September 17, 1997
Council was called to order on September 17, 1997 at 7:00 p.m. by President of Council Randy Danbury.
The Pledge of Allegiance was recited by the governmental body and those in attendance. The Invocation was given by Mr. Knox.
Roll call was taken by Mr. Knox. Present were Council members Boice, Galster, Manis, McNear, Vanover, Wilson and Danbury.
The minutes of September 3, 1997 were approved with 6 affirmative votes. Mr. Galster abstained.
RESOLUTION NO. 22-1997 "COMMENDING DIANE BRUNSWICK FOR HER SERVICE TO THE CITY OF SPRINGDALE"
Mr. Vanover made a motion to adopt and Mr. Wilson seconded.
Mrs. Boice said I had the pleasure of meeting Diane quite a number of years ago. I got a call from her concerning their home on Neuss and I did go down and I remember being so impressed as she was doing crafts. Then I had the pleasure of interacting with Diane at a junior Olympics when they decided I should be one of the ones figuring the scores. That wasnít my bailiwick and Diane was helping me. I really got to know Diane Brunswick through her involvement with her father-in-law and the wonderful, wonderful care she gave to this gentleman, getting him out in the community and making the point of letting me know when he was at a softball tournament or at the festival, etc. I know she did wonderful things on the Parks and Recreation Commission but in my measure of a person, that is how I measure Diane Brunswick, who was so kind to her father-in-law. She has done many wonderful things, but I think that is one of the most outstanding and I thank you for that, Diane. When you get to be my age and have as much gray hair as I do, kindness to the geriatric society, the senior citizen, becomes more and more dear to my heart. That is how I will always remember Diane Brunswick. Iím sorry youíre leaving our community. We loved having you here.
Mr. Danbury thanked Diane for years of service to the City. Iíve known Diana for a long, long time. She will be sorely missed, not only on the board, but in the community. You always have been active around here. You will be missed. Thank you for your service.
Resolution R22-1997 passed with 7 affirmative votes.
Mr. Danbury presented the resolution to Diane Brunswick.
Mr. Danbury said Mayor Webster is not in attendance tonight. He normally presents those. Mr. Osborn is also out as is Mr. Schneider. I do believe we will have Mr. Schneiderís stand in coming.
COMMITTEE AND OFFICIAL REPORTS
RULES AND LAWS - no report
PUBLIC RELATIONS - no report
PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE - no report
PUBLIC WORKS - Mr. Vanover said under the 1997 street program, the crack seal program is 100% complete; the asphalt program is 95% complete; the concrete program is 90%. All of the work should be completed by the end of the month. The driveway apron project is completed.
PUBLIC UTILITIES - no report
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS - Mr. Wilson reported the Community Center HVAC replacement equipment will be installed by the end of September and all work will be completed by the end of October. The construction plans for the Carmen Creek improvements at Heritage Hill School are complete. We are now awaiting EPA approval on the 401 permit. Construction is being planned for the summer of 1998. St. Rt. 747 CSX grade separation final environmental document was submitted to ODOT in January 1997. We are still waiting for their final approval. A scope of service meeting was held with ODOT on August 25. It is anticipated that the detailed design work will begin in October. The Community Center pool repair and improvements pre-construction meeting was held on September 14. Construction is scheduled between October 1997 and April 1998. Kemper Road traffic signals at McGillard and Lawnview is an ODOT project and is still under construction. It is anticipated that the work will be completed in November 1997. West Kemper Road storm sewer final plans are complete and ready to review with the City staff. Construction is scheduled for the summer of 1998. Sharon Road resurfacing and bikeway field survey work is complete. The design work should be completed this year with construction from April to October 1998. St. Rt. 4 improvements preliminary plan field work is 50% complete and design work will follow.
FINANCE COMMITTEE - no report
PLANNING COMMISSION - Mr. Galster reported Planning Commission met September 11. Duke and Associates requested final approval of their signage package at the old Swallenís project. Last month we had a conceptual discussion in reference to just the buildings, layout, etc. There were some concerns with the number of buildings so it was odd to have final sign approval before we had even preliminary building approval. That was denied by a 2-3 vote.
BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS - Mrs. Boice said BZA met last evening. BP ProCare, 11725 Princeton Pike requested a variance to allow the construction of a ground sign. That was granted 6-0. We had requested them the month before to come back in with the landscaping plat and they did that. They are going from a pole sign to a ground sign which is always an improvement.
Cincinnati Bell requested a variance to allow construction of a walk-in cabinet 45í feet from West Crescentville Road right of way and 12í from the east property line at 255 West Crescentville Road. I must say coming out of the hat on this one I took the lead. I was very upset with the cabinet they had put in on Kenn Road well over 1 1/2 years ago. We heard "weíre going to shrub it, weíre going to do this and that". Until they were reminded they did not get to that work. Mrs. McNear describes these as mausoleums and thatís what they look like. Of course, we understand there is no regulation for the utilities as far as the tree preservation ordinance. Where they are planning to put this they have already cut three trees down to which I said, first you didnít put up shrubs at the other one, now youíre out cutting down trees at this one. It was not the most pleasant contact we had had that evening. They swore on a bible more or less that the shrubbery would go in and there were a few things put into the variance. When youíre dealing with the utilities itís often very hard to control these things. You really, unfortunately, donít seem to have too much choice. That variance was granted 6-0.
Maple Knoll Village, 11199 Springfield Pike was back in again. They were in two months ago for a sign for their Bingo on Thursdays and Fridays. They are now requesting a sign for their big band dance on Sunday. We did have some discussion about that because we were getting concerned with all the functions that go on down there. Next is it going to be the bazaar, the pool, whatever? We suggested that perhaps they might want to approach Maple Knoll. Maple Knoll does everything in good taste and maybe they should be giving some consideration to some kind of message board like we have been discussing for the City. The gentleman said he would take that information to them. We decided to grant a variance for seven months but this variance will expire at the same time as the one does for Bingo. Then they will have to come back and we will review them. We told the gentleman to start counting heads to see if this sign is bringing more people in for the big dance or if it isnít. I just foresee for everything we are going to have this 24"í x 28" real estate type of sign. I think it could get a little sticky so we are going to be monitoring that very closely.
Mr. Robert Schindler, 594 Cloverdale Avenue requested a variance to construct a 24í x 28í detached garage. That was granted 6-0. He was 72 square feet over but considering the size of his lot, 600 square feet is allowed. It really was not a problem. The only problem was setting from the lot line and we were trying to get that moved into the five feet but after discussion it finally came up that he had closed in a swimming pool years ago and to move it over, he would have hit the wall of that swimming pool. I can still Mrs. McNear saying under her breath, thereís the hardship, which is what variances are about technically. That variance was granted 6-0.
Mr. Dave Whitaker, 687 Cloverdale Avenue requested a variance to construct a 24í x 24í room addition 28í from the rear property line. Again, we looked at this very closely. That property comprises four lots and if you figure density he is not way over that all. He had done nice preparation for the board, pictures before and pictures of what he has done with landscaping, decking. He said as his neighbors signed his sheet to explain that they were aware of this, they asked do you want us to come in? We donít want you to move. He has really improved his property and his plans were done nicely and there would be no problem with the setting of the neighborhood. That was granted 6-0.
Mr. Okum at to leave the meeting at this point.
Mr. Arthur Tiedke, 11830 Lawnview Avenue requested a variance to enclose a covered roof area. There was no representation and that was tabled. It will be back on the agenda next month and if there is no representation next month it will automatically be dropped from the agenda and they will have to reapply.
Frederick Borden, 899 Summerfield Lane requested a variance to construct an 8í x 8í utility building 24" from the rear property line and 51" from the side lot line. Of course, he is a little bit off there. We require a 5í setback. Itís a case again, where the builder had come in. Anybody who does anything in Springdale surely has to know by now you need to check these things and have permits but we still have these slip ups. With the way his lot is laid out we did not feel that there was any problem and that was granted 5-0.
Quality Gold, 75 Tri County Parkway requested a variance to allow for a temporary office trailer for the period of 9/18/97 through 1/15/98. They are in the gold business and do a lot of shipping during the Christmas season. They are adding employees and need the space to handle the shipping. Unfortunately, they cannot enlarge their present building and are in the process of building an office in Fairfield. We are sorry to see them leave. That variance was granted 4-1.
BOARD OF HEALTH - Mr. Vanover stated they met September 11. We had a pretty fair agenda as it was the first meeting back since summer. We looked at the creek water and the creek continues to improve. We have not had any major problems and it has been a dry season. The Health Commissioner asked me to bring up that we have now spent $15,000 on the nuisance animal problem. The Health Commissioner presented his rough draft for the environmental health goals and objectives for 1998 which is a precursor for the budget. The board was quite excited with Councilís decision to open the cholestech screening to the residents. They were in full support and gratitude to Council for that.
CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION - no report
O-K-I - no report
MAYORíS REPORT - no report
CLERK OF COUNCIL/FINANCE DIRECTOR - Mr. Knox said the proposed Charter amendment set forth in Ordinance 41 has been accepted by the Board of Elections and will be on the ballot.
Quite a few of us had the pleasure of attending the Springdale Fire Explorer Post meeting where they were presented a $1,000 check by the Volunteer Firemen Insurance Society. They were nice enough to give us this award:
"Springdale Fire Explorerís Post 211, the City of Springdale, whereas on this ninth day of September of the year 1997, I do hereby recognize you (that being the City) as a supporter of the Springdale Fire and Rescue Exploring Post 211, on this tenth anniversary of the program and as the number one junior firefighting program in the United States as awarded by the Volunteer Firemen Insurance Society." It was a very nice evening we had there.
I have passed around copies of the results of the bidding for our $2 million bond issue. Itís a rather unique document. The lowest bid of the net interest was from Huntington Bank, which has a branch here in Springdale. Even though their coupon rate is 4.25, because of the premium they are returning to the City of $3,600 we end up with a yield of 4.062413 which I think is a compliment to the financial structure of the City and the way we have been operating. Thatís about as low as you are going to get. Other people had a coupon rate lower but because of the premium which is returned to us, the effective net comes out to be Huntington Bank.
ADMINISTRATORíS REPORT - Mr. Parham said in December 1996 I came before you presenting a recommendation to award International Paper with an agreement under our Enterprise Zone Program in the amount of 65% over a ten year period for the purchase of two high speed gluers in the amount of $1.977 million. Currently with that agreement there are technically two other agreements on the table. They were granted in 1994 and 1995. Those two are Phase I and Phase II of that agreement. Phase I granted International Paper 100% over ten years for $4.9 million in tangible personal property. Phase II granted them 70% over ten years for $6.65 million. I mention that because we have been approached by International Paper requesting a tax abatement for the purchase of a printing press and one other piece of equipment for a $5.1 investment. This is a really unusual situation. I know a company has not come back to the City of Springdale this often. I discussed it with the representatives of the Hamilton County Development Company. Weíve met with representatives from International Paper and right now there are a lot of issues going on at the location here in Springdale. Under the agreement they are to retain 223 jobs. Right now they have about 196. The facility here in Springdale has not shown a profit since 1989. The CEO of International Paper has sent a message that either you carry your own weight or you will not be in existence. In the last two months they have shut down a couple of plants. They are making this request right now and at the same time we are not guaranteed that they will remain. They have until effectively the end of this year to turn a profit at this facility or they may be shut down. Their payroll is about $7 million at this facility. The representatives from the Development Company and I have talked about this for some time. Just as a reminder, the only way you qualify for an agreement under the Enterprise Zone is that you are either retaining jobs or creating jobs. The last agreement we had with them was a retention. I believe the two before that were either partial retention and partial creation or both retention. Right now, even if we grant this to them, it does not guarantee that they will be here at the end of the year if they do not show a profit. There is a facility in Georgetown, Kentucky which is a brand new facility. Logic would tend to make one believe that if they were to shut down one of the plants it would be this plant, since this is a much older plant, and they would move to the Georgetown facility, transfer the products they create here. Thatís not necessarily the case here. There is a slim possibility that if they do not close this one down, they may close the Georgetown facility, transfer those services up here and divest themselves of that new facility.
On one end we are reluctant because we have effectively three agreements currently on the table with them. But we also recognize their situation and want to assist them because this is an organization, that in the past when we needed assistance from them, they have stepped forward on several occasions, whether itís to make presentations to other organizations in our recruiting efforts or to give the private sector an opinion of their relationship with the City organization. Theyíve been very active in the development of the Chamber of Commerce and a number of other issues. I would like to request an agreement with International Paper to be brought forward at the October 1 Council meeting for 70% over a ten year period. Thatís for an investment of $5.1 million. They have indicated that they would be more than willing to come before City Council to make any presentation, answer any questions that you may have.
Part of the agreement we and Hamilton County Development Company had with them prior to us even getting to this point is that they had to do two things. One, they had to show support of their local union, of their employees, to make sure that the employees were aware of the situation and they have done so. The president of their local union has indicated that, if necessary, he would come tonight or to the next meeting and answer any questions that Council may have. Two, they have offered to open their financial books to us for review. They have done that for the representative of the Hamilton County Development Company and they find that as you examine those books, there is nothing but red.
Ms. Manis asked is it possible for a company like this to rescind some of the earlier agreements and just do this one if itís for a lot more money than the others. Maybe theyíve gotten enough benefit out of the earlier ones to say they would rather have this now.
Mr. Parham replied that opportunity is there but it wouldnít do them any good. They have those on the books right now and theyíre still showing losses. As I indicated, they havenít shown a profit for eight years. If they rescinded that, it would do them no good.
Ms. Manis asked have they already bought the press?
Mr. Parham replied no. You canít get the abatement if you already own the property. You have to have the agreement in place. Once the agreement is in place and Council has approved it, the Hamilton County Commissioners have approved it, then they can purchase it.
Ms. Manis stated itís not going to help them this year. They are not going to be up and running in time this year to make any difference.
Mr. Parham responded they believe they can. They currently have two printing presses at this facility. A number of years ago there were five. As technology began to move on a rather rapid pace, they thought with a new printing press they could keep their effective and efficient level up with removing three of those and putting the new ones in, so they cut down from five to two. It didnít do the job so they believe they can get this one in this year and show some difference to their home office.
Mrs. Boice said with all due respect to International Paper, you say they have been losing money for eight years. I assume the CEO said either you make this go or we have to close it. Has there been change in management there?
Mr. Parham replied they are on their third manager since Iíve been here. I know the new manager arrived earlier this year.
Mrs. Boice asked what do you feel? Will they be successful?
Mr. Parham said the two individuals I have met with are Cheryl Rollins, their Financial Director, and Dale Ziegler, Plant Manager. They firmly believe, as they presented to us and I take their word on it, as they run the numbers they can show themselves making an improvement and making a slight, very marginal profit before the end of the year. At the same time they understand it doesnít mean they are going to beat the ax, but they believe they can make the cut. They originally requested 75% over ten years. Iíve recommended 70%. Iíve gone from 65% in my mind. When I first met with them I thought the best I could recommend is the option I gave them in December, either take 75% over five years or 65% over ten years. As we began to sit and talk about their situation in the meeting I softened but at the same time, and if Council chooses to go to the 75% over ten years I have no problem with that, itís just the fact that they have three on the books now.
Mrs. Boice said what if Council chooses not to go at all.
Mr. Parham responded they understand and will have to see what happens by the end of the year.
Mr. Danbury said I just want to get the numbers correct. The final one you are recommending is 70% over ten years.
Mr. Parham said thatís a $5.1 million investment. $1 million of that is for inventory and I think the other $4.1 million is for a printing press and cutter.
Mr. Danbury asked does management feel that purchases of this equipment could be the catalyst that could help turn it around.
Mr. Parham replied they believe they can.
Mr. Danbury said this is for discussion later but I donít see what we would be at risk due to the fact that if we bring forth to the City at the first meeting, then the County Commissioners would approve it. By the time they order it they only have 45 days to get it up and operational. I donít see what kind of risk we would be taking. If it doesnít happen they are gone.
Mr. Parham said if we grant it and they donít meet their numbers and they decide to shut them down, thereís nothing lost. Weíve lost because we have lost individuals who have lost their jobs. They believe this cutter and printing press will get them up to their numbers where they are technically supposed to be.
Mr. Danbury said I donít believe anybody wants to give people multiple tax abatements, but in my mind thereís just no way you canít do it. Somebody else might disagree but we have to do whatever we can.
Mr. Vanover said I know we have to advise the school board on this. Have they signed off on this?
Mr. Parham replied the Hamilton County Development Company handles that part. At the same time, because of this situation, I have attempted to contact Larry McDonough with the school board just to apprise him of this situation. In the past, I also believe there is a letter that went to International Paper from the Development Company that indicated it would be very unlikely that they would be approved in the future on-retention only. If they are creating a significant number of jobs and a significant number is not to get you back to where you are supposed to be under these current agreements, but somewhere beyond there, then I can see making that recommendation. For retention itís going to have to be a hard sell. To be honest with you this is a hard sell.
Ms. Manis said usually when we get our agreements theyíve already been approved by Hamilton County.
Mr. Parham replied they are going to go before the Commissioners next Wednesday night.
Ms. Manis asked then they might not get past them?
Mr. Parham responded I think they will because the representatives from the Development Company have made a sound argument for them. At the same time I do believe a number of representatives from the union and also the plant manager will be attending that meeting. If you have a desire for them to be here on the first they are more than willing to be here.
Mr. Danbury asked have they mentioned to you the delivery date of this if they were to be approved. I would think it would be 60 to 90 days.
Mr. Parham said the purchase date and installation date is scheduled for November/December. They figure itís a three month process. I think at that point they will have to convince the folks at their home base to give them a little more time.
LAW DIRECTORíS REPORT - Lisa Rammes, an associate with Wood and Lamping sitting in for Mr. Schneider gave the Law Directorís report. I apologize that Ken could not be here this evening. The purchase of the property at Sterling House has closed. The documents were sent to be recorded on Monday. We should be getting those documents back in the next week or two and then getting them out to the City. On the Shepherd litigation which is in federal district court, all of the individual defendants have been dismissed from that action. The action is only pending against the City.
ENGINEERíS REPORT - Mr. Shuler said this evening I laid in front of everybody your copy of the Kemper Road Corridor and Access Management Study, the traffic study we have been working on for about six months to look into the future, to make some educated guesses of the amount of traffic we are going to be dealing with in future years, look at the impact of what that future traffic is going to have on this area, look at both short term and long term solutions to dealing with that traffic so that we are pro-active in that area rather than waiting until we have gridlock and then trying to do something. As you all know weíre playing catch-up out there anyway. We would like for you to go through this between now and next Wednesday, if possible. We will be making a full presentation of the report. However, there is a lot of information in here. There are a lot of issues and Iím sure youíll find as we did, every time we went through this and started discussing it, one or two new ideas came up. What if we did this, what if we did that? Weíre anticipating that after you all go through it, being as familiar with that area as you are, that youíll have a number of other ideas and suggestions which we do want to pursue. Also, we do have some long term options to deal with the traffic in that area. We have a recommended option and we really would like to get into some discussion with you on that as well next week. We anticipate spending about thirty minutes making a presentation of the report and the issues the information generated, and then getting into a question and answer discussion period with Council that will probably take 1 1/2 hours so weíre probably looking at a two hour meeting. Once we get into this it seems like time goes very quickly when we start discussing traffic issues. We did want to get this into your hands so you would have a chance to look at it between now and next week. If you do get into it and you have a question please give me a call and Iíll get you to the person who can answer it.
Mrs. Boice said thank you for having that in our hands this evening a full week ahead. Knowing the time constraint you were under I would have expected maybe to have had a call from the Building on Monday saying the report is in hand if you want to pick it up before the meeting. This timeliness is just super. Iím sure all my Council peers join me in that.
Mr. Danbury asked is there someone else from your office who might be able to answer questions if youíre not there?
Mr. Shuler said the people I would refer you to who worked on it directly would be John Eisenmann, who will probably be the lead presenter; and John Pagano who is head of our traffic group and is very familiar with the report.
Mr. Knox said we have one communication received by fax today dated September 15, 1997 addressed to City of Springdale Council Members:
Having watched the Council meetings over the last couple of months, I must admit that I am a little confused over who Council considers to be an "expert".
At the last Council meeting, Council was considering hiring a collection agency to collect unpaid taxes. Many members commented that we shouldnít question the expert who was bidding these services to the City. While the collection agency may be an expert in the collection of debit, they didnít seem to have much or any experience in collecting City, State or Federal income tax liabilities. A collection agency with little or no experience in an area that we wish to hire them for could hardly be considered an expert.
At another meeting, Council sited a computer vendor trying to sell computers to the City as an expert. This so called expert was offering equipment that was three months obsolete in the industry.
Yet on the flip side, we have people employed for numerous years in the City, one being the department director, requesting urgent need for a Recreation Center expansion and I have heard nothing on this for months. And doesnít the City also have under contract an expert City Planner who Council questions whether they have properly sized a simple parking lot.
It seems to me that you would consider people in department director positions and contracted professionals, with no financial gain at stake, as experts instead of vendors vying for City dollars.
Mr. Knox said this came in faxed was unsigned but it has the name Chris Dossman, 16 Woodside Court.
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE
Mr. Bob Coleman, 689 Yorkhaven Road, said I am addressing Mr. Shuler because this past Saturday I was on my way to Dave & Busterís new facility, and at the risk of putting the cart before the horse, I understand that the traffic patterns continue to be reviewed and discussed; but my question is, when are there going to be some changes made to the traffic signals that go into that particular street where Dave & Busterís and Roberds is, when you are going east on Kemper and ready to make a left hand turn? I sat through five lights myself and the traffic jam was all the way back to Princeton Pike. If you could just shed some remarks that might help me? One time I counted three cars going through and one time I counted four cars, and two of the four cars went through on a red light.
Mr. Shuler responded Mr. President, certainly there is a problem there. There has been and will be until that temporary signal, which is the easterly most signal, is removed. If you look at the Cityís thoroughfare plan, the extension of Century Boulevard to the north, which is the next signal towards Sharonville, when that street is pushed to the north and connects with that ring road that goes back to Roberds and Dave & Busterís, then that signal that you now have to turn into with inadequate stacking to make those movements, will be eliminated, which will improve the operation of both of those signals. However, that signal which is a temporary signal, cannot be removed until the other one is in. The other factor that is making that situation very difficult is the opening of Dave & Busterís. It will get very heavy traffic as any new establishment does until that slows down and people get into more of a normal traffic pattern back there. We do, on a regular basis, try to address with the Police Department, special events like an opening or a special sale at the mall. I donít know whether anything was done this past weekend to try to do any signal adjustment for that, knowing that Dave & Busterís was open. Usually we address those when the Police Department calls and indicates there is a problem or if a facility calls us and says theyíre going to have a sale. A lot of times Sheraton will call when they are having a big meeting at Rt. 4 and Crescentville and we can do some adjustment. We will look at that but I can tell it is going to be a problem. There is very little we can do there until the ultimate solution is actually in place; that is, to eliminate that signal to make the main signal and the Century Boulevard one work more efficiently.
Mr. Coleman said I would recommend that the City of Springdale Police Department be very aware of this particular issue. Because it is a temporary status it might be appropriate to maybe have a police officer out there on the weekends to help keep the traffic from backing up and having individuals from all four directions become somewhat irritated.
Mr. Shuler asked what time of day was that and Mr. Coleman replied 6:30.
Ms. Manis said the sign is there but maybe we can spread the word that you can go in the WalMart entrance and take the first right around. You have a shorter wait and longer ramp.
Mr. Shuler stated now that they have completed Dave & Busterís that ring road goes all the way around the back so you can get around from either side which means you can get in at either light.
Mr. Coleman said I and others probably didnít see the sign because we were focused on all of the traffic.
Mr. Shuler said maybe we could get together with them and look at that signage on a temporary basis to help direct people more efficiently over there.
ORDINANCE NO. 68-1997 "ACCEPTING A BID AND AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR AND CLERK OF COUNCIL/FINANCE DIRECTOR TO ENTER INTO A CONTRACT WITH CLEAN CUT LAWN & IRRIGATION, INC. FOR THE INSTALLATION OF AN IRRIGATION SYSTEM AND DECLARING AN EMERGENCY"
Mrs. Boice made a motion to adopt and Mr. Vanover seconded.
Ms. Manis asked why wasnít this put in when the building was built?
Mr. Shuler replied I know that it was one of the items that was discussed very preliminarily when the building was being laid out. There were provisions made in the building itself to tie an irrigation system in. It was not put in at that time because of budget and it was something that could be put in at a later date. Therefore, it was just determined that it wasnít absolutely necessary to get the facility built and to spread costs over a long period of time.
Ordinance 68-1997 passed with 6 affirmative votes. Ms. Manis voted no.
ORDINANCE NO. 69-1997 "AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR AND CLERK OF COUNCIL/FINANCE DIRECTOR TO ENTER INTO AN AGREEMENT WITH COLLECTECH SYSTEMS TO PROVIDE COLLECTION SERVICES FOR DELINQUENT TAX ACCOUNTS"
Mr. Danbury said this is a first reading. We have a recommendation from Mr. Knox that we have two readings but at our next meeting we add the emergency clause. This will be voted on October 1.
Mr. Galster said I had a conversation with Mr. Knox on Monday night with a list of questions that he did a wonderful job of getting most of the answers back to me. However, I did want to bring up one additional item. I did have contact with the Attorney General for the State of Ohio in reference to trying to find out how they handle collection of their past due taxes. They actually gave me one of probably nine people that they use. I talked to a gentleman who has been working about five years as a collection agent for the State of Ohio. He also just started a relatively new pilot program in the City of Columbus. I was a little surprised. I have never heard of using a collection agency to collect taxes before. It is a new and growing thing. The thing that interested me about this one and ones like it is that they do 100% governmental tax collection. Thatís all they do. They donít do any commercial debt collection. There were a few things that he enlightened me about such as the confidentiality issues. Every agent in his agency signs a confidentiality agreement. The government tax collection is not subject to the same fair debt collection acts that commercial credit is subject to. There was a lot of insight I was able to get over a relatively short period of time in a phone conversation. I would be comfortable with trying to at least talk to a person who does this as 100% of their business and maybe getting a possible alternate to what we are presently looking at.
Mr. Danbury said Mr. Knox, you did bid this out with companies other than Collectech as well?
Mr. Knox replied it wasnít bid out. Mrs. Burton has consulted with other people. The approach which Collectech uses is the softest method of doing this. This does not preclude what Mr. Galster is talking about. Obviously we are not going to get 100% collections right off the bat. We will have to look at this and learn as we go. Hopefully we are going to be as successful as we expect to be and as Collectechís experience has shown. But even in the best of situations we are not going to get everybody. Weíll have to make a decision how weíre going to go and approach other people. In order to do this equitably we really need to get as close to 100% as we reasonably can. Weíll have to use those methods that will lend itself to that. We were aware that there are nine agencies that are collecting taxes for the state right now. I should point out that Collectech, although they have not done tax work here in the state of Ohio, they have done extensive work in the state of California. They are quite professional and knowledgeable in that area. I was talking with Mr. Dobbs and he pointed out the city of Oxnard, which he personally was involved in. Mr. Dobbs has been involved in the collection of back taxes himself so we do have knowledgeable personnel here doing this.
Mr. Galster said one additional advantage I thought about is two-thirds of the back taxes we have are due by businesses. The disadvantages I see with Collectech is that they donít go any farther than reporting to the collection agencies on these business accounts. If a business is actually going as far as not paying money they have collected from their employees, it seems to me that we need to go a little farther than reporting them to the credit bureau. We will ultimately need to take them to court or something similar to collect that kind of money. So right now weíre dealing with two-thirds of the amount of dollars that are outstanding that this company is not doing for us. I think we have narrowed it down to $100,000 that Collectech is most likely to be successful at obtaining because I think we are going to miss the boat on the other two-thirds. A business that is spending the withholdings that the employees have already paid to them isnít going to worry too much, in my opinion, about whether or not we call the credit bureau on them.
Mr. Knox said Mr. Schneider, who prepared this ordinance, has spent quite a bit of time looking at the situation and he is in favor of more accounts such as you are talking about being taken to Mayorís Court which has quite a bit more teeth in it. When the Mayor gets back we will have meetings on this and see how we can proceed on those so that approach is being looked at. He sees some possible increases in efficiencies but the thing that is holding us back from that right now is that every person in both the Tax and Finance Departments has over 100% of their time filled up. They are working overtime now and they are still dropping slightly behind. We have no person who can do this work and this work takes quite a bit of time. Mrs. Burton estimates each case we take to tax court takes twelve hours of preparation. Mr. Schneider thinks that number can be lowered, but even if they lower it down to six hours, we donít have six hours. Right now, in order to get this moving, to me Collectech is the best way to go at the moment. Itís not perfect but itís a good way to start.
Mr. Danbury said maybe itís time we look at adding more personnel to the department.
Mr. Knox said that is being looked at. We have had discussions with Mr. Osborn and the Mayor on that subject. We are looking to find out the efficiencies that will be engendered by for instance, the payroll system that will go into effect and how much we will save on those, to see how much of an impact that will have on the Finance and Tax Departments and see where we stand to see exactly what we need to make a good recommendation to the Council.
Mr. Danbury said Iím not saying that the personnel in there are not doing a good job but I think maybe they are overlooking things possibly if they are so swamped. I think we need to spend more time with each account and Iím not saying in any shape or form that they are not doing their jobs. Thatís the obvious thing we need to look at.
Mr. Wilson asked Mr. Galster, did the individual you spoke with say anything about his fees?
Mr. Galster replied they donít do so much per case that we turn over to them. You pay them a percentage of what they collect. With Collectech we pay $8.50 per account. They donít do any skip trace. They are pretty much staying with the addresses we have. The other one is going to go after anything and everything. They will put up court costs and everything in order to get it to court, and then that comes out of the amount collected. The highest percentage he gave me was one-third. The City of Columbus, on this pilot program, is at thirty percent. But once again, you are giving them funds for what you have collected as opposed to just giving them funds for collecting no money at this point.
Ms. Manis asked that the Finance Committee be invited to these meetings that you were talking about having with the Mayor and City Administrator.
Mr. Knox responded we certainly intend to have everybody involved in this if for no other reason than to get it done quickly because, as I said, this load is building up. Itís not decreasing and the trend continues to be an increase so something has to be done in the relatively near future.
Ms. Manis said we have the option right now of taking these people to court. Itís just that we elect not to do it.
Mr. Knox replied we elect because we donít have the capability.
Ms. Manis said right, but we elect not to do it. There is no other reason. We donít have the people in the office to do it.
Mr. Danbury said one alternative or suggestion is we could come up with a policy that is like a 1-2 punch. We go with a company like Collectech. I like the fee structure that they are offering. The remainder that we canít take to Mayorís Court ourselves, possibly could go to one of the agencies Mr. Galster has uncovered.
Mr. Danbury said we will reconsider this at our first meeting in October. I would like to request that we have an emergency clause on that at that time.
Ms. Manis said a couple of weeks ago I was up here in the office and there was a gentleman at the front desk trying to give Debbie Dunfee $25 for his brick in the memorial wall out here. Debbie didnít know anything about it at that time and I told him it hadnít been decided yet but I think we should continue to look at that.
Mrs. Boice said I was going to ask members of Council if you have had any contact. I have had only one phone call about the wall, a resident questioning why we were spending that much money. I told this individual we were looking at corporate support? Have any of you had any contact at all?
Mr. Danbury said I had one and I had to explain to the person that it is not 120 feet high. The article said we were looking at a 120 foot wall. Itís 120 feet wide, not tall. I have heard some negative things about it but then I explained what we would do with it if we did have something. One person instantly changed. She said every time I drive by the Rec I forget about Wednesday night band concerts or the junior Olympics or the yard sale, etc. I think it would be split down the middle.
Mrs. Boice said I personally expected more. I had the same experience as you, Randy. After talking to the person and explaining that nothing was set in concrete yet, there was no really difficult feeling about it. The person suggested a veteranís memorial. I would like to see some conversation generated on this from the community because I think the feed in might be quite nice.
Mr. Galster said Mrs. McNear and I had talked about putting the brick or stone idea in the next newsletter but unfortunately thatís a little ways off. I have some very limited contact with some business community members. No dollar amounts have been given. It will be an effort but I think there are enough people who would contribute.
Mr. Danbury said as far as the businesses are concerned Mr. Osborn does have a preliminary structure. If you just look at the City of Blue Ash and what they do with their Taste of Blue Ash and all the contributions they get, we should be able to pay for something like this with no money out of the City. I did receive a letter from CG&E and they have contributed to a few different organizations with the City. They mention that if there are any projects that we would like to accept money for they would like to discuss things with us.
Ms. Manis said itís supposed to be non-profit organizations.
Mr. Knox said we have had seventeen residents send us checks to pay for their driveway aprons, which is approximately ten percent of the 172 people. I would like to point out that those checks, for anybody who is planning to send them in, must be received by October 8. We must have that information to Hamilton County as quickly as possible and they are actually doing us a favor at the moment and holding off a little bit. It must be in by October 8 if someone plans to pay for it by check.
Ms. Manis asked when will it first be showing up on peopleís tax bills for those who are doing installments?
Mr. Knox replied January 1998.
Mr. Danbury said my wife suggested this. Mr. Parham, could you find out from Mr. Sears if it would be possible for us to have a bulb exchange. With fall coming on people are doing things with their gardens. Friends will give people plants. I was wondering if we could organize a bulb exchange at the Rec Center and maybe involve the Garden Club. Itís a great way for us to promote the awards we have in the spring.
MEETINGS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Special Council Meeting - Traffic Study September 24, 7:00 p.m.
Ms. Manis asked what kind of format are we looking at. Mr. Shuler replied itís going to be an official meeting. We are going to make a presentation to Council and then get into a discussion with Council afterwards.
Mr. Parham stated we have requested that ICRC come in to tape the meeting. The only thing we understand is on the agenda is this presentation.
Mr. Shuler said it would be a good idea to invite Planning Commission since the results of this will probably affect the thoroughfare plan which Planning Commission will be debating at some point. It may be helpful to have them here to hear the presentation, the discussion, the questions and answers. Mr. Danbury said he would contact the members.
Mr. Knox said I personally contacted the four newspapers that generally give us coverage to let them know about the meeting also.
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE - none
LEGISLATION STILL IN DEVELOPMENT AND RECAP OF LEGISLATIVE ITEMS REQUESTED FOR THE NEXT COUNCIL MEETING
Item 1 dealing with the Building Code overall amendments - October 1
Item 5 dealing with electronic timekeeping - October 1
Ordinance for agreement for enterprise tax abatement - October 1
for 70% up to ten years for International Paper with emergency clause
Resolution for Ron Brown retiring from the Police Department - October 1
Council adjourned at 8:22 p.m.
Edward F. Knox
Clerk of Council/Finance Director
Randy Danbury, President of Council