President of Council Marjorie Harlow called Council to order on
January 20, 2010, at 7:00 p.m.
The governmental body and those in attendance recited the pledge of allegiance. Mrs. McNear gave the invocation.
Mrs. Harlow asked for a moment of silence for the people in Haiti, the relief workers in Haiti and also for Springdale resident, Judy Simmons, who passed away suddenly this weekend.
Mrs. McNear took roll call. Present were Council members Diehl, Emerson, Galster, Hawkins, Squires, Vanover and Harlow.
The minutes of January 6, 2010 were approved with seven affirmative votes.
COMMITTEE AND OFFICIAL REPORTS
Civil Service Commission Mr. Potts reported that four members of the Fire Department were in attendance at the last meeting providing comments and feedback on the recently completed promotional testing process for fire captain. One of the firefighters raised a concern about some changes to the ranking process that the Commission had recently implemented. We requested a legal review of that and just today got the response back. Everything was done appropriately. We discussed the known and potential job openings throughout the City for the year 2010.
Rules and Laws Mr. Hawkins stated they looked at neighboring communities for their Rules of Council, their Charters as well as how they determine whos on what boards and commissions and how long their terms are on the boards and commissions.
Finance Committee - no report
Planning Commission Mr. Galster said the wireless communication tower conditional use permit for 11970 Kenn Road was continued again. We found a way to have all fifty-three caliper inches of trees planted at Kemper Pond Center/IHOP. Therefore, the fine was waived. Growth Spurts Day Care had originally planned to move into the old Gold Star building on Springfield Pike but subsequently looked at leasing the office building at 11490 Springfield Pike. They were granted a conditional use permit. We had discussion on a Zoning Code amendment for electronic signs which was recommended to Council by a 7-0 vote. The amendment will allow electronic video display boards in the retail district but it has to meet certain requirements such as leasable square footage, amount of street frontage. There are probably thirty applications where it would be permitted. The amendment is pretty detailed and we would appreciate Councils consideration.
Mr. Hawkins asked did Planning decide to re-notify residents on the communications tower?
Mr. Galster said we are notifying all residents within 750 feet of the proposed location.
Board of Zoning Appeals - Mr. Hawkins reported a variance was granted for a garage conversation. We also looked at a sign at 11801 Chesterdale Road. That was tabled until the next meeting.
Mr. Vanover asked who was the sign variance for? Mr. Hawkins replied they are manufacturing Kroger products there.
Board of Health Mayor Webster said we had the standard reports. The most significant thing is a report the Health Department gave out regarding H1N1 vaccinations and where we stacked up against other communities. Of a population of 1.7 million in the region, 11.5% were vaccinated. Springdale, which is comprised of 10,621 people, vaccinated 24.5% of the people. Our total overall percentage was higher than Cincinnatis, Norwood, Sharonville and St. Bernard. Our Health Department did a marvelous job with that. In the high priority group we vaccinated 36.4% versus 19.9% for the region.
O-K-I Mrs. McNear stated there will be another stimulus package coming expected to be about the same as the original one of $20 billion. Five to six billion dollars will be used for transit projects. There will be a letter coming to all the cities telling them what the plan will be and to get your projects ready. The turn time for approval of these projects will be much shorter than last year. I know that Mr. Parham is already working on getting the engineering for some projects. There will be around $30 million for the OKI area.
Mayors Report - Mayor Webster said Treehouse Kids opened last week in Springdale and Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions will officially open on February 4.
Mayor Webster asked Derrick to pull together the department directors and look at the Cincinnati North Hotel to see which departments had an issue with the hotel. They owe the City hotel/motel tax. We are going to get into the building through an administrative search warrant so we can identify all areas where there are violations. Then we will pursue it through the Ohio Fire Marshalls Office.
Mr. Parham said the current owner is Shubh Hotels, LLC, located in Boca Raton, Florida. The owner of Shubh is Atul Basaria. When you look up Shubh Hotels and his name you see a lot of LLCs listed. There are two for Springdale. He has hotels in Detroit, Tamp, Boca Raton, Pittsburgh and Nebraska as well as here in Springdale. When you look on the web you will see Springdale Investment, LLC and Springdale Management, LLC. You will see the same for other cities. The hotel in the Pittsburgh area was having similar problems that we have here. It looks like Shubh purchased the hotel here in Springdale in 2007 for around $6 million. There was a construction loan taken out by Shubh on the hotel for $16 million at Broadway Bank and the bank has filed a foreclosure notice for just over $17 million. The Law Directors office was able to find out that they have paid out a little more than $1 million to contractors for work that was supposed to be performed at the Springdale location. Apparently Shubh stopped making their payments on the loan and foreclosure was filed by the bank. The Fire Chief was able to gain access to the hotel towards the end of last year and he noticed new equipment fixtures for the restrooms. The Building Department will tell you they were approved to make improvements in the bathrooms throughout the hotel. One of the last times the Fire Chief was in the hotel, he said it looked like everyone just walked away and things were just left as they were. On September 8 and 17, 2009 the Fire Chief sent a notice to the owners to have the permanent electrical service turned back on. He did not receive a response from them and we had the Police Department file citations on October 6 and December 21, 2009. The first citation was filed under Atul Basarias name. After we received no response from him, we filed on Anupt Pillai. In discussion with him, the Chief found out he is their local rep, although he resides in Pittsburgh, so the next citation was filed with Mr. Pillai. Again, we received no response from anyone in their organization. As the Mayor indicated there are a number of steps that we have begun to work toward. They owe us $7,725.13 in transient occupancy tax including penalties and interest covering a two-year period from 2008 to 2009. We are preparing to file in Hamilton County Courts hopefully by the end of this week in an attempt to collect. Shubh has been sued by many contractors and there are liens on many of their properties.
Mr. Parham continued we are in the process of acquiring an administrative search warrant. The purpose is to gain access to the building to have all of our departments gain access to the building to investigate what improvements need to be made or what needs to be done to bring that building into compliance. Thus our intent is to have the Health, Building and Fire Departments to have access to the building. There are a number of safety issues we have at that site, primarily for our firefighters and safety personnel. If someone gains access to that building trying to get out of the cold and starts a fire, our folks would have to go in and try to attack that fire in a ten story building. The sprinkler system in the building is not functioning. Before we found the pipes had burst, we at least thought there was sprinkler power to the second floor and the pump system would take it up to the tenth floor. But since the pipes have burst there is no operable sprinkler anywhere in that building.
We hope to gain the administrative search warrant by early next week and then go into the building. We will use a locksmith so that we gain proper entrance. However, I understand there may be access to that building right now.
Mr. Parham stated the third part of the process is under the Ohio Fire Marshalls process. The Fire Chief as an agent of the Ohio Fire Marshalls Office has the ability either through the Fire Marshalls Office or our office to file through a process of notices and eventually a hearing before the Ohio Board of Building Standards to go through a process to gain control of the building. We can ask the Fire Marshall of the State to gain access and control or the City itself can gain access and control. They have combustible items in that building and as long as those are there, they are in violation of the State Fire Code. They have been notified to bring that up to Code and they have not done so. We are going to begin the process of moving forward. The Law Directors Office is still investigating and researching what means we would have or how we would be able to dispose of the building once we gain control of it. I would have to think that Broadway Bank has a keen interest in that building and will be trying to gain control. Ultimately, our goal is to have someone come in and take over that building and bring it back into a functioning, viable hotel on that site. If that doesnt work for them, then at least raze the building and get some kind of viable use out of that location. Just a few days ago someone kicked in one of the glass doors. We will try to see how we can get that secured. We have had to cut the grass on a number of occasions. There are windows boarded. There has been graffiti on the building. It is really an eyesore to the community but it is a safety issue for those who would go to address it, either our firefighters or whoever gains access to the building. We have become aware that the pool has water in it. That is another hazard. If someone gets in there and gets into the pool you could potentially have a drowning and no one would know. The final part of the process is going through a simple title search. The Law Directors Office has begun that process and was able to find out about the liens on the property. We were wondering if perhaps they grouped a number of their properties together as a single investment to borrow the $16 million. The Law Directors office found that the loan was a construction loan taken out only on this building.
Mr. Schneider said we now have the exact dollar amount that is owed. We intend to pursue that. The Marshalls Office is probably the most effective means whereby we actually can get an order from the court to knock it down or repair it in a reasonable time frame. We will pursue that. If we sell it, the money from the sale will be used by the Fire Marshalls Office to go in and make repairs and/or do whatever needs to be done to make it not dangerous.
Mayor Webster said we need to get Councils decision on whether we want to give the City control of the property or do we want the State Fire Marshalls Office to take control.
Mr. Vanover said the hotel was on one of the local television stations.
Mayor Webster said there was a $10 million fraud claim.
Mr. Vanover asked does that give us more to work with or does that hinder us?
Mr. Schneider responded that will probably come forth in the foreclosure case. Off hand, I dont see how we would be beneficiaries of fraudulent action.
Mr. Vanover said its not uncommon for hotels to have several LLCs. Typically each individual property is set up as a separate entity so if it fails, it just goes down and it doesnt affect the rest of them.
Mrs. McNear asked since the swimming pool has been untreated for so long is the water stagnant?
Mr. Parham replied I would think so.
Mrs. McNear said when you had the grass mowed did you mow the parking lot too because weeds are growing up in the cracks.
Mayor Webster said we wanted to share with you where we are in this process but little did we know that this court action was going to hit the papers. We might as well console ourselves that as much as we dislike the situation, we are in for a long siege. Its probably going to go to Federal Court. I dont think two or three years is out of the question. Hopefully this will get the attention of Broadway Bank.
Mr. Galster said given the description of the property and the timely processes that are going to happen in order to get some action on the hotel, is there any benefit to trying to get a blight designation on the property?
Mr. Schneider replied my understanding is that the process we are going through with the Fire Marshalls Office is going to be the biggest blight notice to anybody because we will have orders against it. The orders will be recorded from the Fire Marshalls Office indicating the nature of the damage and probably even some estimates of the cost of the damage if they go all the way through their process.
Mr. Galster said it depends on how long it takes the Fire Marshall to go through the process. With the property changing hands it would be nice to have some designation that this is a problem property.
Mayor Webster asked is there anything on the title that the Fire Marshall is involved?
Mr. Schneider responded that in the past they have been very expeditious. Im not aware of anything on the title. It would not normally be a title issue. It would be a finding of violations.
Mr. Galster said it meets all the criteria for a blighted property and we can handle that pretty quickly ourselves.
Mr. Schneider stated we cannot. Its only by court order that we can get the blighted designation. We will be achieving that as we move along the process but we cant declare it blight because we said so.
Mr. Parham said I think the biggest tool we have is the Fire Marshall and the Ohio State Fire Code. They are already in violation of the Fire Code. If you took that property over today you would be in violation of the Fire Code and would have to bring it into compliance. I think thats the thing that will move this process a little further along. Even if Broadway Bank decides they want to protect their interests and they are going to pursue trying to gain control, I would think they would want to bring that property into compliance because they understand, through the Fire Marshall process they could lose their investment and not get anything for it. It would be more profitable for the bank to bring it up to Code and then get some of their $16 million back.
Mr. Galster stated my only concern is the amount of time it takes to actually have an end result through the Fire Marshall. If were saying they can get something to happen as quickly as we can make something happen, then Im okay with that. I was just looking for a way to get a designation on the property so that all parties involved would know the situation is there as opposed to not having this designation for another six to nine months or something.
Mr. Schneider said well check into that.
Mr. Diehl asked, Mr. Schneider, how long do you estimate it will take to take care of the safety issues?
Mr. Schneider said that has to be primary. The key is getting the Fire Marshalls Office in there. If we could do some lining off of yellow markers and get a court order to allow us to enter and make reasonable protection, we can perhaps do that. Thats one of the things Im going to check into tomorrow.
Mayor Webster said I think there are a lot of variables. The owners of the property could choose to remove all the combustibles out of the building and eliminate the fire hazard. Then it would just sit there until the foreclosure works its way through the court system, or they could make the repairs to the sprinkler system to bring it into compliance.
Mr. Vanover said you indicated that we should think about which way we should go. I dont have any problem saying I think the Fire Marshall is the avenue we should go.
Mrs. Harlow said Id like to see a list of advantages for the Fire Marshall to take it and if there is any advantage to the City to take it.
Mr. Parham stated because our Fire Chief is an agent of the Fire Marshall, I think we have the same size weapon but they have more experience. We look to them for guidance. Through either process you have to identify what the violation is, go before the Ohio Board of Building Standards, make a presentation to them and once they have given you approval, you have to file in Hamilton County to continue the process.
Mr. Hawkins said the primary concern right now is keeping our residents and firefighters safe. Have we increased police patrols in that area?
Mayor Webster replied yes. They are the ones that discovered it had been broken into.
Mr. Galster asked if the combustibles and/or sprinklers are taken care of, does that eliminate the Fire Marshalls Office?
Mr. Schneider responded they do have some limitation of authority. Once they enter, they do a pretty thorough job on any dangerous condition. However, the Health Department would probably move in if necessary. I dont know how they are going to remove all the fire-related issues with the wood that is there and everything else.
Mr. Parham said it is our understanding that if they remove all the combustible items they will no longer be in violation of the Fire Code. I do believe, however, through the blighted process, when we identified the property where UDF sits, we established that as blight. We then had to go back to court to determine a value and then pay for the property. Through the Fire Marshall process we can gain control of the property with zero dollars. My concern has always been from day one, if we take control of that building, no one can say you have to pay for the value of that asset.
Mr. Schneider said our purpose is not just for the Fire Marshall to go in and find what he can fire-wise. Our Health Department should be involved, our Building Department should be involved and there will be other violations besides fire. Contaminated water in the pool, mold, etc. is other issues but the Fire Marshall opens the door for us to go in.
Mrs. McNear said over the years we have bought blighted properties and moved them along as quickly as possible. If we dont want to own a $150,000 house, I certainly dont want to see us own a $17 million blighted hotel.
Mayor Webster said if the combustibles are removed the Fire Marshall would be relieved but the purpose of the administrative search warrant is to get all our departments involved.
Mr. Vanover said to remove the combustible materials they will have to take it down to the shell because the drywall, wiring, carpeting, etc. are all combustible. They would have to take it down to concrete.
Clerk of Council/Finance Director Mrs. McNear reported our receipts through the end of December were $17.7 million against our original budget of $19.1 million. Earnings tax was $13.46 million, real estate taxes were $1.2 million. We expended $14.6 million against a budget of $16.3. We had budgeted $300,000 in tax returns and we had $489,560.
Administrators Report Mr. Parham stated a home security seminar on how to prevent burglaries will be held January 27 at the Community Center.
Mr. Parham said in 2009 we were awarded $950,000 in stimulus funding for the repair and resurfacing of Northland Boulevard. That project went to bid on January 20. If the project exceeds $950,000 we will be responsible for that money as well as the construction engineering of which we have budgeted $47,000.
Law Directors Report - no report
Engineers Report Mr. Shvegzda said the SR 4 southbound lane addition project is anticipated to begin construction in April. The Northland Boulevard project is also anticipated to begin in April. The field work for the Beaver Run Creek Riparian restoration of the failed gabion wall is underway. Merchant Street repair and resurfacing field review is underway. Neither of these projects have a construction date at this time. The same is true for the vehicular bridge replacement at Ross Park. The plans were compete and bid out in 2001. Were in the process of revisiting the site to make sure we have not had significant erosion. The stimulus funding bill has only been passed by the House. It will be before the Senate in February so we still dont know when it will be passed. However, OKI is planning ahead to acquire the various projects for consideration and their deadline for submitting is January 28.
Mayor Webster asked are any of the three projects you talked about here eligible for stimulus funding? Are we far enough along with the engineering of Merchant Street to make an application?
Mr. Shvegzda said the initial funding coming out from OKI is strictly for roadway improvements. They have it split out into two categories and both are very quick. The final plans that ODOT would sign off on would have to be complete by February 26. They have it broken down into ninety-day projects and non ninety-day projects. Beaver Run may qualify through Clean Water funding through the EPA.
Mr. Parham said the SR4 Urban Paving Project in 2009 was not completed in order to leverage those dollars to get a higher return from the State on another project. That project was moved back to 2013. We have asked if we can cover it under the new stimulus funding and get 100 percent funding at a faster pace with no potential cost.
Mr. Diehl said it was my recollection that once the I-275 overpass at Kenn Road was completed there would be lights underneath the bridge for safety and it is pitch dark at this time. It is a safety issue.
Mr. Shvegzda said I follow up with ODOT to see if that was part of the plan and when it will be constructed if it was.
Mr. Vanover asked is there grading involved in the gabion wall replacement?
Mr. Shvegzda responded this particular location is on the south bank of the creek and there may be a little bit of grading beyond the current limits of the creek right now.
COMMUNICATIONS - none
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE - none
OLD BUSINESS - none
NEW BUSINESS - none
MEETINGS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Rules and Laws - January 27
Finance Committee - January 28
Planning Commission - February 9
Board of Health - February 11
Board of Zoning Appeals - February 16
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE - none
Mrs. Emerson made a motion that Council go into executive session as a committee of the whole to discuss possible personnel issues. Mr. Vanover seconded. The motion passed with seven affirmative votes.
Council went into executive session at 8:12 p.m. and reconvened at 8:25 p.m.
ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS
ORDINANCE 5-2010 AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR AND CLERK OF COUNCIL/FINANCE DIRECTOR TO AMEND THE AGREEMENT WITH WOOD & LAMPING LLP FOR LEGAL SERVICES TO THE CITY OF SPRINGDALE AND DECLARING AN EMERGENCY
Mr. Vanover made a motion to adopt and Mr. Squires seconded.
Mr. Schneider said this was done at my request. Jeff has shown great ability. I will continue to work and will be supporting Jeff and will be available for you.
Mayor Webster said this has taken us all by surprise. This is my thirty-ninth year with the City and the City would not have accomplished what it has without Wood & Lamping and specifically Ken Schneider. We appreciate your personal attention. It is comforting to know were making the transition and Ken will still be there.
Ordinance 5-2010 passed with seven affirmative votes.
UPDATE ON LEGISLATION STILL IN DEVELOPMENT - none
RECAP OF LEGISLATIVE ITEMS REQUESTED - none
Council adjourned at 8:32 p.m.
Clerk of Council/Finance Director
Marjorie Harlow, President of Council