Weingart: Council should join sewer rate planning
SALEM — City council members have been asked to attend the next Salem Utilities Commission meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday regarding sewer rates.
City Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart issued the invite when council met Tuesday night, saying the agenda includes rate study findings regarding the city sewer rates, which haven’t been increased since 1995.
The commission has been talking about raising the sewer rates, but by law, city council has final say on any rate hikes for sanitary sewer. The commission has control over the water rates.
Weingart explained that it’s time to move into Phase 3 of the wastewater treatment plant improvements and the price tag for that project is upwards of $11 million. He said money will have to be borrowed and told council members the commission will be recommending a sanitary sewer rate hike, which council will have to act upon.
The commission had been meeting in person, but this month switched to Zoom due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. To attend the meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, use Meeting ID: 967 2003 4006 and Passcode: 482364, or link at https://zoom.us/j/96720034006 pwd=RCt4WGZmdkFLRWxoeEwvZEk5SzZJQT09
In other business, Mayor John Berlin announced he appointed Don Yeasted Jr. to the Salem Civil Service Commission. Council confirmed two other appointments he recommended, with attorney Amanda Jackson appointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals and Virginia Grilli reappointed to the Design Review Board.
He also announced that he was delaying his State of the City address to next month.
Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey led the meeting as president pro tem, with Council President Tom Baker excused.
Council approved two ordinances, one regarding language changes required for the income tax incentive program in lieu of the tax office closing and one for changes to the housing code rules.
The Rules and Ordinances Committee had recommended the changes. The housing rules changes include higher re-inspection fees for violators of the housing code and language changes to reflect the impending move of the housing division to the city health department.
The housing code is enforced by housing inspectors, dealing with public nuisances and with compliance for minimum standards for rental units. The re-inspection fee is increasing from $50 to $100, with an additional $100 for each additional re-inspection after that.
Council also passed resolutions expressing appreciation for the dedicated service to the city by the three income tax office workers who lost their jobs at the end of the year, Fred Pamer, Lori Wilson and Diana Harshman, for former councilman now Columbiana County Commissioner Roy Paparodis and for retired Salem Police Sgt. John Scheets.
Pamer served as city income tax administrator from Jan. 4, 1984 through Dec. 31, with Wilson serving as city income tax clerk from March 12, 2012 through Dec. 31 and Harshman serving as city assistant income tax clerk from March 8, 2018 through Dec. 31.
Paparodis was elected to an At Large Council seat, serving from Jan. 1, 2014 through Dec. 5, resigning so his replacement could be appointed before the new year began. Salem Republican Central Committee members appointed Councilman Jake Gano to serve out the rest of the term, which expires at the end of this year.
Scheets had served with the police department from Sept. 16, 1989 through Jan. 8. He retired and took a position with the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office.
During his report, city Law Director Brooke Zellers expressed sympathy to the Engle family for suffering two losses so close together. Retired Salem City Schools Superintendent Randy Engle passed away Jan. 9 and his daughter, Diane, died on Dec. 30.
The next meeting of city council is Feb. 2.