Mount Sterling launched its online checkbook on OhioCheckbook.com which was announced at the village’s regular council meeting Monday evening.
Amanda Merritt, press secretary, and Lauren Bowen, senior public affairs liaison, both of Treasurer of Ohio Josh Mandel’s office, were on hand to present council with the benefits afforded to the community in joining the program.
OhioCheckbook.com is the state website — the first of its kind in Ohio history — that puts all state (and participating municipalities and smaller bodies) expenditure information on the internet for public inspection.
The program provides “Google-style” contextual search capabilities, allowing users to sort by key word, department, category, or vendor, according to Merritt. It also allows users to compare spending year-to-year or among agencies, and has the capability for sharing of charts and other info with social media networks, and allows for direct contact for agency fiscal officers.
It is hoped, that the OhioCheckbook program (with the oversight of the new administration and council) will prevent the type of occurrences such as the theft and racketeering scandal of former village administrator, Joe Johnson.
“The Village of Mt. Sterling is committed to rebuilding communication, trust, and transparency with our residents,” said Rebecca Burns, Village Council President. “We are proud to partner with the Ohio Treasurer’s office to make it easier for the community to access and understand our village expenditure information. Launching OhioCheckbook.com is just one example of the efforts we are making to move the village forward on a positive path.”
Mount Sterling is the fourth city or village in Madison County to post their expenditures on the website.
The village’s personal checkbook currently includes over 5,400 individual transactions representing more than $12 million spent over the past five years.
In other matters, utilities clerk, Misty Vance, said that the village was closing the gap on money owed the village from delinquent utilities. “Our delinquencies are just a little under five thousand, so it’s come a long way,” she said. The original amount outstanding was around $19,000, she said.
She and the mayor, Billy Martin, are slowly matching parcel numbers from the county auditor’s website against individual bills to determine if residents are being charged correctly for their water usage, Vance said.
Vance mentioned that the village was trying to make it possible for residents to pay their utilities bill online. Users of this option will likely incur a small fee for that convenience.
The village “check reader” was working again after a brief period of malfunction, according to Martin.
Vance said that there are only about four meters left that still need replacing.
Council member Dave Timmons commended Vance on her helpful personality and willingness to work with people after receiving several favorable reports about the clerk from village residents. “That is my job,” Vance said.
Fiscal Officer Courtney Bricker assured council that repairs to some of the many potholes pitting the village streets will be forthcoming once the weather breaks. Bricker also said that a project to replace some damaged drainage tiles that created a four-foot sink hole at the sewage plant was underway.
Regarding holes at the sewer plant, Class I sewer and water plant operator David Cline will be leaving one in the way of personnel, as he has announced his resignation. His last day is scheduled for March 9.
Bricker also noted that the village’s five-year financial plan had been approved by council.
A “backing policy” had been adopted by the village EMS department, councilman Lowell Anderson informed those in attendance. The policy now requires two people be present, with one acting as a “spotter,” whenever a squad is backing up — the purpose, obviously, to prevent accidents. Evidently there had been damage done to private property in the past that resulted in unwanted insurance claims against the village, Anderson stated.
The resignation of an unnamed EMS Responder had been accepted at the department, it was reported. According to Anderson, this person was known for not responding to emergency calls.
Also, the village was having to write-off some expenses incurred from squad transport of victims from accidents that happen along the I-71 corridor and who are residents of other states. Receiving pay for services rendered is virtually impossible in some of these cases, Anderson said.
Sheriff deputy, Jack Dill, has handed out 24 notices so far on the issue of “cleaning up” the village. Most residents receiving notices were already complying or trying to do so. Dill said that he (and the village administration) were willing to work with residents on the matter, preferring to use a “fair but firm” approach. All of council and administration present appeared pleased with the effort that these residents were already showing in trying to improve their properties.
Changing hats from one of enforcement to one of fun, Dill then spoke about upcoming recreational and fun events in the community.
He teasingly spoke about a float that would appear in the parade come the village’s “Community Days Festival” on June 30. Dill would not reveal the theme of the float, saying only that everyone would be surprised and pleased.
Dill also spoke about an as of yet unscheduled family night that will be happening in the not too distant future.
The idea is a community version of the game show “Family Feud.” Lock-out buzzers were already being engineered for the game, he said.
The idea created quite a “buzz” with council.
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.
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