Council votes to drop out of Vista program

Village Council Wednesday night decided not to continue with the Vista program next year due to funding issues.

Council voted 5 to 1 against enrolling for 2014 in the second year of the three-year program that has provided community development coordinator Justin Hite to raise awareness and funding, as well as secure grant funding, for renovations at the Cherry Valley Beehive Coke Ovens. Councilwoman Shana Prince was the only affirming vote.

According to Village Administrator Gary Phillips, the program will cost the village $7,000 to participate. Currently the Coke Ovens Fund has $7,884.33, and council members expressed concern in nearly depleting the fund without knowing the additional costs associated with immediately continuing with the program.

Prince said before the vote that she is worried the program will not continue if stopped now.

“I think it’s a great program; we get a full-time, awesome employee for $7,000 year,” she said. “You can’t expect volunteers to take on full-time hours.”

Others on council, though, indicated that participating in the program would be negligence with taxpayers money.

“We keep going for these grants when we don’t even know what the maintenance costs associated with [the renovations],” said Steve Clunen. “I mean, we have trouble keeping the grass cut on High Street.”

Clunen and council President Dan Summers pointed out that if the fund is depleted just to participate in the program, money that could be used on other projects will be needed to meet additional costs.

“I can’t see spending $7,000 for parks…when we need to use it elsewhere, where it can be used better,” Summers said.

Hite noted that the program can be continued at a later time, but that the program is operating on a year-to-year basis due to changes in federal funding.

“We were actually surprised that Leetonia got an offer for next year,” he said.

In other business council discussed possibly accepting sealed bids, with the right to reject all bids, for the old Sky Bank building on Main Street that was gifted to the village in November. Council originally considering using the building for office and storage space, investing in various renovations, but has decided against such a move due to cost restrictions, according to Phillips.

Phillips noted that he spoke with an auctioneer and didn’t think the building would sell for enough to make it worthwhile.

Council agreed to consider the issue at its next meeting.

Also at the meeting, Fiscal Officer Randy Chismar reported that the village could be saving $14,000 in workers compensation through a handicap reimbursement for one current incident and up to the same amount for a second one. The village would have to pay an attorney $200 an hour for approximately three hours to fill out the reimbursement application and split the $14,000 savings with GeoStar Professionals, the performance auditing company hired by council in May to find cost savings. Council requested Chismar discuss the issue with the village’s current third party facilitator for workers compensation to see if they can complete the application instead.

Council also approved amended ordinances for pay increases for police and salary workers that correct the amount various positions should be paid.

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 4 at Village Hall, preceded by a Water and Sewer Committee meeting at 6 p.m.