The following is the latest installment of Mayor Jim Boroff's monthly updates on city issues.
Sewer separation. I have reported a number of times about the progress of the Phase III Sewer Separation, which, by the way, is going very well. One question that continues to surface is, "Why do the contractors dig in one area, then cover it over, only to return later to continue the work?"
The main reason for this seemingly spotty work is related to the equipment used to do the excavation. Some of the areas in the project area have sewer lines that run very deep up to 30 feet below the surface. The contractors, Underground Utilities, do not have a trencher that reaches that level and needed to rent a bigger unit that could dig that far down.
This larger trencher was quite expensive, costing thousands of dollars a day. Therefore, it made sense to tackle all of the deeper areas first while they were renting the equipment and then come back to finish the rest of the work.
Federal highway projects. Virtually all the T's have been crossed and I's dotted with the federal and state government on the Miami Street project near Tiffin University. Construction is set to begin any day now with substantial completion expected on or about the middle of November.
The Greenfield Street project on the Heidelberg University campus is moving forward, albeit at a slightly slower pace, and the North Sandusky Street rebuild funds have just now been released. These federal highway earmark projects will be real assets for our citizens. However, in comparison to many other publicly funded projects, the paperwork and preparation documentation has been extremely heavy and cumbersome. We must work on their timetable, which makes it difficult to determine just when these projects will be started, much less when they will be completed.
Water company acquisition. When I took office a year ago January, one of my objectives was to undertake a study to ascertain the feasibility of the city acquiring the local water system. Some preliminary work was done, and I have had discussions with other officials from other cities that operate their own systems, but the project was put on hold while we grappled with other financial issues.
Given that the municipalities and townships served by Ohio American Water Co. perennially have been subject to rate increase requests, and that a newly proposed increase is fairly substantial, I feel it is time to resume the study. My next step will be to form a blue-ribbon committee to study the possible acquisition. This committee will be composed of people from all facets of the city.
Among those topics to be studied include the potential cost and method(s) of financing the acquisition; the condition of the existing infrastructure and the expenses involved in any immediate repairs or enhancements; operational considerations including expenses, maintenance and human resource needs; water quality testing, licensing and monitoring requirements; and whether the operation of the system would be financially self-sustaining.
Any move toward self-sufficiency in providing our own drinking water would be a huge undertaking and must be severely scrutinized before we even could consider moving forward. The study could take many years and hundreds of hours before we have all the data that we need and then, we might find it is not advisable to go it alone. However, I believe it is worth the effort to ensure the citizens of Tiffin are getting the best possible service and the most affordable rates for their water service.
Citizens' initiative ordinance. About five years ago, the voters were asked to approve a temporary allocation reduction of the income tax proceeds from 21.5 percent to 10 percent for capital improvements. At that time, it was recognized more and more of our capital improvement requirements were being funded by grants and other outside support. This initiative ordinance met with overwhelming support and since that time has been extremely important in helping us to effectively manage our finances without having to seek any tax increases.
The ordinance is set to expire at the end of next year. This coming November, we are asking the voters to renew the ordinance for another six years, beginning in January 2011. The renewal would not affect your taxes nor would it limit City Council to what it can spend on capital improvements. They can always choose to allocate more than 10 percent if they desire.
What it does is allow Council and the administration to better manage city funds, which can best be demonstrated as follows: In the past seven years, city income tax revenue has risen on average only about 1 percent a year (not taking into consideration this year's sharp decline in receipts). During this same period of time, city expenses have averaged a 3 percent increase every year. Even with the higher costs of operation, we have managed to maintain levels of expected services.
If this initiative measure does not pass, the general fund will take an expected $700,000 hit in 2011, which would severely impact our ability to provide essential services to our residents. I urge you to support this initiative ordinance and give Council and the administration the flexibility to do what you elect them to do - effectively and wisely manage the city's finances.
If you have any questions about any issues facing the city, please feel free to write to me in care of 51 E. Market St., Tiffin, or at email@example.com. I am happy to speak with anyone who has concerns, suggestions or questions about the city. You may call my office at (419) 448-5401 or stop by without an appointment. To ensure I am available, please call ahead.
is mayor of Tiffin.