Council reorganization mulled

Tiffin City Council is to consider restructuring its committees after discussion in a Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday.

Councilman Rich Cline proposed the restructuring at the last council meeting and suggested adding an Economic Development and Downtown Planning Committee.

Cline, council’s president-elect, said the current Law and Community Planning Committee is a catch-all committee and takes care of many of the issues that come through council.

“We have to ask ourselves do we, as a city council, No. 1, spend more time talking about economic development items versus utilities,” he said. “And No. 2, if we were to try to focus our attention on one of the two, which would we ideally like to focus our attention on?”

Cline said he would like to put more emphasis on economic development and more evenly distribute the workload among the council committees.

He said that when he chaired the Utilities and Related Services Committee, the committee only met a few times.

“The role of city council in respect to utilities, continues to diminish and we continue to grow in our capacity with economic development,” he said. “I see it as a positive change for city council and the city of Tiffin.”

Cline also said the proposed committee would not go around Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. but would promote communication between council and SIEDC. He said the committee would help communicate the city’s goals to SIEDC.

“I see that committee as, in terms of taking a more active role, it would be to establish a priority list that we want SIEDC working on,” he said.

Councilman Brian Bilger said it would be easier for SIEDC to meet with a committee rather than the entire city council.

Councilwoman Lori Ritzler said the purpose of committees was to address requests from the public. She said that she felt Cline wanted to change the purpose of the new committee to make it more proactive.

She also said the Law and Community Planning Committee already is in contact with SIEDC and the two are required to meet twice a year.

She said that under current committee organization, an issue has the opportunity to go through more committees. If a new committee is created, she said fewer council members would come in contact with a particular issue.

Councilman-elect Steve Lepard said he was not against the idea, but suggested economic development issues be discussed with all council members in Committee of the Whole meetings.

Councilman Joe Hartzell suggested outlining a purpose for the proposed committee and the direction the committee would take.

Council President Paul Elchert suggested instead of focusing only on downtown development, the committee be created to focus on economic development as a whole.

Elchert also was concerned about the public reaction to the possible change, as the city already has supported economic development.

Councilman Mark Hayes suggested combining the Utilities and Related Services Committee and the Streets, Sidewalks and Sewers Committee, then adding the proposed Economic Development Committee to the Law and Community Planning Committee.

Cline said that it would reduce the number of committees and one council member would not be able to chair a committee.

Law Director Brent Howard suggested changing the name of the Law and Community Planning Committee to the Economic Development Committee since the function ultimately would be the same.

Cline suggested trying the change and if council did not like the restructuring, they could change it back.

Mayor Aaron Montz said council should not be afraid to change committees and to consider what would be best for the city.

An ordinance restructuring the committees is to be prepared for the next council meeting.

In other business, City Administrator Deb Reamer answered questions concerning the potential change in phone service.

Volli will not increase the rates and the service is month-to-month. The equipment lease also has a two-year term, she said.

Finance Director Gwynn Reinhart said that if the cost of equipment was put into 2014’s budget, then it would not have to be leased and could be paid for up front.

Volli also will allow the equipment to be reused if the city would like to switch to a different carrier in the future.

Reamer said Volli would work directly with Time Warner Cable to create a smooth transition between carriers.

The city would keep internet services with Time Warner Cable.