Council amends outdated procedural rules; income tax collections dropping
by Sue Serdinak
March 7 village council meeting
During several meetings, Richfield Village Council discussed rules and procedures of council. President Sue Ann Philippbar, who said some operating procedures were outdated, spearheaded the review.
In a world of digital media, Philippbar recommended that paper copies of council agendas and legislative documents needed only be posted at Village Hall, the post office and on the village website. In the past, the documents were also posted at the Giant Eagle store, the Richfield Library and the Senior Center.
The clerk of council is required to post agendas for all council meetings by 1 p.m. on Saturday of the week preceding each regular meeting. Meeting minutes are posted at the same locations, after council approves them. The president of council, in consultation with the administration, determines the items on the agenda. Four votes of council are required for legislation to be introduced at a meeting if it is not on the agenda.
Council president will determine if communications and correspondence will be read at a council meeting. A majority vote of council can override this decision. Correspondence must be received by 9 a.m. on Friday before a regular Tuesday meeting.
All committee meetings of council are open to the public, but the public cannot participate. The clerk of council will post the agenda for all council committee meetings, after the chair of the committee submits it.
Only minor changes were made to the rest of the rules and regulations of council, which are found in codified ordinances 121.03, 123.01 and 123.02 on the village website.
Recreation Director John Piepsny suggested a software package that the city of Brunswick uses could simplify the process of creating agendas for meetings. Mayor Michael Wheeler said he would look into the cost of the software and determine how well it ties all of the documents together.
Council unanimously approved the changes to the rules and thanked Philippbar and the Law Director Joe Chojnacki for their work on the document.
Roads and highways
Council consented to the Ohio Department of Transportation’s program to widen I-77 from four lanes to six lanes in Richfield. Councilperson Ralph Waszak said there is concern that water runoff will increase as will noise near the highway because trees will be removed.
Council approved advertising for bids for road paving. Service Director Scott Waldemarson said bids are not being sought for paving by the recycling method that was used in 2022 because some pavement cracks are already appearing. Wheeler said the contractor has agreed to repair the cracks.
Waldemarson said that a connector drive between Richfield Woods and Ridgeview Road will also be paved.
K-9 has arrived
Council suspended readings and adopted a resolution to approve applying to AKC Reunite for a $7,500 grant to help cover the cost of acquiring and training a dog and outfitting a police car for a K-9 cop. Council approved a $15,000 expenditure to adopt a dog.
Council approved the $8,652 bid from Fallsway Equipment to outfit the new Ford Explorer patrol car and the $32,023 bid to outfit a Ford Expedition, which will be the K-9 vehicle.
Police Chief Michael Swanson reported that the village has acquired a one-year-old Dutch Shepherd named Norie to be the K-9 dog. He said that officer Jake Totten will soon begin training the dog.
Swanson also said the state auditor approved the use of the village’s share of the One Ohio Opioid Settlement fund to help cover the expenses of the K-9 dog. Council had the first reading of a resolution to appropriate the $19,130 the village received from the fund to the K-9 program.
The One Ohio Memorandum of Understanding dictates that the settlement funds be used to “decrease the oversupply of licit and illicit opioids.” Finance Director Sandy Turk reported that additional funds might come from the settlement fund, because five more companies have not yet settled.
Turk also reported that village income tax collections are down by 8% year to date over 2022.
“The majority of our income comes from income tax.” Turk said. “We’re watching it. … We did not put any amount of growth in the budget.”
She added that the mayor is cognizant of this and is prepared to work with the department heads to make cutbacks if necessary.
Fire Chief George Seifert reported that two part-time fire medics resigned because of family obligations. Paramedic Christian Brianza resigned as full-time paramedic but will work part time. Seifert said he has already advertised the open positions.
Wheeler said he conducted exit interviews with the outgoing paramedics, and they all said they were not unhappy working in the department but had other commitments.
Planning and Zoning Director Brian Frantz reported that landscape designer Rob Morgan is working on plans to redesign the Village Green and the center of town.
He also said the village has an agreement with First Energy to replace the overhead electric lines along Grant Street and Broadview Road around the site for the Richfield Brewing Company. The project is in the 2023 budget and is expected to cost $300,000.
A traffic study will be conducted for Wheatley Road to determine if additional traffic signals are warranted.
Council sent back to the planning commission for further review a proposal to construct a basketball court at Richfield Woods, north of the Johnson Barn.
Resident Michael Setter thanked Philippbar for speaking against suspending second and third readings on legislation at a January meeting. Setter said he did not have an opportunity to address council before a resolution was passed at the Jan. 17 meeting regarding installation of Flock license plate readers.
“Depending on how those readers are used, it can be an invasion of privacy,” Setter said. “Where is that information stored? Who has access to it and how long will it be stored?”
Tim Baker, IT coordinator, said the data is stored for one month and only members of the police department have access to it. He said the reader would recognize a stolen vehicle or an amber alert license plate.
“The information goes nowhere and is stored in the system for 30 days and then is destroyed,” said Baker. “It is a useful tool for our officers if a crime has been committed.”
Setter asked if law enforcement could use the information to make arrests and seek prosecution for a crime. Swanson confirmed that the data could used to help solve crimes.
Councilperson Rick Hudak said the police could see if someone is casing a neighborhood. “… It is not an invasion of privacy because this is happening on public roads. It is a tool, where the good outweighs the potential of an invasion of privacy,” he said.
Said Setter, “I personally have an issue with law enforcement knowing when I’m coming and going to my property. … I’m also worried about overuse of this for an invasion of privacy.”
Wheeler related a story about a bicyclist who was recently hit and thrown about 100 yards on Route 303. The driver left the scene. None of the witnesses got the license plate number so the driver was not found.
“These cameras only take a photo of the license plate, not of the occupants, and they cannot be used to control speeding,” he said.
Philippbar thanked Setter for speaking at the meeting and said this is why she wanted the legislation to be read at a couple of meetings before it was passed. ∞