64 ordinances passed by city council in 2017
Council action last year resulted in more street paving, four water line replacements, approval of four union contracts, a pair of storm drain replacements, another charter commission attempt and the prohibition of medical pot facilities.
All together, council closed up shop in 2017 after passing 64 ordinances or resolutions, tabling two, referring two to the Planning Commission after first readings and having one pending after two readings.
That’s average for recent years, with 65 pieces of legislation passed in 2016 and 64 approved in 2015, but a decrease from earlier years in the decade. The number was as high as 80 ordinances and resolutions in 2013 and 2014, 76 in 2012 and 72 in 2011.
What will this year bring?
No one knows, but 2018 will definitely feel different as quite a few new faces enter council chambers and others who were mainstays don’t return when council comes to order at 7 tonight.
Tom Baker takes over gavel duties as council president while K. Bret Apple moves to the treasurer’s chair last filled by Dr. John Conrad. Sal Salvino moves to the At Large Council chair once occupied by Brian Whitehill and Clyde Brown’s chair will sit empty while Salem Area Democrats try to find a replacement to appoint.
Another seat in limbo for now will be that of parks director. Steve Faber ends his 26-year tenure in February and plans to take some time off this month. Shane Franks will serve as interim parks director until the parks commission reviews applicants and selects a permanent parks director.
A big decision that fell to council early last year and wasn’t listed under resolutions or ordinances was choosing a successor for Dave Nestic in the First Ward after he resigned. Since he was an Independent, council had to decide and the majority selected Christine Mancuso.
The decision was a divided one — a 3,2,1 vote –with three votes for Mancuso, two votes for Dennis Weaver and one vote for Patrick Righetti.
When it comes to legislation, though, the biggest divide and the most controversy came courtesy of medical marijuana. A city businessman, Geoff Korff, wanted to apply for one of 12 state licenses for a small grow operation and wanted to locate the facility in Salem. In a twist, he was the fiance of Councilman Geoff Goll’s daughter. Council took no action to rezone the area he needed rezoned for a grow operation, so he looked elsewhere, in Akron, and was eventually approved by the state for one of the 12 state licenses.
Council discussed banning medical marijuana cultivation and processing in the city, which all seemed to favor, but the idea of a medical marijuana retail dispensary garnered mixed reviews.
Goll and Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey expressed concerns about ill people in the city having to drive out of town to get medicine they were legally prescribed.
In the end, three separate votes were taken: 6-0 to prohibit cultivation; 6-0 to prohibit processing and 4-2 to prohibit dispensaries, with Goll and Dickey casting the votes against the dispensary ban.
Regarding the charter commission, council was unanimous in voting to place the issue before voters again since the vote was so close in 2016. The citizens defeated the issue again in 2017, but this time the vote made it abundantly clear that they did not want a charter commission formed.
Besides approving the routine business of buying supplies, honoring retirees or outgoing officeholders and auctioning off outdated equipment, council approved legislation for a parks levy renewal and additional tax, approved $3 million in bonds for the Snyder Road sewer line project, approved new rules for vacant structures and accessory buildings, approved various legislation connected to street improvements and made some adjustments to salaries and fringe benefits.
Two ordinances regarding signs had first readings and have been referred to the city Planning Commission. An ordinance regarding illicit storm water discharges and connections requires one more reading to become law.