President of Council Marjorie Harlow called Council to order on July
21, 2010 , at 7:00 p.m.
The governmental body and those in attendance recited the pledge of allegiance. Mrs. McNear gave the invocation.
Mrs. McNear took roll call. Present were Council members Diehl, Emerson, Galster, Hawkins, Squires, Vanover and Harlow.
The minutes of June 16, 2010 were approved with seven affirmative votes.
COMMITTEE AND OFFICIAL REPORTS
Civil Service Commission - no report
Rules and Laws - Mr. Hawkins stated at the June 18 meeting they decided to not have any more meetings until the subcommittee is finished with their meetings of Rules of Council Review. The Rules of Council Review Subcommittee met on July 1 and is making very good progress toward suggested changes.
Finance Committee - no report
Planning Commission - Mr. Galster said they met July 13. The Wireless Communication tower conditional use permit at 11970 Kenn Road was withdrawn by the applicant. Kerry Ford, 155 West Kemper Road modification to the north elevation was approved 7-0. The initial request for minor improvements at Pep Boys at 11452 Springfield Pike was denied 3-4. The applicant asked the board to reconsider without painting the elevations and using the natural stone, just having a band painted around the sign on the top of the west elevation and trim paint done around the gutters and top of building. There was a motion to reconsider and with the revision that passed 7-0. A pole sign modification at Tri County Town Centre was approved 7-0. Ashleys Morris Furniture, 11755 Commons Drive requested a revision to an approved development plan for interior expansion and exterior fašade improvements. That was approved 7-0. Signage for Front Room Furnishings at 11750 Commons Drive was approved 7-0.
Mr. Vanover said Morris Furniture will have five store fronts. There will be Morris Furniture, home theater, discount outlet center and more.
Board of Zoning Appeals Mr. Hawkins reported on July 20 they approved a variance for a pergola at 221 Diston Lane. A request for a pole sign at 55 Progress Place (Group Health Associates) was denied. They already have a monument sign. Jake Sweeney, 85 West Kemper Road requested a variance for a tent. That was tabled.
Board of Health - no report
O-K-I - no report
Mayors Report Mayor Webster said Mr. Parham and I will try to keep you updated on the electric aggregation progress we have made especially for the municipal facilities. It looks like we saved over 58 percent just on this one municipal building. Weve averaged the electric bills over the last five years and compared them with what we paid for this year.
Mayor Webster said on Monday, June 21 there was an article in the local paper, Local Campaigns Owe Millions. There were four campaigns identified and one was identified as Committee to Keep Springdale. They left out the word Great. The article says that committee owes nearly $45,000 including interest for a campaign law violation. Needless to say it arouses my curiosity to see whats going on here. We formed a committee in 2004 when we increased the earnings tax. We had to go before the voters and get them to support the effort to increase the earnings tax from one to one and a half percent. Dave Okum volunteered to be the treasurer of that committee because it couldnt be an elected official. I immediately called Dave and he gave me a rundown on this. Here is an excellent letter that Dave gave me last Tuesday night in regards to this:
Dear Mayor Webster: I am writing to clear up any misperceptions caused by a recent Cincinnati Enquirer article about the now-defunct Committee to Keep Springdale Great.
In a June 20, 2010 article headlined Local campaign groups owe Ohio big bucks in fines, interest, Enquirer reporter Jon Craig wrote that our former political action committee owes nearly $45,000 in fines for a campaign finance violation. This report is simply inaccurate. The real facts are straightforward and already known to much of the community. I served as treasurer for this committee, which was formed in conjunction with an initiative on the March, 2004 ballot. The committee filed its final campaign finance report and closed its bank account shortly after the election.
This final campaign finance report balanced to the penny. Nonetheless, the Ohio Elections Commission claimed two canceled checks were not attached to the filing (the committee had received its statements electronically). As a result, the Commission declared the report to be in violation of Ohios campaign finance laws and began fining it $25 per day until the canceled checks were provided.
I was never properly notified of the situation as the committee was no longer a functional entity. That is, I was simply unaware that these fines were being levied on a daily basis. As a result, the committee ultimately amassed fines of more than $40,000.
What the Enquirer did not report. However, was that I resolved this issue as soon as I became aware of it. I obtained the canceled checks from the Northside Bank and Trust Company and submitted a corrected report. The Hamilton County Board of Elections provided immeasurable assistance in resolving the matter. Further, my attorney negotiated a settlement agreement with the Ohio Attorney Generals Office regarding the fines. In the end, I paid only $350.00 in fines and costswith the balance being written off as a mistake. My largest expense was the legal fees I personally paid to resolve the matter.
All told, the Commission swept away the tens of thousands of dollars in ridiculous fines and the matter was settled amicably months before the article was written. At no time did the Commission or the Board of Elections ever allege any accounting irregularities in the campaign finance report. No litigation was ever filed. The sole issue was an alleged clerical errorthe purported failure to attach two canceled checks in 2004.
This information was apparently not relayed to the Enquirer reporter. Please note that this reporter did not call me before writing his story. My attorney has attempted to get the newspaper to print a correction, but has been unsuccessful to date. The Attorney Generals Office, however, continues to show a zero-dollar balance on this account.
I hope this letter corrects any misperceptions about my volunteer service. If necessary, I would be happy to further discuss this matter with any interested parties.
Sincerely, David Okum
Mayor Webster said I dont know how you folks feel but this is just shoddy journalism. If they can smear somebody they can do it, no leg work, no investigation was done in this report at all. I personally think this reporter should be fired. I think its terrible for a journalist to put out this kind of garbage. Thats exactly what it is. I dont know if all of them were issues. There was a Council candidate in Cincinnati, Citizens for Cheviot and Hamilton County Conservative Forum owes nearly $600,000. The whole thing is garbage and I thought the record needed to be set straight that the Committee to Keep Springdale Great did its job and Dave did a yeomans job for us. I appreciate his service and I want the record to indicate that. He at no time did anything illegal, unethical or anything else.
Mr. Galster said, in reference to Mr. Okum paying out of pocket $350, I have no problem making a contribution. He did a wonderful job. He took on that position when we were trying to get that income tax increase passed in 2004. I have no problem trying to make him whole as far as his legal fees and what he incurred.
Mayor Webster said what he didnt say in the letter is that he incurred about $1,000 in legal fees along with $350 in fines. Then when I started asking questions and talking to his attorney, he got another bill for another $180. Hes out $1500 to $1600 because he dared to raise his hand and do that for the City. Im certainly going to make a generous contribution to Mr. Okum to help offset that cost. If anyone wants to join in Im sure he would appreciate it.
Mrs. Harlow stated its a shame it happened that way because Mr. Okum has been a model for many of us to follow. He has been a mentor to many of us. Hes always done an excellent job.
Mayor Webster said next time around someone would be reluctant to volunteer if this is the kind of stuff they have to go through. I dont know where the blame lies. I blame the reporter for not getting the facts straight, but somewhere the Attorney Generals Office or the Ethics Commission dropped the ball.
Clerk of Council/Finance Director Mrs. McNear said halfway through the year you would expect fifty percent revenue and expenses. Our general fund receipts were anticipated at $16 million. Through June 30 we have received $8.9 million, fifty-six percent. Most of our revenue is made up of earnings tax, real estate, local government funds, estate tax and paramedic services, which is ninety-two percent of our revenue. Its exactly the same as the first quarter. We had ninety-two percent and ninety-two percent. We have expended forty-six percent of our budget. Our net expenditure was expected to be $14.9 million and we have expended $7.2 million through June 30. The picture looks well with those percentages but keep in mind that whenever you are dealing with finances, there are timing differences. Last year at this time we were in the same general position, but the bottom kind of fell out in the third quarter as the economy tanked. At this point it looks rather stable and hopefully will continue on through the rest of the year in this fashion.
Administrators Report Mr. Parham reported the Police Department is sponsoring a program that will be held August 6 and 7 called Cop on Top Building Sit. The Police Chief and a number of other officers will not actually sit on the building at Walgreens. There will be scaffolding there where they will spend thirty-six hours straight in order to raise funds for the Special Olympics of Ohio. They have requested volunteers to help sit on the scaffolding or to assist in some other way. There will be a couple of radio stations there also.
We were fortunate enough to be notified that we have received funding from the Ohio Attorney Generals Office for the DARE grant fund. We will receive $17,452 for the 2010-2011 school year. Its to cover about fifty percent of the salary for the DARE officer. Officer Bemmes submitted our application in June 2010 and we just received notification this past week.
Mr. Parham reported last year we had the Home Improvement Program where we received $20,000 from the Community Development Block Grant Program and we were able to assist residents in making exterior improvements to their homes. They could be reimbursed up to $1,000. It was a very successful program last year, so successful that the funds for 2010 are already gone at this point. To date we have approved twenty-two applications that cover the entire $20,000. We have a waiting list of ten. Thirteen projects have been reimbursed in the amount of $11,456. The total improvement value to date is $27,346. I believe last year we had twenty-four applications with around $35,000 in improvements. This program works tremendously. We have been approved for a third year in which well get $20,000 from the Community Development Block Grant Program again.
Mr. Parham stated I reported at the June 16 meeting that our chipper crews were about a week behind schedule, primarily because of the storms we experienced plus the amount of branches being set out by the residents. That following Monday we were hit with a pretty sizeable storm on June 21 so that pushed us back even further. I think we received a concerned call or two at the office. Effective this week, we are on schedule. Hopefully there wont be any other storms that come and knock us off schedule.
Mr. Parham said last year we embarked on a program to treat the ash trees in the community because of the emerald ash borer that has populated the State of Ohio. It has hit Michigan pretty hard. So far we have not identified any cases here in Springdale. Last year we treated 252 of our ash trees. The two areas of focus were Glenview subdivision (183 trees) and the municipal complex (69 trees). We received a very favorable bid of $9,800 from Back Tree Service for that treatment. At that time there were 295 right-of-way trees that we said we would get a bid on and have a sense of what that cost would be. Since last year and with the storms weve had, a number of trees were destroyed. The Public Works Director has recommended that we treat only 184 of the 295. The department has inventoried all of the trees and for a number of reasons, has suggested that we do not treat 111 of them. Some of the reasons for not treating the trees are: they may have had a poor root system or the branching structure was not in good shape and then there was some type of a disease that is affecting the trees themselves. There are some trees that appear to be very healthy trees, particularly the ones down by the cemetery, but they are sizeable trees continuing to grow and in some areas are raising the sidewalks. The Department has put together a booklet that identifies each tree and why they recommend a particular tree not be treated. Weve received a bid of $9,971 for treating the 184 trees from Back Tree Service. Davey Tree submitted a bid of $20,515. Last year we had a very similar situation. Not only did we receive a bid from Back Tree Service that was much lower than the others, but we also had others who submitted higher bids that were a different type of treatment system. We chose to go with the treatment system that we have here. One vendor submitted a process to treat the roots as opposed to the actual tree itself. I asked Mr. Agricola to get a cost if we decide to treat the other 111. That cost would be $7,300. One would think that the difference with fewer trees, the cost would be much lower; however, some of the 111 trees are much larger than those in the 184 grouping. Therefore, those trees would require more injections than the smaller ones. We budgeted $12,000 for the treatment of trees in this years budget. At the same time there are some other features in that line item such as the replacement of trees, planting new trees and the process of stump removal and stump grinding. The costs in these other areas have come in lower than what was anticipated and based upon the recommendation of the staff, we have decided to proceed with the treatment of the 184 trees. If you are interested in seeing the booklet it is in my office and I will be happy to share it with you.
Mr. Galster ask, because we have a waiting list of ten people for the Community Development Block Grant Program, is the recommendation for the people who want the 2011 money to go ahead and submit their application for their project at their earliest convenience to get in line on this waiting list?
Mr. Parham replied no. Last year we had the same question because we had a few on the waiting list. At that time because it was part of a 2009 program, each individual had to come back and apply in 2010.
Mr. Galster asked what time should they apply for the 2011 money?
Mr. Parham stated that the fiscal year for the program is March through February. We have been designated to receive $20,000 each year for a three year period.
Mr. Galster said we would recommend that some time after the first of the year residents should be getting in line for those funds.
Mr. Parham responded that although the fiscal year for the program is March, we typically do not receive approval from the County until maybe May or later. There is additional information the County needs to provide before we can start the program. For example, we are in need of their (the County)s approval to move forward with our program as well as provide us with the wage requirements to determine who is eligible. We didnt receive that notification this year until maybe May.
Mr. Galster asked so if people want to put together their package and hold it until they get a further notice as to when they can start applying, they can do so?
Mr. Parham suggested they identify their project, identify the costs associated with the project and as soon as we notify them that the application is available, they can stop into the municipal building at the Building Department and be prepared.
Mr. Galster asked how long is the tree treatment designed to last? Is it an ongoing thing or is it one time only?
Mr. Parham said if you think back to last year, it was the only treatment for the emerald ash borer that had any significant history. At that time it was probably about eighteen months. This treatment is anticipated to last for a two-year period. The trees we treated last year we expect to treat again in 2011. In talking with Mr. Agricola earlier this week, he indicated that there is some information to suggest you may be able to stretch three years out of the process, but there is nothing definite at this point. So for now we will be budgeting for 2011 to retreat those same 252 trees, 183 in Glenview and 69 in the municipal complex.
Mrs. McNear said I have a correction on my report. Mr. Galster, you asked me about the percentage. It is twenty-eight percent for the revenue for the quarter.
Mrs. Emerson asked is the root treatment a more successful treatment where it goes longer range?
Mr. Parham replied no. The actual treating of the tree with injections was the process we were aware of that showed any type of history that someone had used prior to our implementation. The gentleman from Back Tree Service is probably one of the leaders in this area. He is very involved with the State of Ohio as well as throughout the state exploring this whole issue. One of the problems with the root treating process is if you are in an open field area, its easier to treat the roots because you can get to them. If they are in a narrow, confined area and the roots are underneath the pavement, you cant get to them to treat them.
Mrs. Emerson asked as popular as the home improvement program is, can we apply for more money to service more of the community?
Mr. Parham replied I talked to Mr. McErlane and after the next year we will see if we can go for a higher dollar amount. The County sends out information on the communities and projects that have been approved. There are some communities that may have been higher than the $20,000. For us, quite frankly, it was an opportunity to see if this type of program would work. It has turned out to be a tremendously successful program so we are going to see how far we can notch that up and be successful. We dont want to apply for too much and then be rejected and not get anything.
Mayor Webster stated the Commissioners may not put any money on the table after the next year.
Law Directors Report - no report
Engineers Report Mr. Shvegzda said the Northland Boulevard project sidewalks and driveway aprons have been completed and they are in the process now where they have removed the asphalt from the concrete pavement in several areas. They are beginning to make the repairs in the concrete base. Some of the repairs are over the planned quantity amount so we are assessing that as we go along. The completion date is late August. The bridge at Ross Park had additional damage following the June 21 storm. We are putting options together for intermediate repairs to sustain the bridge if we are not successful with budget funding. We should here back from FEMA on the Zone A flood insurance study and acceptance of our information by late August.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Jeff Tulloch
Mayor Webster said I asked Mr. Tulloch to put a presentation together on the great economic development news we have had. It is in great contrast to where we were last year at this time when we were getting more and more bad news. We have a great story and I think its a great opportunity to share it with you, the public and the press.
Mr. Tulloch showed an electronic newsletter that he and Debbie Dunfee have worked on. It costs $15 a month and is a cost effective way to get information out to what I consider my clients, businesses in the area as well as businesses throughout the region. The second initiative is the CGI video program. That should be available in September. The Farmers Market fills the void of not having the 4th of July and Taste of Springdale celebrations. At the end of July 2009 we lost about half of GE totaling about 300,000 square feet. With Cincinnati Bell at 42,000 square feet; First Financial at 96,000 and a company by the name of CSC we gained back half of what GE left within six months of GE leaving. We have the 300,000 square feet that GE left but its not a problem, its a resource. Those are office buildings that will accommodate users that will earn incomes and pay earnings tax. At the end of 2008 and early 2009 we lost 400,000 square feet of retail with WalMart, Value City, Circuit City, Comp USA, etc. We have gained back 205,000 square feet of that. That should take us from a 21% vacancy down to 15%. If we can continue some of this retail momentum we currently have hopefully by mid next year well be down to 10 or 11 percent. Tree House Kids opened in the old Comp USA space. We probably have the two best points of egress and ingress to the community from I-275 of all the communities. Thompson Thrift has their building under construction and we hope it will be expanded by a couple of more phases. The Pictoria building is totally full. Woodcrafters is opening in the old Old Navy store in Princeton Plaza. Front Room Furniture is open and Morris Furniture is coming in.
Mayor Webster said the most incredible thing about what you see here this evening is, with the exception of Thompson Thrift project, everyone of those is just a reuse of a vacant building. I would say to the business communities and brokers take a virtual tour of our website and then come and explore the opportunities in Springdale.
Mrs. McNear read a letter from Thelma Lindner: Cant thank you enough for your great work in cleaning up the streets after the past storms. My property on Kenn Road was lined up with broken tree limbs from end to end. Today I can see the road again and they did a beautiful job. From the very beginning Springdale has taken care of its residents and keeping the village/town/city beautiful. Im proud to be a citizen of Springdale.
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE - none
Mayor Webster introduced Lee Czerwonka, Council member of the City of Blue Ash.
PRESENTATION - ICRC -Pat Stearn
Pat Stearn stated tonight Im especially proud to be here to present an award to the Chamber of Commerce. There are several access centers in the Greater Cincinnati area. In 1985 all of us got together and decided there were so many producers doing so many good videos and school participation that we thought we would do a mini Academy Awards ceremony. In 1986 we launched the first Blue Chip Cable Access Award Ceremony. Its not something we highly publicize because it is the people who do the videos who are most interested in seeing the show. ICRC submitted videotapes in two different categories, professional and non-professional categories. In fifty different categories of the awards show, the ICRC won in twenty different areas. The most important award we received came in the category of professional. It was a joint effort between Julie Matheny and the Springdale Chamber of Commerce and the producer who helps Julie produce the show, Jen Otten from our office. They won for Chamberview Farmers Market in the Community Activity of the professional category.
Ms. Stearn presented an award to Julie Matheny.
Ms. Stearn stated Springdale was the first community to put their meetings on the air. They started a huge trend. This year alone three more communities are joining. You were the leaders and this is a good tool of communication to your residents.
Mayor Webster said Im absolutely amazed that there are other communities that dont do that today. We have been doing that for years and years and its just commonplace. I dont think any of us are even aware that the cameras are up there. Its been a long time since weve had anyone who plays to the cameras. For the few communities who do not televise their meetings, thats a common question. I say televise the meetings and let the person showboat. All they have to do is look at themselves on television and see what kind of an ass they made of themselves. The act cleans itself up.
Mrs. McNear said years ago we had one camera and if you were speaking you could see that camera move to you so you knew the camera was on you. Now we have three cameras and you never know where the camera is so that takes away that fear of being on camera because you dont even pay attention to it.
Mr. Diehl asked Ms. Stearn, would you mind giving us a recap of ICRC.
Ms. Stearn stated ICRC started in the late 1970s. It started as a consortium of five communities that came together to do local programming, all of which were the Princeton communities. When Warner Amex came around to do franchising in all the different communities, there were other companies bidding. A study group was formed and they decided that to get all the bells and whistles out of a cable provider they should all join hands and give the same provider a contract so they could build up a local community programming. At that time they had the two-way and Warner Amex was leap years ahead of other companies. Then cable started to be installed in the communities and there were numerous problems because Warner Amex had hired a lot of contract labor. Peoples homes were being robbed. People were calling city offices wanting to know when they were going to get cable TV. That same study group decided we needed to have somebody here running a regulatory office. I came in 1983 and primarily what I was doing was handling all those complaint calls which I still do today. We handle complaint calls from residents. The second part of what ICRC does is the cable programming because, if you remember, Time Warner made all these promises when they came in and then they reneged on those promises and it was left up to this group that had formed to start doing the local cable television coverage. The newest thing we are doing is working with Cincinnati Bell. Were starting to string cable in your community as well as the other twenty-seven member communities. We want to make sure that the local programming people see in Springdale, whether they get their cable services through Time Warner, Cincinnati Bell or Joe Blow cable, they will all see your meeting.
Mr. Diehl asked what do you see in the future for your organization?
Ms. Stearn responded I think you are kind of seeing the future now. In addition to videotaping the meetings we put them on the computer system so people dont even have to have cable services to view your meetings. We would like to do a lot more live programming down the road. Were working with Time Warner, experimenting with on-demand, which means in addition to not only seeing their Council meetings on their home computer, well see how many of these people see the meetings when they want to watch them. Were experimenting with meetings, sporting events, doing that on an on-demand basis. Cameras are getting smaller. We have a three camera set up right now, maybe it will be five down the road. Were trying to make sure that Springdale stays with the most state-of-the-art equipment we can provide.
Mayor Webster said I want to tell Ms. Stearn what a great job I think you guys do. We get five percent of the fees that are collected by Warner Cable, Cincinnati Bell, etc. Once we get that check we give ICRC two percent of that. That pays for all the community access activities we benefit from including the taping of our meetings and the playback; the Chamberview show once a month. Its like a free commercial for the members to display their wares. Last year we dedicated our memorial site and they were there. Its a great way for us to get information out to our residents.
Mrs. Stearn said your residents pay for our services so it truly is a user fee. The people who pay the fee are the people who get to see your meetings. We also provide you with the Hamilton County Commissioners meeting on a live basis. We provide you with City of Cincinnati Council meetings. We do share with other Access centers so you can see what other communities are doing outside of the ICRC. We provide free training classes and workshops for your residents and we work with Princeton Schools to provide school programming and school grants. We work with a lot of interns, etc.
Mr. Vanover said I have spoken with Ms. Stearn a few times about my own cable issues and they have always been very helpful because there are times when you get a deaf ear at the other end of service.
ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS
ORDINANCE NO. 23 -2010 AMENDING THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES OF THE CITY OF SPRINGDALE, OHIO, TO AMEND VARIOUS SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 153 OF THE SPRINGDALE ZONING CODE
Mr. Vanover made a motion to adopt and Mr. Squires seconded.
Ordinance 23-2010 passed with seven affirmative votes.
ORDINANCE NO. 25-2010 AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR AND CLERK OF COUNCIL/FINANCE DIRECTOR TO ENTER INTO AN AGREEMENT WITH THE CITY OF CINCINNATI ACCEPTING THE JULY 1, 1987, COUNTY WATER AREA CONTRACT AND EXTENDING THE TERM THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2047
ORDINANCE NO. 26-2010 AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR AND CLERK OF COUNCIL/FINANCE DIRECTOR TO ENTER INTO A CONTRACT WITH CREATIVE MICROSYSTEMS, INC. (CMI) TO PROCEED WITH PROFESSIONAL SERVICES TO UPGRADE THE CURRENT DOS SOFTWARE PACKAGE TO A MICROSOFT BASED SYSTEM AND DECLARING AN EMERGENCY
Mr. Vanover made a motion to adopt and Mr. Squires seconded.
Ordinance 26-2010 passed with seven affirmative votes.
OLD BUSINESS - none
Mrs. McNear said there is a liquor license transfer from BLP and Associates to MJMT Inc. at 12183 Springfield Pike. There were no objections.
Mrs. McNear said there is a new liquor license request for the BRF Management Group doing business as Roosters, 12120 Springfield Pike. There were no objections.
Mr. Parham said the Mayor commented earlier on the Citys experience with aggregating our electric energy with nine other jurisdictions and the savings we were able to experience. He also has mentioned on a number of occasions that we were investigating an opportunity for the residents of the community to also enjoy such savings. I have to say the whole process of electric aggregation and/or gas is a bit puzzling. We have attempted to understand this entire process. In 2001, the deregulation of electric and gas generation came about and the State passed the Ohio Customer Choice Program which allowed property owners to choose which electrical utility company they wanted to provide their electrical generation. The process is broken into three parts: one is the generation, those who create the energy and there is a fee that comes with generation; two is the transmission which moves that energy to the final phase which is distribution. The distribution phase is when you see the utility or electrical energy coming to our homes and facilities. This Ohio Customer Choice Program is really focused on the generation part of the process. In the greater Cincinnati area Duke Energy provides the distribution. They own the poles, the lines, etc. No matter whether you move your generation to someone else or not, Duke Energy will continue to be the ones that own the poles, lines, etc. Under that Ohio Customer Choice Program not only did that allow for me as an individual to choose who was going to provide my electricity, it also provided opportunities for the local jurisdictions. There are two options under that process. One is for the community to take to the ballot an issue that would allow in our case, the City of Springdale, to create an aggregation of the entire City primarily for residential and small business. If it is successfully passed by the electorate, then the City would investigate to determine which organization or company is out there that provides the best savings opportunities for the residents. There are three groups that we know exist: Dominion Retail, First Energy, and Duke Energy Retail Sales. You probably have received something at your residence, possibly from all three but especially Duke Energy Retail Sales. Duke has the name. Everybody is familiar with Duke and the assumption is that this is the same Duke Energy who has the poles and lines. In actuality, this is a subsidiary of Duke Energy that is in place to compete with Dominion and First Energy for our generation business. Up until recently the savings just wasnt significant enough for anyone to change to anything other than where you are right now with Duke Energy. Today the savings are at a point where there is more of an incentive for all three to attempt to get your business. Through the first process if the electorate passed the issue the City would identify who creates the best opportunity for the residents. We create the aggregate which means everyone in the community is a part of and will be receiving their service generation from that particular provider. The only way you are not included, is that you have to opt out of the program, indicating that you do not care to participate with the one the City identified and that you negotiated with somebody else. The distribution is still being provided by Duke Energy. You will still continue to pay a fee on transmission. You will still pay a distribution fee because Duke has the poles and lines and have to be able to pay for that infrastructure.
Mr. Parham said the second option is one in which the City could take the position of not taking it to the ballot but instead simply endorsing one of those providers. You have probably received something at home that says if you sign up with us you can save 15 percent. In my meeting with the representative from Duke, she has identified a number that if the City endorsed their program, then there is a greater percentage savings. You can save on a percentage, 18 percent, or you can save by accepting a flat rate. Each individual has to examine your own bills to determine whats best for you. On the ballot issue, we would have to wait until November and to be on the ballot and then you have to hope that it passes. If it doesnt pass there is no savings opportunity for the individuals through that program. One of the advantages of the endorsement program is that you can probably get it up and running in the next two months. That sounds very attractive. However, as you dig deeper and try to understand this whole process, if the City was to enter into a formal endorsement program of one of these organizations, then the City would take over some of those responsibilities. I think tonight was a great time to have Ms. Stearn here because as she was giving the history of ICRC, she talked about the regulatory functions. Right now PUCO is the regulatory body when dealing with the utilities. However, it is my understanding that if the City endorses through a formal process one of these organizations, the City of Springdale takes over that function. We take over the complaint calls, etc. As Mrs. Stern indicated back in 1978 the municipalities did not want to take over that role then, and I dont think the municipality wants to take over that role now. Quite frankly, my recommendation would be to take it to the ballot, to create the aggregate and give the residents the ability to opt out. With the endorsement program you have to opt into the program in order to enjoy the benefits. The problem of trying to get the issue onto the ballot this year is that on July 2nd of this year HB 48 was passed that then changed the filing deadline for issues in the State of Ohio. In the past, to get an issue on the ballot, it had to be at the Board of Elections 75 days prior to the election. HB 48 says it has to be 90 days filed prior to election which means August 4th for us. We have not had this discussion with you and the Mayor and I did not feel comfortable trying to rush something in to talk to you about trying to get on the ballot. There is a big sell and an educational process that has to take place with the residents so they will understand what you are asking them to engage in. Because of the time lines, we didnt feel we could hit the appropriate dates and give everybody adequate time to become comfortable and understand this process. We decided that instead of taking on either of those two opportunities at this time, we would attempt to share this information with the public. Besides, there is a chance for me as an individual to experience savings now, without the City doing any of those programs. An article in the upcoming newsletter explains those parts of the process about Ohio Customer Choice program. At the end of the article, it tells you that if you want to experience the savings now, you can contact these three and figure out for yourself how much they are willing to save you on your current bill. You will not save what our facility did here, but it will reduce your costs. You can bring your numbers down. The Duke Energy rates currently in place are locked in until December 2011. At the end of December 2011, the brokers think they are going to have to ask for an increase in their rates. If you think about the storms we have had and the infrastructure Duke is building, you have to think the rates are going to increase. Tonight, we wanted to present the information to you and also, let you know that the article will be coming out in the newsletter hopefully by the first of August.
Mr. Vanover said Ive been in one of the programs for a number of years. Its a nightmare to try to weave through. Some of the services such as even billing are not offered under some of these services. Check them out because it may mean a difference in your payment system. Are we contemplating going to the ballot next year?
Mayor Webster replied that will be our recommendation to Council.
Mayor Webster said Mr. Parham and I first became exposed to this process at a January meeting of the Hamilton County Municipal League. That led us to try to partner up with these other nine communities and start saving money for the City. Now that we look back on it, that was pretty easy. As soon as that was finished I said to Mr. Parham, lets get something in place for the residents. Here we are six months later. I had asked Mr. Parham several times not realizing the complexity of this. Mr. Parham has done a marvelous job of pulling all this together and probably understands it at a level very few people understand. If any residents need more detailed information Im sure Mr. Parham would be more than happy to take the time to explain the details. This is a middle of the road approach, a stop gap measure rather than have the City step in for PUCO. All were going to say is, if youre interested here are some numbers you can call and youre on your own. I personally mailed mine back over the weekend so Im actually awaiting my fifteen percent savings on electric.
Mr. Parham said I just want to make sure everyone understands that this is not gas, its only electric. We want to get this up and going and then move into the gas. There are some communities that started this in 2001 when the opportunity came about. As I understand it, with electric you have the ability to lock in rates for a longer period of time through 2011. Gas is one that is driven by the market and they tell me they only lock them in for a month or three months. Talking to some others throughout the area, sometimes they are higher than Duke, sometimes they are lower. What were talking about tonight is not to deal with gas, the transmission or distribution of electric, more importantly generation and to let everybody know the poles, wires, etc. all belong to Duke Energy. If you have a problem with the system you are going to call Duke Energy.
Mr. Diehl said we heard all the pros. Are there any disadvantages to this program?
Mr. Parham replied I cant think of any. I recall having a conversation with another manager in the area and he said Im not sure how Duke can go to PUCO at the end of 2011 and argue that they want more money. I said to him that Dukes argument will be that they need higher rates (more money), but they had to create Duke Retail Sales so that they can stay competitive with the others, so they are offering a fifteen percent discount to each one of us. They have to be able to compete in order to retain each of us. If you decide to choose one and you send it in, it is going to reduce your bill. You just have to compare the rates.
Mr. Galster said if I signed up today I could save fifteen percent, eighteen percent if we endorse a product. Do you have a percentage guesstimate if we are aggregated?
Mr. Parham answered what Ive been told by both the representative from Duke Retail as well as a broker, and Ive talked to some other communities, they would prefer you to enter into an aggregate program because they have a captured audience and so they would provide you with a better rate. You have to opt out of the aggregate and opt in to the endorsement.
Mr. Galster asked do we know what that is?
Mr. Parham replied no.
Mr. Vanover said if we take this to the ballot and go the aggregate route, then the PUCO would still be the regulatory body. Duke is pushing an upgrade for the transmission part because they have had breakdowns in wires, upgrades in systems.
Mr. Parham said I understand from talking with the brokers, whether we are with one of the three or not, were all going to pay the same transmission costs.
Mrs. Emerson asked if the community chooses the aggregation is that rate based on the size of your community? Will a larger community get a better rate than Springdale because its a smaller community?
Mr. Parham replied I dont think so which goes against the logic. We joined on with nine other communities and we got a much lower rate. The group that we used was Good Energy as the broker and they took it out to a larger market. We ended up with a group called Direct Energy that is providing the generation. I dont believe that is the case but I dont know. Once the voters adopt the process you dont have to go back to the voters. If we decide Duke offers the best opportunity for us at this time, later on we can change to someone else without going back to the voters. The ballot would give us the ability to create the aggregate. I think the broker indicated the rate I am paying right now is about .09. Now you are going down to .06 something. Duke Retails offers you the opportunity to go with either a flat rate of .0639 or a 18% savings off of your current bill.
Mrs. Harlow said if we decide to go with a gas aggregate down the road, is that something that would also have to go to the voters at that time or can it be wrapped up into one? I was thinking thats the best way to go as Im sure well have some public meetings ahead of this coming to the ballot so we can address residents questions and give them information that would allow them to make an informed vote.
Mayor Webster stated that is why we did not want to rush this in for the November ballot. There are just too many unanswered questions. I think the issue the public is going to vote on is just do you want the City to aggregate all users together and try to negotiate a better rate for the City? There are going to be no percentages especially since we know Dukes contract ends at the end of 2011.
Mrs. Harlow said I get those postcards and letters at home and Im thinking what do I do about it. If I have questions Im sure the residents will have questions also.
Assistant Law Director Mrs. Rames said it is my impression that the gas and electric would have to be two separate ballot issues because they are two separate programs covered by two different code sections of the Ohio Revised Code. You could have them on the same ballot but it would be two issues.
Mr. Vanover said read those postcards carefully because some of them are if you want to act send it in and others are if you want to act you do nothing.
MEETINGS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Planning Commission - August 10
Rules of Council - August 19
Board of Zoning Appeals - August 17
Council Meeting - August 18
Cost Containment Day - August 6
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE - none
UPDATE ON LEGISLATION STILL IN DEVELOPMENT
ORDINANCE NO. 25-2010
Ordinance 25-2010 - August 18
Pictoria TIF special assessment levy - August 18
RECAP OF LEGISLATIVE ITEMS REQUESTED - none
Council adjourned at 9:06 p.m.
Clerk of Council/Finance Director
Marjorie Harlow, President of Council