Council OKs Leadership Park plan

Tiffin City Council approved legislation to allow Leadership Seneca County to build Leadership Park at its meeting Monday.

John Kerschner from Leadership Seneca County said the park and pavilion would be erected in the green space between Perry and Market streets near the east side of the Sandusky River. Kerschner said the infrastructure for water and electricity already exists and will allow for events and concessions. He assured council the park and pavilion can be maintained with the green space’s current infrastructure.

The pavilion also is to be built with materials to make it easily maintained.

He said the organization expects the project to be completed by May, but that depends on the amount of money provided by the city and the amount of money raised.

The organization requested $20,000 from the city for the project. Kerschner said Leadership Seneca County already has raised $1,000.

He said improvements were dependent on funding, and the first phase of the project would be to build the pavilion. If more money is raised, features such as landscaping and lighting could be added.

Kerschner said Leadership Seneca County wanted to keep the project under $50,000. Finance Director Gwynn Reinhart said the organization would have to consider the cost of volunteer labor within the cost, and may still have to bid the project out.

Law Director Brent Howard said the costs of donated services must be included in design specifications. He also said bidding the project out may result in contractors providing lower bids than the estimated cost.

Howard said due to the length of time needed for fundraising, the project would be more likely to be completed in the summer.

Kerschner also said that although the Leadership Seneca County class will graduate in May, the class will see the project through to completion.

Councilman Rich Focht said the park can be an economic development tool that will enhance the value of the community. He also said the organization must be realistic with the time frame.

Councilman Mark Hayes suggested matching the funds that Leadership Seneca County raises.

Councilwoman Lori Ritzler said that if council decided to provide money, it would set a precedent for other organizations wanting to undertake similar projects.

She supported Hayes’ idea of matching the funds raised.

Council voted unanimously to approve the project and match funds raised by Leadership Seneca County by Oct. 1 up to $20,000.

Council also discussed Fire Safer Grant Funding. The $775,000 grant already has been awarded to the city and council must accept the funding.

Tiffin Fire Chief Bill Ennis said the grant would allowed the city to hire four firefighters and a deputy chief for two years.

If the city accepts the funding, Ennis said by April 3, four firefighters should be hired. The deputy chief position would take longer to fill.

Hayes also asked whether money budgeted for overtime could be reduced if the additional firefighters are hired and Ennis said he would hope to cut overtime if the grant is accepted.

Ennis said he was confident that those hired during the grant funding would not lose their jobs when funding runs out because he intends to look into applying for the grant again.

Council asked Howard to prepare legislation to accept the funding.

In other business, Ritzler said she had a call from a 3rd Ward resident regarding a delinquent sewer bill. The bill was not delinquent at the time of the purchase of the property, but was delinquent by closing.

City Administrator Deb Reamer said she had received calls as well, and residents become concerned when the bill is assessed on taxes.

She said in one case, the resident had evicted a tenant from his property and now must pay the delinquent bill.

Focht said it was the “price of ownership” and that residents should be more proactive in checking bills when looking at a property.

Hayes suggested Howard send letters to title companies requesting them to look at bills and inform residents selling or buying property on possible future deliquencies.

Howard also brought up several zoning issues affecting Highland Park and the surrounding areas.

He said several streets and alleys were never vacated after the area was annexed into the city in the 1970s.

To build the Bark Park on the land, the city will have to vacate the streets and alleys and create park property.

Council approved legislation for the vacations.

Howard also said when the city annexed the Highland Park property, the city never rezoned the area. According to state law, once the property is annexed to a municipality, it retains its old zoning in the jurisdiction in the township until the city establishes the zoning classification for the property.

An area outside of Highland Park also is affected by the state law.

Howard said the rezoning should not delay building of the Bark Park.

Council asked him to prepare legislation to allow for rezoning of both areas to residential.