Wellsville Village Council held their one regularly scheduled monthly meeting a week ago today, August 2. Present at that meeting was Mayor Joe Surace, Council members Sue Haugh, Rosie Goss, Joe Soldano, Randy Allmon, John McMahon and Tony Cataldo. Also attending was Village Legal Advisor Andy Beech, Village Administrator Jim Saracco, Fiscal Officer Dale Davis, Zoning Administrator Rick Williams and WFD Chief Bill Smith.
Cindy Slavens, Founder & Executive Director of the Family & Community Resource Center (FCRC), was first up in the Public Speaking portion of the agenda. She announced plans for a “Back to School Event” planned for August 12, hopefully at the Jim Kenney Center. The FCRC is a non-profit group that is putting on the free lunches at the Kenney Center two days a week. They are located in Lisbon and Slavens said they are looking to relocate their headquarters in the Wellsville area. Slavens also introduced Bunnie Ferro of the Ferro Family Missions. Mrs . Ferro is the Site Supervisor at the Kenney Center for FCRC.
In addition to talking about the back to school party, Mrs. Ferro announced that her family has been doing missionary work in the area since 2002. She related that the Ferro Family Missions have a “vision for a homeless shelter” in the area which will have 24/7 supervision. Their goal is to rehabilitate homeless members and help them turn their lives around. Mrs. Ferro also hopes to get together with area churches in a cooperative effort to begin a food pantry feeding those in need at the Kenney Center. She related that the Wellsville area has a definite need for both a homeless shelter and a food pantry.
Broadway resident Randy Mackall, representing the Wellsville First Christian Church, was next up in Public Speaking. He announced that the church was also planning “a first annual Back Pack Bash” on August 13, similar to the RCFC event next Friday. We'll advertise that tomorrow in a separate post. It's loaded with activities and Mackall was seeking permission to block Main Street between 8th St. & 9th St. from 10 AM to 3 PM for safety reasons. Mackall related the Bash was a community outreach program with “a mission to supply the “students and families of Wellsville with school supplies and fun at absolutely no charge”. A motion was passed to permit the street to be blocked off after the proper paper work was filled out and approved.
Don Brown, President of the Wellsville Veteran's Memorial Council, stated that he is strongly opposed of any kind of drilling in Springhill Cemetery. Brown stated he believes a cemetery is sacred ground and “in Springhill there is between 1,200 to 1,400 veterans buried there”. They date back to the Civil War. Councilwoman Haugh stated she understands Mr. Brown's feelings. However, she noted that any company drilling for oil or natural gas in the Marcellus or Utica shale can go through the cemetery ground whether Council agrees to it or not. Haugh further stated after having done extensive research she found that drilling can be done horizontally from surrounding property, whether Council has given their permission or not. It would be approximately 7,000 feet below the surface.
In a Special Council meeting on July 28 Council members voted to enter into an agreement with the Association Landowners of Ohio Valley (ALOV) to have them represent the Village in negotiating with drilling companies for leasing land for oil and natural gas explortion in those shale regions. Wellsville has nearly 277 acres of available property to lease for drilling. Property included is located in Hammond's Park, the old reservoir, Springhill Cemetery and the old city dump. In the resolution passed to go with ALOV only the old dump was noted to allow for surface drilling. The parcels at the other three locations will only allow sub-surface (or horizontal) drilling from nearby land owned by other individuals. We been informed that property owners right behind the cemetery have already signed leases.
ALOV is a non-profit association that Council's Property Committee recommended to full Council to represent the Village. After doing a lot of research it was found that if Council didn't agree to lease acreage at the cemetery, Hammond's Park and the reservoir the drilling companies could still go after the natural gas under that land. Wellsville would lose any possible revenue that they could possible earn in those areas. With allowing only sub-surface drilling in those areas there will be no unsightly drilling rigs or platforms evident. The Property Committee hopes to put any funds earned from leasing the land into Capital Improvements for any grants requiring matching funds. Wellsville has had to pass up millions in grant money in the past because there wasn't money to meet the matching fund requirements.
The final speaker was Commerce Street resident Tim Long. Long is one of the organizers for the annual Dash for Mat's Bash that takes place in the fall. Mathugh Johnston died at the age of 15 a few years ago and a scholarship fund was established in his honor. The Dash is one of the fund raising events that sponsor those scholarships. Long was asking permission to have the streets blocked for the annual event. It is set for Saturday, October 15. Council voted to approve the street closure pending the proper paperwork is filled out and approved. Last year's event had 540 registrations and even more are expected for this year's race.
In the Mayor's Report, Joe Surace complimented everyone that got involved in the community clean-up effort recently. He said it turned out real well. He also thanked the FCRC for the party they sponsored later that same day.
Fire Chief Bill Smith reported the Fire Department responded to a total of 56 incidents as of July 31 for the year. Out of that 19 were for investigations and 18 were full fire calls. For reasons he can't determine the number of fire calls are down this year compared to 2010 figures. Smith also noted he had been trying to set up a town “meeting with the State & a couple of other agencies” to explain the new home owner flood insurance rate maps. However, he said he has received notification that FEMA is still making changes for any community that has a flood control system rated “below grade”. Consequently no date has been determined for his town meeting. The maps are available for review at the Fire Station but the insurance rates are still being worked on.
For the Finance Committee, Chairman Tony Cataldo reported that as of the end of June the General Fund had $8,900, the Street Fund had $6,700 and the Cemetery Fund had $6,900 in rounded off figures. Total of all funds for June was $342,200. Cataldo noted that at the end of May the total of all funds was $414,000 but said there was a $70,000 “payment out of Sewage”. He must have been referring to the Sewage Update Fund. There was $77,873 spent out of that fund in June, probably for the upgrades taking place at the Sewage Treatment Plant. They don't like to elaborate too much on expenditures at Council meetings. Cataldo said he would be going over the figures and calling a meeting in the “next week”.
For Streets, Lights and Parking, Chairman John McMahon asked the Village Administrator if he had a chance to look at the lights that were out in Broadway Park. Saracco responded he had not but would have Kevin check them when he returns from vacation.
McMahon also reported that he has had complaints about people dumping garbage in other people's dumpsters. One in particular was at the Alumni Center where someone had dumped mattresses and old springs. McMahon noted there are ordinances against that and if caught violators could be fined.
The last item McMahon reported on was a company called Premier Gas opening a hole along Main St. The Administrator said he didn't know who it was. Apparently they replaced concrete with hot patch after completing their job. Tony Cataldo noted that companies need to get permits to open up the streets, cut curbs and sidewalks. Violators should be cited into Court. Saracco said he went to check on it and the workers “were done and gone”. The Zoning Administrator said that last year they had a zoning permit to work in town. He would have to check the expiration on that permit. Saracco said he would have to get contact information from the Zoning Office. Apparently Premier did not contact anyone a Village Hall prior to digging. Plans for any work like that has to be submitted and fees paid in order to obtain permits as stated per Village ordinances.
Rosie Goss advised she had to check if there is an ordinance on the books or something else covering required fences around swimming pools. No one was certain if it was covered by Ohio Revised Code or if there had to be a local ordinance.
Goss also asked that everyone keep the parishioners of the Immaculate Conception Church in their prayers in their quest to keep that church open. Goss stated that she was very impressed by those parishioners. Goss said she was advised that all electricity to the building has been recently shut off . She is hoping that everyone will “get behind them” and support them.
Showing his lack of familiarity of Ohio's Sunshine Law, Councilman Cataldo made a motion “to go into Executive Session for sewage contracts” under New Business. The motion was seconded by Randy Allmon. According to the newspaper reporter present, that was not one of the permissible reasons allowed by the Sunshine Law to go behind closed doors, where upon the Village Legal Advisor suggested the motion be changed to asking legal advise on a contract.
Council then retired behind closed doors for 16 minutes. No comment was made or action taken in regard to any contract when they returned. We suspect that “sewage contract” has something to do with the proposed forced main project and issues on easements for that project. At a Property Committee meeting yesterday, August 8, called “regarding the Force Main”, Property Committee Chairwoman Haugh went into Executive Session regarding “legal issues to purchase property”. That session lasted for 52 minutes. Again when everyone returned there were no comments or action taken to recommended anything to Council. The Committee meeting was promptly adjourned. In today's newspaper Haugh was quoted as saying “that the village is still attempting to acquire easements for the project”. We suspect there was no joy in river city as a result of that committee meeting yesterday.
The forced main is a sewage line that conveys raw sewage to the Sewage Treatment Plant. Many parts of the line are what was orginally put in several years ago and is beginning to show extreme wear and tear with costly line breaks. Replacing it is one of Cataldo's pet projects. Engineer Bill Boyle formerly of GG&J did preliminary planning on it nearly a year ago. Getting the project started was held up pending an EPA decision on the balance of the STAG funds.
Last Tuesday's regular Council meeting was adjourned at 6:55 PM. The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, September 6 at 6 PM.