Council President Mr. Martin called the May 25, 2020 meeting to order at 7:30 PM. Our meeting is being conducted through ZOOM due to the COVID-19 virus. 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 Law Director Mr. Webster, and Council Clerk Mrs. Meredith. Absent from the May 25, 2020 meeting was City Auditor Miss Pittenger and City Treasurer Mrs. Copeland.
Council President Mr. Martin asked that everyone please rise for the Prayer and remain standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Mayor Lorentz gave the invocation and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mr. Locke announced that there were citizens trying to logon to the ZOOM meeting however they were having problems. They were asked to text their email address and Connie would help get them logged on.
Mrs. Drake pointed out a correction to the minutes. Under Report of Standing Committee, 5th line down showed manpower 39 which had changed from last year. According to Mr. Ferguson what was in the minutes was absolutely correct. I was wrong in my statement and I will correct in my report tonight. Mrs. Drake made a motion to accept the minutes of May 11, 2020 meeting as presented and by-pass the reading. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye.
Reports of City Officials:
Mayor Lorentz reported that interviews for scholarships, senior parades and all went well but quite different than we experienced in the past. Some amazing kids are now on their way to what I hope is an amazing future.
The service director, Denzil Ray, Eddie Richardson and I conducted interviews for the opening at the waste water plant. We had three good candidates and should be able to start background checks this coming week.
May 18th the service director and I met with the Rockland Ridge engineers for a pre-construction meeting. Hopefully you noticed one of the old buildings has been demoed to accommodate the new facility. Soil & Water representatives were also in attendance. This will be a great addition to the area.
May 19th, we resumed Mayor’s Court with the help of Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Hoblitzell. As we moved people through one or two at a time, they directed traffic in the building and kept everyone safe and separated.
The Interstate Planning Commission W.W.W met on the 20th to discuss projects in our region. Election of officers was held with myself being elected Chairman.
The traffic light project at Lee Street, Braun Road and Farson will start June 1st with a completion date around June 30th.
The baseball association is starting practice this week. In talking with Zach Carte, he believes the rules can be followed for the kid’s safety. He and I will meet tomorrow to discuss the summer activities at the fields.
Volunteers are starting to plant the city flower beds across our city. If anyone would like to help please contact Karen at the Chamber or Jackie Cassidy.
As of now the pool is closed as stated and the Sr, Center remains closed until health department orders are stated. We are looking at alternate funding sources for the center.
We again have a major road slip on Dragstrip road. Estimates are coming in and as of now the road is CLOSED! More to come.
Safety-Service Director Mrs. Hoblitzell announced that most of her report ditto’s the Mayor’s Report. I also was reporting on the dragstrip road slip, the interviews, Mayor’s Court and Rockland Ridge. The only thing I have to add is that we will begin Drug Testing on June 1, 2020.
City Auditor Miss Pittenger was absent. Council President Mr. Martin announced that Miss Pittenger report appears on-line.
City Law Director Mr. Webster reported that the manpower ordinance was done incorrectly on the suspension of the rules. The first reading was done properly. It is up to council how they wish to move forward. They can start over with the 1st reading or start with the second reading as the 1st reading was past appropriately.
I continue to be involved with the County Health Department on COVID-19 regarding the opening and closing of businesses. The businesses are required to comply with the Governor’s orders so we don’t have to worry about any citations being issued. As of my report from last week, we still have zero cases diagnosed in the City of Belpre as of last Thursday or Friday. It is possible that we could have one now however I’m not aware of any at this time.
Council President Mr. Martin stated that Mrs. Meredith asked about the legislation that was inadvertently passed at the last meeting. What do we do with that? Do we sign it as bogus? Mr. Webster asked if it was signed and dated. According to the clerk it was dated but not signed. Mrs. Meredith informed Mr. Webster what they have done in the past is sign the one that was passed and then declare it null and void due to the number of votes needed to make it passable. Council President Mr. Martin asked for a vote for null/void as to how council wants to move on. Mr. Drake made a motion to make Ordinance #5, 2020-2021 null and void. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye except for Mrs. Miller whom voted nay. Mr. Webster stated that we would begin with Ordinance 6 and 1st reading.
City Treasurer Mrs. Copeland was absent. No report was given in her absence.
Communications and Petitions:
President of Council Mr. Martin asked Mr. Ferguson to add to tonight’s meeting for 1st reading AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING AUTHORIZED MANPOWER FOR CALENDAR YEAR 2020. Mr. Ferguson made a motion to add to tonight’s agenda for first reading AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING AUTHORIZED MANPOWER FOR CALENDAR YEAR 2020. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye.
Report of Standing Committee:
Mr. Ferguson Finance/ Audit Committee reported that the Finance/Audit Committee met prior to this evenings meeting via ZOOM. Mr. Gant, Ms. Riffle along with other members of council were in attendance. We discussed that the pool is going to remain closed for the year. We talked about the Senior Center and the potential opening of it on July 1, 2020. We are staying with the Governor’s recommendations. We talked about Capitol Budget and freezing the Capital Budget along with the 10% Budget Reduction across all departments. We also discussed donating money back from Council members’ salaries. We discussed the $100,000 Emergency Fund for the Mayor, We felt the way to do that was to wait until it expires on July 14th, 2020. We discussed the Manpower freeze and the hiring of a person in dispatch as well as the sewer department. I can go into more detail on these items if anyone so wishes.
Mr. Gant, Police and Fire Committee had no report.
Ms. Riffle Streets, Sidewalks and Storm Sewer reported that she would like to apologize to a Board Member Mark Pickrell who had emailed her and she thought she had responded but had not. I will be speaking to him. I’m a little late but last week was EMS week and I would like to thank all of our EMS folks for the time they put into training and responding. Lastly, I would like to thank Karen Locke for all her years, love and devotion to the children of Belpre.
Mr. Martin dittoed those sentiments.
Mrs. Drake Utilities Committee had no report. Mrs. Drake stated she was in hopes of setting up a committee meeting at our next meeting regarding the water in the City of Belpre.
Mr. Shutts, Parks and Recreation Committee reported that he has some good news. There is a new backstop installed on Field 1 in Belpre Junior Baseball field. This was accomplished by a grant from the Belpre Foundation of $3,000 for material and the Belpre Little League $1,600 for the labor to have it installed by Mr. Mike Lewis who is with Hocking Fence Company. While he was installing the backstop he added new fence. I want to recognize Mr. Lewis for a job well done and thank the Belpre Foundation for their generous donation and Belpre Little League for the labor and installation. In regards to the meeting that Zach Carte and the Mayor called for Tuesday at noon, I don’t believe they have the right to by-pass the chair of the rec. committee. The mayor didn’t state where the meeting was to be held at which I would like to recognize. I don’t understand why he continues to by-pass the committee chair. He did this on the pool and now on the fields in the park. I will be unable to attend the meeting and Mr. Locke is unable to attend meeting so therefore I think the meeting needs to be rescheduled at a different time so we can attend. Mr. Shutts asked Mr. Gant if he could attend that meeting on Tuesday and he stated that he wouldn’t dare attend that meeting. Mr. Shutts stated that he was on the committee. Mr. Gant stated that he could not attend. Mayor Lorentz stated that as an elected Mayor of this city I can hold a meeting with about anyone I want to. Mr. Carte called me and told me that they were going to start practicing tomorrow night and he wanted to sit down with me to go over the regulations and guidelines that they were going to follow. This is when I called you Mr. Shutts to see if you could meet on Tuesday. This was after I read your text that you were going to hold the meeting. Mr. Shutts stated and hat he didn’t feel that it was right for the Mayor to hold the meeting. It seems your by-passing me on every issue. I didn’t know about the backstop until I went down to take some pictures of the fields with all the leaves. Mr. Shutts asked the Mayor if he knew about the backstop and he informed Mr. Shutts that it had been there for about a month. Mr. Shutts asked why he didn’t know about it. Mr. Shutts stated that the Mayor is doing his job. If I’m the chair then I should call the meeting. Mr. Shutts asked the mayor if he calls other council peoples meetings? No I was going to meet with Zach to go over the rules that he is going to have to abide by with the COVID virus. Mr. Shutts asked why Mr. Carte didn’t call him. Mr. Martin told Mr. Shutts that he should call the Mayor because he is the Administrator of the city. From that point forward the Mayor has the right to decide how he wants to move forward and conduct the meeting. Mr. Martin stated that he would prefer that we are back in the chamber before we start to conduct meetings that way.
Mr. Locke Planning and Zoning Committee had no report. Mr. Locke thanked everyone for their well wishes toward Karen on her retirement.
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 AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING AUTHORIZED MANPOWER FOR CALENDAR YEAR 2020. Mr. Ferguson stated that it does have an attachment and the bottom number is 39. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye. This will lie over until the next meeting of council. Mr. Ferguson apologized for the mix-up at the last meeting.
PERSONS APPEARING BEFORE COUNCIL:
Ms. Riffle addressed the Safety-Service and the Mayor regarding drag strip. Was this done by a design by our engineers? Mayor Lorentz stated that the slip is in a different spot. It looks like someone has been digging to close to the right of way and it has created the slip. I was just wondering if that was the same slip.
Ms. Riffle stated that Mr. Ferguson brought up the Senior Center but we haven’t done anything with the contract. Are we going to meet on that? Mr. Ferguson stated that he would like to have a committee meeting in person but since we don’t know when that is going to happen I will call a meeting before the close of tonight’s meeting.
Ms. Riffle asked if the next meeting was going to be in person. According to Mr. Webster it is still an issue with the Governor. If it is still 10 we will have to ZOOM. We are going to try and make that happen.
Mr. Locke asked the Safety-Service Director when the new trash company would change out their recycle cans. The SSD informed him that the old contract ends June 30, 2020. Not sure of the date that they will change out the recycle cans.
Mr. Locke stated that Burgess and Niples was doing the design project for the sewer project on Washington Boulevard. Is that project still on? Mayor Lorentz stated yes if we get the money it is. Is Washington Boulevard still going to be a part of that project? Mayor Lorentz informed Mr. Locke that there would be little or no impact on Washington Boulevard.
Mr. Locke asked if there are going to be any streets paved this year. According to the Mayor there is a couple but he is not sure of the streets. David does that for us and puts the estimates out.
Mrs. Drake stated that she noticed that the old doctor’s office is gone on Main Street. What is going to happen there? Mayor Lorentz stated nothing that he knows of at this time. Ms. Riffle asked if the city paid for that. Mayor Lorentz stated that it was purchased and tore down. Mrs. Drake and Mr. Martin both said how nice it looked.
Greg Bo 211 Locust Street addressed council with the following letter that he prepared. It is as follows:
Government works best when the people take it upon themselves to assemble and work together to solve their own problems. The local government is closest to the people and therefore bears the greatest responsibility for the welfare of its residents.
Right now the people are under great duress due to forces beyond their control. The coronavirus pandemic has forced many residents out of work, destroying their incomes and ability to pay.
Seeing as the Federal stimulus has already created a stable financial cushion for lending institutions, and created for them a solid profit in the current quarter, it is now time to amend the laws to allow the citizens to also recover. The same stimulus did not sufficiently provide for the financial needs of many citizens.
Likewise, all 401K’s and investments have already been secured by the stimulus. Why should the residents of the state, who have already bailed out their lenders, also be forced by the State to give them their own homes due to forces outside of their own control? The State has an obligation to secure the rights and property of its own residents.
The solution is really simple. All payments due to any lender should be loaded to the end of all loans during the period of time the Governor of Ohio feels that quarantine is still necessary for the safety of its residents.
No one is asking for loans to be forgiven. They are simply asking for the payments to be deferred to the end of their loans. If a resident has a 30 year mortgage, and quarantine is declared for 3 months, his mortgage will simply become a 30 year and 3 month long mortgage.
The situation that residents are in is unprecedented and laws must be changed at the State and Federal level to secure the rights and property of the individual citizen.
The City Council of Belpre website explains that WE can propose new ordinances: “How a Proposal Becomes an Ordinance: Individuals, groups, organizations and City officials may propose legislation to any Council member for sponsorship.
Proposals are introduced to the Council and assigned to standing committees by the Council President. As part of their review process, the committees may consult other city departments, take public testimony, and request the Law Department to provide legal opinions and draft proposals into ordinance form.”
There, I am going to officially propose to the Council that the following proposal be referred to committee for review: “We the residents of the City of Belpre officially petition Ohio State Senator Frank Hoagland and State Assembly Representative Jay Edwards to draft legislation in the Ohio capitol to require all lenders to Ohio residents place any payments due during quarantine declared by the Governor of Ohio, to the end of all loans and allow all debtor reprieve from all payments due during official state quarantine declared by the Governor of Ohio, not furloughed and without penalty.
Mr. Webster stated that this would have to be a resolution rather than an ordinance because if wouldn’t officially go into our code. Secondly council would have to consider the control of mortgage lending as Mr. Bo stated in his letter and that it is controlled on a State and Federal level. We couldn’t pass anything that was legally binding on any bank. We could say that we favor that position as council if that is what council desires. It could go to the FDIC, any of the federal agencies as well as the state offices and local representatives. This would be a written document of the opinion of council. We have no authority to modify any contract with the financial institution and the debtor.
President of Council Mr. Martin asked Mr. Bo if he was wanting a written document of the opinion of council. Mr. Bo stated that this was what he was wanting. Mayor Lorentz gave a copy of the letter to Mrs. Meredith.
Mr. Ferguson called a Finance/Audit Committee meeting for June 8, 2020 at 6:30 pm to address Belpre Senior Center Contract and the budget opportunities.
Mr. Webster stated that we already have a proposed contract for the Senior Center that we may want to look at regarding the financial aspects.
Mrs. Drake asked Mr. Ferguson to compile a report and give to Kim to add to the minutes.
Ms. Riffle asked if there is any other council person wanting to have legislation brought forward? We do it all the time when we add to the budget. I think it is to our best interest to do it when we are changing the budget. Ms. Riffle made a motion to put into legislation so we can vote on it. This is a motion that the Mayor, Auditor and Safety-Service Director put into place. Council President Mr. Martin asked Mr. Webster for direction. Mr. Webster stated that we will need all the particular line items that are going to be changed in the legislation. If this is going to be for the June 8, 2020 meeting we will need that by the 2nd and 3rd and your meeting should meet before that time. I will need the line item changes from the auditor. I can prepare the legislation and forward to the committee chair and on to committee. Mr. Webster stated that he wouldn’t need that motion. Ms. Riffle stated that she would resend her motion.
Are we going to be sending a letter or will it appear on the water bills about the trash? Mrs. Hoblitzell stated that she hasn’t talked with the City Auditor about this yet.
Mr. Shutts addressed a sink hole on 808 Walnut Street. Mr. Martin stated that it was in the Mayor’s report.
President of Council Mr. Martin asked council to review their committee assignments.
Jesse Wonycott asked President of Council Mr. Martin if Mrs. Drake has set the time of her committee meeting regarding water. Mrs. Drake stated that she has not. I hope to do so at the next meeting. Can we not have the next meeting in a larger facility where we can have more than 10 people? She was in informed that Council/Administration is looking into that due to social distancing.
Mr. Ferguson made a motion to adjourn at 8:24PM. A vote was taken with all members of council present voting aye.