Columbiana council OKs hiring new manager

COLUMBIANA – Lance Willard is on board for the long haul.

City Council approved the final piece of legislation this week naming him city manager. He was brought on as acting manager little more than three weeks ago following a tie vote broken by Mayor David Spatholt.

The recent vote passed with the approval of new Councilman Richard McBane.

Councilman Bryan Blakeman voted against the measure and Councilman James King was absent.

Blakeman has said he doesn’t believe Willard is qualified for the position. Prior to being hired as manager, Willard served as the city’s wastewater superintendent the last 11 years.

McBane said that in anticipation of being on council he took it upon himself to speak with Willard personally and conduct a sort of interview.

He said he was pleased with the meeting and felt that Willard was qualified for the job.

According to his resume, Willard was the class III wastewater operator for the city of Newton Falls between 1997 and 2001. Between 1997 and 2008 he owned two businesses, a beauty salon and a restaurant.

He is currently the owner of Class III Wastewater Consulting, and is in his fourth year of doctoral studies for organizational leadership at Argosy University. He is also the president of the Northeast Section of the Ohio Water Environment Association.

He earned a master of science in biology from Youngstown State and a bachelor of science in biology with a minor in chemistry from the university.

He believes his background will be beneficial for the city with regards to the new multi-million-dollar water plant project.

Since his hiring, Matt Polen has taken over as water superintendent and Willard said they are “really working hard on getting the water plant to move forward.”

He said city employees have been helpful with the transition so far and that he has been attending Chamber of Commerce meetings and planning commission, zoning board and tourism bureau meetings, as well as other committee meetings to gain insight and make connections.

He recently told council members there is an opportunity for a comprehensive rate study analysis through the WSOS Rural Community Assistant Program.

The study would help determine rates for water customers to help pay back a 40-year loan through the United States Department of Agriculture for the water plant.

He said the analysis would cost between $5,000 and $8,000 and could possibly be reimbursed by the USDA in the future.

Councilman Bryan Blakeman suggested the analysis include electric rates as well for the same cost. The idea was supported by Councilmen Tom Ferguson and Richard McBane.

No action was taken on the matter.

Council did approve the following:

– Angelo Pasquale and Jams Marco as members of the auxiliary police force.

– An emergency resolution designating Huntington Bank as a public depository.

Council members wished to announce that applications for the vacant seat on the planning commission will be accepted through Feb. 28.