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Mingo backing transfer of $250,000

October 10, 2012
By MARK LAW - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

MINGO JUNCTION - Village Council on Tuesday approved by a 4-1 vote to apply in court for permission to transfer $250,000 out of the community complex fund to help ease a budget shortfall.

The community complex fund has received money from the village's income tax over the years.

Councilmen James Morrocco, John Fabian, Michael Herrick and Chuck Dickey voted in favor of asking the state auditor's office and Jefferson County Common Pleas Court for permission to transfer the money. Councilman John Brettell voted against it.

Morrocco said he was concerned about putting the lump sum in the budget and it not being wisely spent.

Herrick said he wants a close watch on how the money is spent, and, if not all used, it can be returned to the community complex fund.

Village Clerk John Angelica said the village won't receive as much revenue this year as anticipated because of the closing of the RG Steel plant. He said the $250,000 will be used to cover the loss in revenue and for the first several months of next year. Only general fund line items will be funded with the money, he said.

"We won't make the revenue we expected to bring in, and that money will be a backup to plug in," he said.

Angelica said he wants council to start in early November working on the budget for next year.

Morrocco noted council has to make decisions fixing the budget so it meets revenue.

"I don't want to continue tapping and tapping (money in the complex fund) and put a Band-Aid on a serious situation," Morrocco said.

There will still be approximately $125,000 remaining in the community complex fund if the $250,000 is transferred.

"It will be our responsibility when we plan the budget on how to watch how we spend it," Fabian said.

Mayor Ron DiCarlo said with the new village administrator, Charley Bowman, the village will be more accountable on how money is spent.

Village Solicitor Ernest Wilson said council has to appropriate and approve how the money is spent by departments in the general fund.

Brettell said he is concerned what is going to happen when the $250,000 is gone.

"Then what do we do?" Brettell asked.

He noted he voted against the measure because the money was intended to be used for a community complex and not for "bailing us out at the end of the year."

Once the state auditor gives its OK to transfer the money, a hearing will be scheduled in common pleas court for a judge's approval.

Council also unanimously approved the hiring of Bowman as village administrator. Bowman will be paid $30,000 a year.

Council also approved an ordinance to apply to the Ohio Water Development Authority to extend the term of the bond for the construction of the water plant.

The village financed $7.69 million, and has made 33 semi-annual payments of $294,310. The bond for the water plant was for 25 years.

OWDA has agreed to extend the life of the bond to 30 years. The semi-annual payment will now be $271,117.

Bowman said the recalculation resulted in a credit for almost three payments. The village will be able to skip the two payments in 2013 and make a $47,984 payment in January 2014. The regular $271,117 payment will begin in July 2014, he said.

The steel plant in the village was once the largest purchaser of water. The village received about $1,5 million in water sales in 2008. But the plant was shut down and sold by RG Steel and the village isn't collecting any water revenue from the facility.

Village officials were concerned the village wouldn't collect enough in water usage fees from residents to make the upcoming water plant bond payment.

In a related matter, Bowman announced representatives of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership will be on hand at 6 p.m. on Nov. 27 will meet with council for a workshop on water and sewer department operations.

Also, James Huggins Jr. of AEP clarified a statement made at the previous council meeting about turning off streetlights.

The village is paying about $50,000 a year for 579 streetlights. Council wants to cut that amount in half.

AEP will put a cap over the sensor on the lights that council will determine to be shut off. The village will then be billed a portion of the cost for the streetlights turned off for six months. AEP then will physically remove the lights from the pole.

Huggins said residents can immediately contact AEP after council's decision to turn off streetlights to have a light installed on the pole were the streetlight was turned off. He said the new light will spread light out and not be as directional as a typical streetlight.

Residents will pay about $11 a month for the new light, Huggins said. He said residents can have the light angled in any direction.

Herrick said council has the goals of cutting in half the amount spent on streetlights and still providing residents with the safety aspect of the lights.

Bowman also said he is working on updating job descriptions for village employees. He also said he will assist the fire department in enforcing the property maintenance laws in the village

Bowman said a workshop session also will be scheduled for 6 p.m. on Nov. 13 to discuss ways to get a communitywide electric rate program. Such a measure will require a vote by residents.

Ohio law allows for municipalities to form buying groups for the power generated section of a city customer's electric bill. By voting for electric aggregation, voters are allowing village officials to purchase electric power at more competitive rates, Toronto residents approved such a program in November.

Fire Chief John Wright said the village is considering billing insurance companies for fire calls. Council will have to approve the rates.

DiCarlo announced U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, will be at the Municipal Building at about 1 p.m. on Friday to hold a community forum.

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