January 23 City Council meeting.
Also, Council tabled a measure that would mandate that trash haulers conform to the city recycling schedule, after a new trash hauler raised some new concerns related to the legislation. More discussion will be held during a Health-Safety-Service Committee meeting scheduled for January 23.
Other legislation adopted on Monday include a measure to set salaries for city treasurer, City Council members and Council president for 2018 and 2019, with no changes; a resolution supporting development of state and federal bicycle routes through the city; and an ordinance making amendments to city code sections 152.20, 152.59, and 152.86, which deal with city building requirements.
During his report, Fleming noted that railroad workers were in town to complete closure of the rail crossing at Anderson Avenue, as well as concrete work at the crossing on North Washington Street. That portion of the street will be closed for a day to complete repairs, he noted.
During her report, City Auditor Martha Balyeat noted that city income tax revenues were ahead of last year by approximately $151,000, although that increase is not as much as was predicted.
She also noted that two-thirds of the .22 safety income tax revenues (approximately $500,000) have been used in five of the last seven years to balance the budget.
City Law Director John Hatcher said during his report to City Council that he felt holding town meetings to discuss the income tax increase was a good idea to get needed information out to prospective voters.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of Van Wert City Council will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday, January 23, in Council Chambers, on the second floor of the Municipal Building, 515 E. Main St.