Council President Mr. Martin called the March 08, 2021 meeting to order at 7:30 PM. If you aren’t a member of council please mute your computer so it will cut down the background noise. Due to COVID-19 our council meetings are being conducted through ZOOM. The roll was called with the following members present: Mrs. Drake, Mr. Ferguson, Mr. Gant, Mr. Locke, Mrs. Miller, Ms. Riffle, and Mr. Shutts present. Also present was Mayor Lorentz, Safety Service Director Mrs. Hoblitzell, City Auditor Miss Pittenger, City Law Director Mr. Webster, Treasurer Mrs. Copeland and Clerk of Council Mrs. Meredith.
Council President Mr. Martin asked that everyone please rise for the Prayer and remain standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Mrs. Drake gave the invocation and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
A motion was made by Mrs. Drake to by-pass the reading of the February 22, 2021 minutes and accept as presented. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye.
Reports of City Officials:
Mayor Lorentz – February 25th Jesse Roush from the Port Authority presented the Burton Economic Development Plan for Belpre. About 10 were in attendance with a few on Zoom to get a sneak peak of what is to come. We are planning on our next council meeting being an in-person event. At that time Mr. Roush can be with us to help with any questions you may have. Our audience, or visitors may still need to Zoom.
Friday February 26th the Health Board met quickly to place Dr. Brocket in as our part-time Health Commissioner as well as Rebecca Aber now working as an administrator. The employees are doing an amazing job and all residents are being cared for.
Marietta Memorial started seeing patients at the Strecker Center on March 1st. They still have some finishing touches to complete but, the building is amazing. The water department is still trying to eliminate some of their pressure problems at the same time. Saturday morning, we re-installed our water meter at the Strecker Building and all looks good. This morning inspectors inspected and all passed.
The County Commissioners’ and I are still trying to find the source of the re-occurring high flows from the county sewer line. Starting next week, they are installing a Scada system a lot like ours to identify the areas of water infiltration. In turn they have asked to continue our agreement for a couple more months until accurate readings can be obtained. They will continue to pay the $30,000.00 until that time. The commissioners have also agreed to assist us with the sewer improvements we need. Their support in this effort will hopefully give us the needed points to obtain grants.
The Service Director and I have been in contact with Professional Pool Management getting ready to open our pool. With being closed last year we lost all our seasonal returning veterans. Some cleaning and repairs are now starting.
The newly formed committee for the Belpre Homecoming has set the dates for August 5, 6, and 7. Fireworks planned for the evening of August 7th with a rain date of August 8th.
As of Friday, Washington County is at the top of the list for COVID-19 cases and remains in a RED status.
Also, on Friday we learned that one of the ladies working at the Senior Center tested positive for COVID-19. The building is once again closed until testing can be confirmed.
Safety-Service Director Mrs. Hoblitzell announced that she met with Kelly Cox regarding the Bike Path. One of my personal priorities is getting the bike path connected between Florence Street under the bridge to Blennerhassett, She is looking at getting a survey and easement for that.
The Street Department, the Public Works Supervisor, the Mayor and myself took down the Christmas lights. We are talking about making that an annual thing where we help put up and take them down. We know that those people are getting a little older and can use the extra help.
We are currently looking into the options for the Salt Storage building. We are talking with the Street Department and engineer in order to get this started in a month or so.
We will be hiring seasonal help for the park mowing in the next month or so. We want to be able to get them started.
Pioneer Pike are working on the touchless features at the pool. They are the touchless features that have been placed in all the other buildings. They should be done this week.
City Auditor Miss Pittenger reported that Julian and Grube is our Accounting Firm that does preparation for our audit have been in and are pulling information. A lot of things have been done remotely. On Friday they visited the city building and was pulling checks, receipts, etc. so they can physically look at that. They are also reviewing our GAP Reports from our Annual Audit.
The Utility Adjustment Reports for January and February are on line and we are awaiting council approval. Mr. Ferguson made a motion to accept the Utility Adjustment Report for January and February as presented. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye.
City Law Director Mr. Webster had no report.
City Treasurer Mrs. Copeland announced that the January and February Treasurer’s Report appear online and is awaiting council approval. Mrs. Miller made a motion to accept the Treasurer’s Report as presented. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye.
Communications and Petitions:
President of Council Mr. Martin stated the only thing he has is there is a possibility that the next meeting of council will appear live in council chambers. We will keep a close eye on everything going on in the county and the city before the final decision is made. It will be just for council as it sets. We don’t want to get into a situation that we have some problems.
Report of Standing Committee:
Mr. Ferguson Finance/Audit Committee announced that his committee met March 8, 2021 at 6:30PM. Discussed was the 2021 Supplemental Appropriations and the Senior Center Contract for 2021. There were some questions on the Exhibit on the appropriations. I will clarify those questions and will have them prior to the next council meeting or the next council meeting. I do appreciate everyone’s discussion about the Senior Center. Both of those resolutions do appear on this evening’s agenda.
Mr. Gant, Police and Fire Committee had no report.
Ms. Riffle Streets, Sidewalks and Storm Sewer had no report. Ms. Riffle said she would like to continue to show support to the street workers for keeping are streets clean.
Mrs. Drake Utilities Committee reported that her committee met prior to this evenings meeting to discuss the Contract with the Washington Soil and Water Conservation District. It appeared to be a successful meeting. I will submit my report to the clerk.
Mr. Shutts, Parks and Recreation Committee had no report.
Mr. Locke Planning and Zoning Committee had no report.
Mr. Locke Economic Development Committee had no report
Mrs. Miller Rules Committee had no report.
Persons Appearing Before Council – Agenda items only. None
Unfinished Business: None
Mr. Ferguson brought before council for first reading A RESOLUTION SUPPLEMENTING YEAR 2021 APPROPRIATIONS. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye. This will lie over until the next meeting of council.
Mrs. Drake brought before council for first reading A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR TO EXECUTE A CONTRACT WITH THE WASHINGTON SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye. This will lie over until the next meeting of council.
Mr. Ferguson brought before council for first reading A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR TO EXECUTE AN AGREEMENT FOR MANAGEMENT OF THE BELPRE SENIOR CENTER. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye. This will lie over until the next meeting of council.
PERSONS APPEARING BEFORE COUNCIL:
Mrs. Hoblitzell asked Mr. Locke when he plans to have the next Golf Cart meeting. Mr. Locke stated that he was waiting until we meet in person. Since we did hear this evening that the next meeting may be held in person I may try and schedule one. Mrs. Hoblitzell asked Mr. Locke if he could go ahead and schedule one prior to the next council meeting and he can always council 24 hours prior to the meeting.
Ms. Riffle asked Ms. Pittenger about the email she had received today regarding HB 157 or 197 regarding taxation. Miss Pittenger informed Ms. Riffle that it will affect the Three Big C’s, Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland way more than us. People that are working remotely that used to work in downtown but living and working from home don’t have to pay taxes in those municipalities. We don’t have many employees that work remotely. I don’t know that we will see anything different.
Ms. Riffle asked Mrs. Hoblitzell about Third Street behind where Hostess Bread or Jones Boys was but now Belpre Furniture Warehouse. There has been a hole and a ditch there for a long, long time. Mrs. Hoblitzell asked the Mayor about this. The Mayor stated that it may be the water leak that they are about to repair. Ms. Riffle stated that she didn’t know whether it was more streets or water repair needed. Mrs. Hoblitzell stated that we have to wait until it dries up a little bit. Mayor Lorentz agreed.
Mr. Webster told Council President Mr. Martin that Mr. Koon would like to speak. Mario and Kelly Koon 1111 Blennerhassett Avenue addressed council regarding golf carts. At what point are we in the discussion? Are we at the point of legalizing them? Mr. Koon asked how the public would be notified when the meeting is to occur about golf carts. Mr. Locke informed Mr. Koon that the basic discussion has been completed. We will probably have a couple more meetings before presenting to council. The committee meetings will be posted on the City of Belpre Facebook page and website. I’m planning on having a meeting before the next meeting of council.
Jackie Cassidy asked if there was a date when the public restrooms will be open at the Civitan Park. Per Mrs. Hoblitzell they were opened today. Depot Park and Howe’s Grove Park and the boat ramp will be closed for another month. Per Mayor Lorentz they did not open today but will open tomorrow.
Mr. Gant asked about the Aggregate Program for Electric and Gas and was there anywhere it could be found. Mrs. Drake stated that she spoke with SOPEC this evening and the electric is in effect. You should have received a notice stating that if you wanted to opt out now was the time. This is in effect until June. Next month they will get the rates that will be in effect in June. There should be more letters going out. I have the rates for gas. I thought the Gas Aggregation was going into effect in December or January however I haven’t been able to find anything on that. Mrs. Hoblitzell stated that she was informed by Shannon McCullough that those rates would start March 1st, 2021. Mrs. Hoblitzell stated that she was confused about start dates. I feel that if they are supposed to start on March 1st, 2021 then I expect them to start that day. I thought she said we were in a GAP until January. Mrs. Drake stated that she had rates back in October. She never received anything from them so she called IGS Energy and was informed that last November customers should have received letters notifying them that Dominion Energy solutions was transferred to IGS Energy and that the two companies had a joint venture. Mrs. Drake informed council that IGS was $1 more than Dominion. She was informed that they now have a new carbon neutral rate. Mrs. Hoblitzell stated the rate she had beginning March 1st, 2021 is 3.14. Mr. Gant stated that he brought this up because he had received a letter that he had been switched to Spire Marketing. A copy of the letter was sent to Mrs. Hoblitzell. Mr. Webster stated that Connie or someone needed to find out what was going on. Mr. Webster stated that rates should have been in place as that it how it was presented to us. Mrs. Drake stated that the rate she had was 3.59. Mr. Shutts stated that he thought we went through AEP for both gas and electric. Mrs. Hoblitzell stated that SOPEC is with AEP and gas is still under us but I’m in hopes that SOPEC will go with gas. Mr. Gant stated that AEP is not set up for gas through the aggregation program. Mrs. Hoblitzell stated that she would get into contact with Luke and Shannon tomorrow. This is totally out of hand. Mr. Gant stated that the phone number was 866-258-3782.
Mr. Gant thanked the Mayor, Mrs. Hoblitzell and the railroad for cooperating with the citizens with all the problems they were having. Mrs. Hoblitzell stated that this was the Mayor and she didn’t have anything to do with it.
Mrs. Miller stated that over on Hill Street there is a problem with the gas line and potholes. Mrs. Miller was informed that the job on Hill Street has not been completed and that they would be back in April to complete. Before you go praising the railroad they set our grass on fire near the Rockland Cemetery. There were two fire departments there. Sparks from the rails from the train started the fire. One of the neighbors said he saw the sparks. When Mr. Betz reported it to the railroad he was informed that it was not from the trains but from citizens burning trash. Mrs. Miller stated that this could have been pretty serious. Mayor Lorentz stated that he found it hard to believe that the train caused this issue. Mrs. Miller is waiting to hear what the fire department puts on their report. Mrs. Hoblitzell asked if Little Hocking would do the report since they were first to respond.
Mr. Locke called a committee meeting for March 8, 2021 at 6:30PM to discuss golf carts and 7PM to discuss C-3 Riverfront Property Zoning.
Ms. Riffle asked for information regarding golf carts and zoning from Mr. Locke. Mr. Locke to forward information.
Mrs. Cassidy addressed the new tables at Civitan Park shelters and how nice they looked. She also asked the date when the city building might open. She was informed that it might be the end of the month or the first of April.
Mrs. Drake informed Mrs. Cassidy that she could call ahead and make an appointment to talk to employees/administration within the city building if she has business to conduct. Mrs. Drake thought it would be good to notify the citizens of Belpre.
Jesse Wonycott asked if the committee meetings will be held through ZOOM. She was informed that they would be on ZOOM.
Mr. Ferguson made a motion to adjourn at 8:17 PM. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye.