London City Council convened Thursday night in regular session for what was its next to last meeting of the year.
Council sailed through committee reports, with Rex Castle being the only councilman to speak.
Castle reported that the purchase of the former Ohio Department of Transportation facility located 1460 U.S. Route 42 that the city proposes to use as its new base of operations for its street department has run into a hiccup or two. The first — a minor issue, according to Castle — is the small amount of asbestos in the building. The second, is that ODOT apparently does not have the authority to sell the facility.
He also relayed that the project at 20 S. Walnut St. was taking longer than expected due to asbestos, plumbing, and heating issues.
Mayor Pat Closser addressed the council to praise the success of London’s Olde Fashioned Christmas last week and speak about the recent spurt of downtown growth with the opening of several new businesses.
The mayor also addressed council with progress regarding the city’s perennial storm water drainage problem.
Recent meetings with representatives from the state of Ohio and London Correctional Institution regarding the runoff of water from the farmland just north of Mariemont Road and Graceland Avenue were positive, the mayor reported. He wanted to thank Warden Robinson of LoCI particularly.
The mayor also informed council that the city had put in a work order to install two new catch basins, one on each side of the road about 200 feet north of the existing ones, on South Main Street between Center Street and Lincoln Avenue.
Members of council complained of the strong stench that permeated the city last week due to the spreading of manure on farmlands surrounding the city.
That is a problem for the county commissioners to address, the mayor responded.
Old business saw the second readings of:
• Resolution 168-17 Sponsored by Dick Minner An ordinance authorizing elected officials and appointed officials wage adjustments.
• Ordinance 169-17 Sponsored by Josh Peters An ordinance amending ordinance 171-16 to reflect a range of salaries of department heads and non-union personnel.
• Ordinance 174-17 Sponsored by: Rex Castle An ordinance to make appropriations for current expenses and other expenditures of the city of London, State of Ohio, during the fiscal year ending December 31, 2018.
In new business, the following resolutions were adopted:
• Resolution 176-17 Sponsored by: Trint Hatt A resolution increasing appropriations for the City of London’s capital needs — a request by Fire Chief Eades to move monies from the Operating Fund to the Capital Needs Fund.
• Resolution 177-17 Sponsored by: Brenda Russell A resolution authorizing the auditor to transfer funds and increase appropriations — movement of refunded monies to the proper fund.
• Resolution 178-17 Sponsored by: Josh Peters A resolution authorizing the mayor to execute the project agreement with the Ohio Public Works Commission — $1.139 million in free money to go toward the Park Avenue Project.
The evening’s highlights came at the beginning of the meeting during the time given to audience concerns.
London resident Doug Pyles, of 323 Bishop Drive criticized council over what he believed to be exorbitant raises for council, city administrators, and city department heads were Resolution 168-17 and Ordinance 169-17 to pass.
“I’ve heard feedback and it’s not very good out there,” Pyles said in regard to Resolution 168-17. “Specifically then I ask, Mr. Minner, you’re the sponsor of the one legislation with regard to raising the salaries 33 1/3 percent. Do you know how much this is going to cost the city of London, the residents?” asked Pyles.
“What exactly — no,” said Councilman Dick Minner. “That 33 percent is over an awful long time, we got a lot of people that make a lot less money, these guys make a lot less money. That’s why I did it, so go ahead and repeat what you want to say.”
“Well I figured it out,” Pyles pressed on. “It’s going to cost the residents of London between $82-$85,000 a year for these increases.”
Pyles said that with the proposed rate increase, council would make $270 an hour, or what he called “an attorney’s fee,” for them to come to chambers for an hour twice a month.
“Mr. Pyles, we do not just come here twice a month,” said Councilwoman Brenda Russell. “All of us serve on other committees, we have building committees, we have ribbon cuttings, we show up at schools, we do a lot. You cannot limit what I make to a little measly $5,000 — you can have it back. I did not run for the money, I ran for the city. And you know what? You’re only going to get what you pay for.”
Pyles was no less pleased with Ordinance 169-17, claiming that the heads of departments were likely already maxed out in salary and he demanded to know how any salary increases would be paid.
The response from council was swift, with more than one member saying that it was unfair that department heads could make less than their subordinates, and that to attract and keep qualified and skilled employees, salaries needed to reflect a standard that is competitive with other communities.
In contrast to Doug Pyles’ complaining, the second speaker had nothing but high praise for council.
Shirley Litchfield, of 204 E. First St., was visibly moved as she thanked council for the job they did, with specific heartfelt comments to Councilman Minner.
Regarding an incident from several decades ago, Litchfield asked, “What can I say about a man who went into a burning house to save some of my family?”
“Words are just not enough to say what you’ve done for us. You have served God, you have served your country, you have served London, you have served council, you have been fill in for whatever is necessary — and you didn’t ask for anything in return. But I want you to know, sir, I appreciate you from the bottom of my heart,” Litchfield said.
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.
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