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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio

Local Government

MV Council considers allowing city to tow and boot cars belonging to those with outstanding parking tickets

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — City Council members held committee meetings on Monday night to review pending legislation.

The Utilities Committee dealt with the increase of sewer rates to $4.90 per 100 cubic feet of flow. Billing will be converted to monthly rather than quarterly, but meters will still be read quarterly. Residents will get a flat-rate bill the first two months; the third month will reflect an amount based on either actual usage for the quarter or the minimum user amount. The new charge goes into effect April 1 and will be reflected on May statements. It will take three months to convert all city residents to monthly billing. Council gave the legislation approving the increase a second reading during its legislative session.

The Streets and Public Buildings Committee dealt with amending the codified ordinances to reflect a formalized process for appealing parking violations. Creating the appeals process allows the city to tow and boot cars when violators do not pay their parking fines. Law Director Rob Broeren amended the language to state that no new personnel will be hired to handle the appeals process. Council also gave this ordinance a second reading during its legislative session.

Relating to parking issues, Councilwoman Susan Kahrl said she spoke with members of Main Street Mount Vernon (formerly Heritage Centre Association) about downtown parking. “This is a really important issue to the downtown merchants. They really feel it's important to keep a parking enforcement officer, even if it outweighs the salary,” she told council. “They feel as if we must continue to be vigilant.”

She said she believes parking enforcement is a service the city needs to provide, much like the water park.

Council passed the following legislation as emergencies

*Authorizing the safety-service director to enter into a contract with the Ohio Department of Transportation for paving portions of Ohio 13 on the south side of the city. The city's cost will be $14,000; paving is scheduled for ODOT's fiscal year 2019.
*Authorizing the safety-service director to buy a backhoe for the street department; the approximate cost is $115,000.
*Appointing Jim Sulzer as an alternate member of the Board of Zoning Appeals
*Authorizing the safety-service director to enter into a contract with Specialty Outdoor Services for tree removal on Gambier Street, between Division Street and Center Run, and Wooster Road at a cost of $45,000. Through the tree inventory completed last year, the city identified about 500 trees that need to be removed. The $45,000 was donated to the city by the Ariel Foundation.
*Amended the city's codified ordinances to incorporate changes stemming from the Ohio Revised Code.

Jerry Clinger of the Parks and Recreation Department told council of some changes in store at Hiawatha Water Park for 2017.

Steve Oster of Knox County DD gave a brief overview of services the department provides. Ann Thomas, DD advocate, presented a poster of DD advocate Danielle Brown to Bruce Hawkins, council president, in recognition of National Disabilities Month.

Brianna Cooper-Risser, director of Main Street Mount Vernon, introduced herself to council and gave a brief overview of some the upcoming activities in the downtown area.

State of Ohio forcing county's hand in raising sales tax

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — A recent report from State Auditor Dave Yost's office shows Knox County is in good health financially. Ironically, the good news means county residents will probably see a hike in the county sales tax in the near future.

Yost's office rated Ohio's 88 counties on 17 financial health indicators for 2015. Knox County received positive outlooks on 16 indicators and a cautionary outlook on the indicator relating to the unassigned fund balance in the county's general fund.

Commissioner Thom Collier told KnoxPages.com that the idea behind the ratings “is to show where counties were in fiscal health overall.” The problem, however, is that counties can be penalized for being fiscally prudent. “Something we're required to do to keep our bond rating up, you can be penalized for,” he said.

The unassigned fund balance is the amount of money the county has not allocated to anything. “When we carry over what we don't appropriate, it helps us pay our bills the first of the year,” explained Bemiller.

“I think people confuse carryover with a rainy day fund,” said Collier. “It's not a rainy day fund. We carry over because our tax collections come in February, and we don't see that money until March or April. We have to [have carryover] to meet payroll and pay bills until then.”

“And you have to have money for emergencies,” said Commissioner Roger Reed. “If we have a roof blow off or need a new chiller, we have to have the money to fix it.” Both of these scenarios occurred.

The bad news doesn't stop with the caution flag on the unassigned fund balance.

“As part of this report, it appears that the governor's office is looking at how they fund local government,” said Collier. “It's based on what they call capacity: Do you have a carryover? Have you given raises to people? Have you assessed all of the tax you can locally? If the answers to those questions are yes, yes and no, which ours are, we're not going to be getting any relief from the state.”

It is because of the cuts in funding that Reed believes the motive behind the financial health indicators is that Gov. John Kasich's administration is deliberately looking for ways to cut its budget.

Bemiller said the county will lose $500,000 a year due to the discontinuance of a tax on Medicaid managed care organizations. To make up for that money, the state is giving counties a one-time reimbursement. Knox County will get less than one year's reimbursement. Morrow County, which assesses the full amount of sales tax allotted to it, will get between 3.5 and four years of reimbursement. Vinton County will receive 25 years worth of reimbursement.

“For being efficient and being prudent, we get penalized because we don't have a 'need,'” said Collier.

“Ordinary citizens were hit by the recession. We made 20 percent cuts in 2009 and 2010; we tightened our belt,” said Bemiller. “We came through, but we keep getting our funds cut. We have a lot of capital and infrastructure expenses we neglected during the recession; we want to get back on track.”

Bemiller said that in addition to capital and infrastructure expenses, there are other needs. The increasing use of opiates and heroin has required the hiring of an additional prosecutor and sheriff's deputy, the county jail is completing computer/security upgrades and the county just purchased a body scanner for the jail to control drugs and other contraband.

The public defender's office is another area where costs are rising but reimbursement is lower. A new state mandate requires the public defender's office to have parity with the county prosecutor's office in terms of salary, supplies and space, among other considerations. The state previously reimbursed the county 50 percent of expenses; that was cut to 45 percent, and for 2018, the rate will be 41 percent.

“We have a lot of these mandates, but they don't come with funding, or with enough funding, and yet services have to be rendered,” said Bemiller.

“We have $90 million worth of buildings we're responsible for,” said County Administrator Jason Booth. “During [the recession] capital expenditures were on hold, and now it just snowballs.”

Collier said the county is “bursting at the seams” in terms of space for the Court of Common Pleas, public defender's office and probation office. “We're constantly having a need for more space, which means having to get more parking, more offices and more upkeep,” he said.

The cuts in funding, increasing expenses and being penalized for good financial health have brought the commissioners to the point of considering an increase in the county sales tax.

The last increase was in 1994 and raised the rate to 6.75 percent; one-fourth of that is dedicated to 9-1-1. All of the counties adjacent to Knox have a 7 percent or higher tax rate with the exception of Holmes County, which is at 6.75 percent. The commissioners have to make a decision soon.

“We've held the line and are approaching the point of no return,” said Collier. “Increasing the sales tax has to be a factor in our decision. We only have so many ways to collect funds.”

“The attitude of the state is going toward self-sustaining counties,” said Bemiller, adding that she views it more as a partnership in terms of collecting state money and enforcing state legislation. “We are doing the state's work, but the attitude is changing toward local government and they don't want to fund us.”

“The state's forcing us to put the sales tax on, and that's a doggone shame,” said Reed.

Booth said he has been doing a lot of strategic planning with county department heads trying to forecast budget needs for additional staffing, elevators, concrete, parking lot and roof improvements for the Knox County Jail, and other infrastructure and capital projects.

“We want to have a lot of information behind us before we make a decision, because we want to be able to explain to the citizens [why we're raising the rate],” said Bemiller.

County recycling options added

MOUNT VERNON — Businesses and nonprofit organizations now have a place to drop off recyclables in town, and plans call for the site to be open to residents within the next several weeks.

Andy Durbin will accept cardboard, newspapers, office paper and metal of any kind at 13 Mount Vernon Avenue. Shredded paper is also accepted. Businesses can pay a fee of $35 and receive a key for 24-hour access to the drop-off area. Within the next few weeks, Durbin plans to add Alleycats in the front of his business for residents. For more information call 740-507-5648 or email [email protected]

For commercial Styrofoam recycling, the drop-off location is Opportunity Knox, 17604 Coshocton Road. According to Jill Schlosser of Opportunity Knox, the compactor is having difficulty getting the Styrofoam logs compressed tight enough to withstand wrapping, stacking and transport. Schlosser is meeting next week with manufacturer representatives to solve the problem.

The Mount Vernon Lowe's store continues to recycle appliances, cardboard, Styrofoam and cans. Steve Clark of the local Lowe's is working on instituting a local program that he will ultimately take to the Columbus market.

Countywide, the Delaware-Knox-Marion-Morrow Solid Waste District has added two more recycling containers to the Monroe Township drop-off site. Pleasant Township received a new container near Twin Oak school with twice-a-week pick-ups. Gambier has three containers.

Knox County Recycling & Litter Prevention now has a new logo. A Facebook page will up soon as part of efforts to re-market the program.

People are still dumping tires, carpet, furniture and other trash at the entrance to the compost facility on Thayer Road. Thanks to funding from the solid waste district, new signs will soon be erected denoting no dumping. DKMM and county officials are exploring the idea of providing a key, for a fee of $25, and allowing individuals access to the compost facility during off hours.

Randy Canterbury, county recycling and litter prevention coordinator, will soon announce plans for the annual spring cleanup of county roadways. Plans are also being formulated for Earth Day on April 22 at the Brown Family Environmental Center; activities will run from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
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Rep. Carfagna looks to empower nurses for mental health emergencies

COLUMBUS—State Representatives Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) and Scott Ryan (R-Newark) recently introduced legislation that would add advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with a psychiatric/mental health subspecialty to the list of authorized professionals who are able to carry out mental health holds. The legislation, House Bill 111, was previously carried by Carfagna’s predecessor, former Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl, during the 131st General Assembly. With a 98-0 floor vote, it earned strong bipartisan support in the Ohio House but failed to pass out of the Ohio Senate before year end.

If there is evidence that an individual represents a substantial risk of physical harm to self or others, current Ohio law permits psychiatrists, licensed clinical psychologists, licensed physicians, health officers, parole officers, police officers, and sheriffs to have the individual involuntarily transferred to a hospital for a mental health examination. The hold may last for up to 24 hours.

Adding qualified advanced practice registered nurses as authorized professionals in this realm would provide another important resource to ensure more effective and efficient care for those individuals in need. Carfagna estimates there are approximately 400-500 APRNs with this specialty that would be further empowered under this legislation.

“Ohio’s need for greater mental health resources is compounded by the scarcity of medical professionals that can deal with individuals in crisis,” remarked Carfagna. “By utilizing the expertise of this subset of APRNs, we can further help our most vulnerable citizens when time is of the essence.”

House Bill 111 now awaits a committee designation.

Carfagna represents all of Knox County and part of Delaware County in the Ohio legislature, District 68.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Municipal Court sentences March 7 & 8, 2017

MOUNT VERNON – Judge John Thatcher found seven guilty and issued a warrant for another following trials and a hearing in the Mount Vernon Municipal Court on Wednesday.

Jason E Gross, 40 of Westerville changed his plea and the Court found him guilty of speed, 69mph in a 55mph zone, a third offense in one year. The Court sentenced Gross to pay a fine of $250 plus court costs.

William C. Bollinger, II, 34 of Johnstown was found guilty of speed, 68mph in a 55mph zone, after a trial to the Court. After hearing testimony from Trooper Trey Duplessie of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Mt. Gilead Post, the Court sentenced Bollinger to pay a fine of $50 plus court costs.

Justin L. Pfeiffer, 18 of Howard, was found guilty of possession of marihuana after a trial to the Court. After hearing testimony from Deputy Sergeant Dan Selby of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the Court sentenced Pfeiffer to pay a fine of $75 plus court costs.

Andrew T. Meeker, 21 of Gambier, was found guilty of failing to obey a traffic control device after a trial to the Court. After hearing testimony from Deputy Kevin Williams of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the Court sentenced Meeker to pay a fine of $35 plus court costs.

Gregory V. Stoutenburgh, Jr., 47 of Mount Vernon, changed his plea and the Court found him guilty of speed, 59mph in a 55mph zone. The Court sentenced Stoutenburgh to pay a fine of $75 plus court costs.

Simon M. Boucher, 33 of Mount Vernon, failed to appear for his court trial. The Court issued a warrant for his arrest with county and adjoining county radius and set bond in the amount of $250 cash or surety bond without the application of the 10% provision.

The following cases were resolved before Judge Thatcher on Tuesday:

Devin Berry, 29 of Howard, changed his plea and the Court found him guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drug of abuse. The Court sentenced Berry to pay a fine of $500 plus court costs, serve 180 days with 177 days suspended, placed him on two years community control, ordered he attend a 72 hour Driver Intervention Program, and suspended his license for one year.

Charles P. Chapman, 47 of Howard, changed his plea and the Court found him guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drug of abuse. The Court sentenced Chapman to pay a fine of $500 plus court costs, serve 180 days in jail with 177 days suspended, placed him on two years community control, ordered he attend a 72 hour Driver Intervention Program, and suspended his license for one year.

Jonathan R. Noel, 38 of Mount Vernon, changed his pleas and the Court found him guilty of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drug of abuse and obstructing official business. The Court sentenced him to pay a fine of $500 plus court costs, serve 180 days with 177 days suspended, placed him on two years community control, ordered he be fitted with an electronic alcohol monitoring device, attend a 72 hour Driver Intervention Program, and suspended his license for one year.

Michael A. Miller, 33 of Mount Vernon, failed to appear for his scheduled hearing. The Court issued a warrant for his arrest with county and adjoining county radius and set bond in the amount of $1,000 cash or surety without the application of the 10% provision.

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