School travel proposal debuts

North Central Ohio Regional Council of Governments Director John Davoli introduced the Safe Routes to Schools Travel Plan in a public hearing at the Tiffin City Council meeting Monday.

He said the plan showed cooperation between the schools involved and city government.

David Shipps from TranSystems Inc. said Safe Routes to Schools is an international movement that focuses on removing barriers and making improvements to walking and biking within two miles of schools educating students from kindergarten to grade 8.

The Ohio program is managed by Ohio Department of Transportation and its goal is to encourage more students to walk and bike, along with making walking and biking routes safer for all users.

The grant funds up to $500,000 for infrastructure projects, such as painting ladder crosswalks, adding signage and adding more accessible curb ramps in downtown. Also included in the grant is funding for construction, design and right-of-way acquisition.

The grant also can fund up to $30,000 for non-infrastructure projects. Included in possible non-infrastructure changes are promoting the Safety City program, providing information for general safety and encouraging Walk and Bike to School days.

The city also can provide students with Radio Frequency Identification tags that would allow parents to receive a notification when their student passes into the range of sensors placed at their school.

The Safe Routes to Schools Travel Plan was created after looking at students’ pathways around town and completing student and parent surveys. Shipps said with that information, a list of recommendations was compiled for improvements in Tiffin.

Recommendations include lighting for the Benner Street trail and installing beacons on the back of school zone signs to show drivers when they are leaving the zone.

Shipps also said repainting crosswalks in ladder style would be a possible improvement.

The plan has been completed, and the next step is to incorporate the public’s comments and prioritize projects. Shipps said a certified cost estimate must be submitted with the plan for the grant. Requests for grant funding are due by March 3.

In public comment, Scott Ballinger from AQUA said the water company was filing a rate increase request with Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

He said the potential rate increase for Tiffin is 12.8 percent. For a bill for 4,000 gallons per month, the increase would be $5.96.

The rate increase is necessary to invest in infrastructure upgrades for Tiffin, he said.

“AQUA must continue investing in our treatment plants, our infrastructure and our work force,” he said. “Over the past 18 months, AQUA has and will continue to invest in service reliability (and) water quality to remain in (Ohio Environmental Protection Agency) compliance, and AQUA has invested capital dollars of $1.6 million.”

He said in 2015 and 2016, AQUA is expecting to put forth about $2.7 million and $2.1 million in capital investments, respectively.

He said PUCO has final determination on the rate increase and the process could take up to nine months.

Council President Rich Cline asked for more information regarding how much revenue Tiffin would generate for AQUA if rates were increased and how much of Tiffin’s residents’ money would be going back into Tiffin for items such as infrastructure improvements.

Law Director Brent Howard said the city has the right to participate in the case and would have to hire an expert to assist in the case if the city wished to fight the rate increase. He said once the case was filed, all the filings would be accessible online.

Ballinger is to provide more information to council and Howard is to investigate costs associated with moving against the rate increase.

The issue was referred to the Law and Community Planning committee.

Mayor Aaron Montz said council should again consider regulating trash haulers in the city. He said due to issues with the weather, the city is getting complaints about trash pickup and is not getting responses from the haulers.

He also said the Solid Waste District grant for adding items such as trash containers, dog waste stations and planter boxes made from recycled material for downtown has been turned down because the city does not have a recycling program.

Council is to hold a committee of the whole meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 to discuss legislation regarding trash hauling.

Montz also asked council to look into joining energy aggregator Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council.

He said the consortium is the No. 1 energy aggregator in the nation and is looking to expand its territory. He said at the next meeting he will have a request for council to join NOPEC.

Montz said the city would get a seat on the board of directors, as the city would be the first entity to join in Seneca County.

Montz also said grant applications for the multipurpose trail system have been submitted and the city should find out results in late August or early September.

He said a letter of intent for the streetscape project has been turned in and the city should find out in mid-March whether it has been approved to go forward on the grant.

Finance Director Gwynn Reinhart said in her report the General Fund unencumbered balance as of Jan. 31 was $1,754,531.18.

Municipal income tax receipts are down 4.4 percent from January 2013. Reinhart said as of Monday, deposits totaled $90,539.16, and on Feb. 1, 2013, the total was about $46,000. Reinhart said she expects receipts to stay ahead.

The unexpended balance for all funds was $12,155,468.26.

In written communication, Montz requested legislation to appropriate a $500 donation from Tiffin Westgate Ltd. to be appropriated into the Police Dog Program budget for 2014. The request was moved to the finance committee.

A request allowing the transfer of a liquor license from Hari Petroleum LLC to B&B Retail Management LLC, doing business as B&B Food Mart, was referred to the Streets, Sidewalks and Sewers committee.

Reinhart also reported all unclaimed checks more than 1 year old would be written off.

Due to President’s Day, all non-essential city offices are to be closed Feb. 17. The next city council meeting is to be held at 7: 45 p.m. Feb. 18. A public hearing is to be held to discuss an ordinance regarding rezoning of Highland Park.

A public hearing is to be held at 7:45 p.m. March 3 to discuss an ordinance vacating streets and alleys within Highland Park in the Second Ward.

In other business, council approved with a vote of 6-0:

The mayor’s appointment of Stephan Kisan to fill an unexpired term on the Civil Service Commission until Dec. 31, 2015.

A ordinance accepting the plans for development of the city’s downtown riverfront property to be known as Leadership Park and authorizing a match of up to $20,000 for the cost of improvements, declaring an emergency and suspending the three-reading rule.

An ordinance accepting a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on behalf of Tiffin Fire/Rescue Division, declaring an emergency and suspending the three-reading rule.