Potential salt shortage looms in Plain City

By Rob Treynor

February 12, 2014

“We’re running low on salt.”

So said Kevin Vaughn, village administrator of Plain City to village council on the evening of Monday, Feb. 10.

“We have 75 tons of salt on order from Morton,” Vaughn said. “But Morton is not giving us a time frame of when it will be delivered.”

To help alleviate the village’s road salt shortage, Plain City accepted a loan of 25 tons of road salt from ODOT.

“We’re OK. We’re out of the critical stage since the state helped us out, but we could slip back into the critical stage quickly,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn also told council the village has received the new dump truck that Plain City had ordered in late 2013.

“It’s been working feverishly since we received it,” Vaughn said.

Also during Monday’s meeting, President Pro Tem Shawn Kaeser brought up the Parks and Recreation Committee’s recommendation for purchasing a software system that would allow the village to manage aspects of Pastime Park better. The $38,000 system, which Kaeser called “the Vermont system,” would allow users to reserve campsites, purchase pool passes, book pool parties, and reserve the youth building.

The parks committee’s recommendation had been addressed at the January 27 issue, but no decision had been made on whether to purchase the software system.

The campground, which has 40 sites at $25 per night, would have to operate at 50 percent capacity for the majority of the summer to recuperate the cost of the Vermont system.

The price of the Vermont system appeared to be a sticking point with many on council.

“I believe the scope of our operations is too small,” Bob Walter said, “I couldn’t conceive of a $38,000 investment in software. I think we need to look at other alternatives and not move forward.”

In other business, Village Solicitor Paul-Michael La Fayette discussed his findings with council pertaining to waiving the tap fee for Plain City Lanes.

Plain City Lanes’ owner, Jim Walter, had requested a waiver of the $8,700 tap fee required by the village to hook into the village’s sewer system.

Walter suggested Plain City Lanes should be exempt from having to pay the tap fee. He told council that when the sewer line was installed along U.S. Route 42, most businesses were able to hook up to it free of charge.

“Back then, if you were closer than 250 feet away from the road, you’d get a free tap. I was 270 feet, and they probably didn’t want to spend the money, so I didn’t get a tap,” Walter said at the January 27 meeting.

Council had not acted on January 27, allowing La Fayette to look into any legal issues that may arise for the village by waiving the tap fee for the bowling alley.

On Monday, La Fayette told council of his findings.

“As as an equal protection problem issue — my understanding is that Plain City Lanes was not within the original offer for free taps. And ultimately those who did not participate were to be charged $100 per day if they did not tap in. If they had not tapped in, they weren’t charged with the penalty,” La Fayette said, adding that while Plain City Lanes was not offered a free tap at the time, the business was not penalized, either.

“You have to compare apples to apples,” La Fayette said. “You have to find someone similarly situated. I know that other business at this time were offered free taps. Unfortunately, Plain City Lanes were not within that geographic boundary for whatever reason was decided at the time.”

According to La Fayette, Plain City would be setting a precedent by waiving the tap fee, which future business could refer to.

“So from a legal analysis, I’d recommend that council does not extend an offer to waive the tap fee,” La Fayette said.

“That being said, that doesn’t mean that the offers for reduced taps fees couldn’t still be offered. And council could agree to a payment plan.”

Council agreed to offer a 10 percent discount on the tap fee for Plain City Lanes, and to accept the idea of a payment plan, should one be agreed to between the village and Jim Walter.

Rob Treynor may be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 19 or via Twitter @robtreynor.