By BRIAN BOHNERT
The long-awaited Stearns Road improvement project got one step closer to commencement Tuesday night as Fostoria City Council gave first reading to a contract between the city and Perry Township.
The improvement and maintenance agreement between the city of Fostoria and Perry Township, Wood County, will allow for greater semi-truck access from Ohio 20 to “commercial and industrial locations” in Fostoria.
The project, which has been in the planning stages for the better part of a decade, will widen approximately one-half mile of Stearns Road in Perry Township to three lanes while also installing curbs and storm water drains.
According to the official agreement, the city obtained an Issue 1 grant in the amount of $1.1 million from the Ohio Public Works Commission for which it will provide 80/20 matching funds for the project.
In addition to the initial construction, the city would be responsible for performing all future maintenance and repairs, and defending, indemnifying and holding Perry Township harmless for “any cause of action, liabilities, claims or demands arising out of the aforementioned improvements” and to any future maintenance or repair of Stearns Road.
Per the agreement, Perry Township would have to allow Fostoria to improve, maintain and repair the portion of Stearns Road and cooperate with the city’s requests for information about the road. The township would also be required to give “timely notice and accord” to the city the right to defend the township.
At the Jan. 9 council meeting, Law Director Tim Hoover said construction should begin sometime this spring.
Receiving a third reading, and subsequent adoption, was an ordinance relating to insurance benefits for elected city officers.
All elected city officials will be eligible to enroll in the city’s “optical, dental, prescription and major medical insurance” only if they receive $12,000 per annum in monetary compensation.
The ordinance would be effective for the mayor, director of law, director of finance, city council president and at-large council members on Jan. 1, 2016. The plan would take effect for all ward council members on Jan. 1, 2018.
Council members serving on the finance committee receive $5,800 per annum while the rest of council earns $5,500 each year, said City Auditor Steve Garner.
For the third time, At-Large Representative Brian Shaver, alongside 3rd Ward Representative Jonathan Hay, voted not to read the ordinance. In a previous interview with the Review Times, Shaver said while he agrees with the legislation itself, he does not feel the time is right to discuss this topic given the uncertain impact the Affordable Care Act may have on local legislation.
With no one on council currently enrolled in the city’s insurance plan, Shaver said zero dollars is being spent at the moment.
During the public speaking portion of the meeting, Jack Brubaker, 716 N. Union St., defended the proposed legislation, saying insurance benefits for council members should be terminated before the beginning of 2016. He said now is the time to abolish insurance benefits for council members before giving a chance for a future replacement to enroll in the program.
Brubaker also recommended council reduce the number of at-large seats from four to two during the next election.
Paul Allison, former council clerk and current member of Fostoria Records Commission, said he plans to speak at the next council meeting to address a series of ordinances he believes should be removed.
Receiving a third reading and approval was an ordinance establishing one handicapped parking space in the right-of-way at 323 S. Wood St.
In other business, council approved an ordinance allowing the city to enter into a contract with the state Department of Transportation for ODOT to conduct inspections on bridges at Jones Road and Tiffin Street at no cost to the city.
In addition, a first reading was given to an ordinance relating to replacing the city’s sewer regulations.
Per the request of Mayor Eric Keckler, council reappointed Carol Hall and Ralph Gilliland to the library board for another four-year term beginning Tuesday and lasting until Feb. 4, 2018.
Before the meeting adjourned, council also appointed 2nd Ward Representative Greg Flores to the selection committee for Fostoria Police Department’s new police chief.
Council went into executive session to discuss personnel and insurance, but no action was taken.
The next meeting of Fostoria City Council is 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 in council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building.
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