2014-01-18 / News

Trustees give voters an opportunity to cut their electric bills

By Scott Rawdon

UNION TOWNSHIP – During a special Monday morning zoning hearing, Union Township Trustees unanimously agreed to rezone a roughly eight-acre tract at 1633 Thornwood Drive from Agriculture to General Business per the recommendation of both the Licking County Planning and township zoning commissions.

Robert Secrest of Reynoldsburg bought the property and building in April for $170,000 at a Sheriff’s sale. Secrest is moving his remodeling business, Basement Guys, to the property and will store trucks and equipment as well as maintain an office and showroom for customers. Previous owner Donald Williamson operated a countertop business in the building. A neighbor said she’s glad to have someone mowing the property’s grass.

Trustees held their organizational meeting immediately after the hearing. Trustee Rick Black was reelected president and John Slater was reelected vice president.

Black and Slater welcomed new trustee Charles Prince, who defeated longtime incumbent Jesse Ours in the November election. Black assured Prince and Slater that he wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help if his campaign for the Republican nomination to replace retiring County Commissioner Doug Smith takes too much of his time away from township business. Trustees opted to continue to meet at 7 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month at the Union Township Complex on Beaver Run Road.

In other township news:

• Trustees will be paid the maximum compensation permitted per the Ohio Revised Code. Prince asked whether voters’ recent approval of an additional 1.5 mill fire levy would increase salaries since compensation is based on the size of the township’s budget. Prince said he didn’t believe an increase is warranted. A quick review of the statute showed that the additional revenue from the new levy would not be enough to increase trustees’ compensation.

• Trustees will continue to act as a board in charge of maintenance and repair for township roads. Each trustee has the authority to spend up to $1,500 on his own to improve or repair roads, or purchase materials. At least two trustees must approve expenditures above $1,500 at a regular or special meeting.

• Prince asked that a proposal to increase employee wages be tabled until the next meeting.

• Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason delivered an executed copy of the village’s five-year contract to provide fire/EMS services to the unincorporated portion of the township south of the Columbus and Ohio River Railroad tracks.

“Everything is all set on that,” said Black.

Mason told trustees that they have obtained an independent appraisal of the township-owned fire equipment. Council members planned to discuss it during their Jan. 13 combined committees meeting.

• Road supervisor Dave Cable said road salt inventory is down to about 100 tons. An additional 250 tons are on order and Cable expected to receive 100 tons on Jan. 14. Slater said a salt stockpile outside Lancaster has been sold. He encouraged Cable to continue ordering salt even if orders should exceed the township’s maximum allotment.

• Black reported that seismic testing along Canyon Road to evaluate oil and gas deposits for possible extraction was completed before Christmas. He said there were no visible signs of damage to the road. Black said Wednesday that the test results were still unavailable. “They don’t know yet,” he said. “I’m anxious to see (the results), too.”

• After additional discussion, trustees unanimously agreed to place an electric aggregation issue on the May 6 ballot. If township voters approve, Trebel LLC will seek bids from electric suppliers. Joe Garrett, aggregation specialist with Trebel LLC, told trustees that their contracts are designed to protect users, rather than suppliers. Trebel seeks a fixed discount rather than a fixed rate so residents will continue to receive a discount if rates should decline. Their contract also eliminates any fees for an individual customer to “opt-out” of the aggregation contract.

“This is not mandatory by any means,” said Black.

Garrett said he supports freedom of choice and if some residents don’t want to switch from AEP they could opt-out at any time without a penalty. Trebel will also publicize and educate voters about the issue. Only AEP customers may participate.

“I think it could be a good thing,” Black said.

• Licking County Commissioners held their annual organizational meeting at the Union Township Complex, which Black described as a “historic event.” He said the commissioners are generally required to hold their organizational meeting in the county seat – Newark, for Licking County – and the commissioners had to approve a special resolution to hold their meeting elsewhere in the county.

• Following a lengthy executive session concerning an economic development issue with the commissioners, trustees decided to delay discussing Black’s road repair suggestions – which Black called his “wish list” – until the Feb. 3 meeting. Prince asked if any traffic count data is available for township roads as he would like to make the repair priorities as fact-based as possible.

Traffic counts aren’t available, but Prince said he would check with the County Engineer’s office for possible data or equipment to conduct the counts. He said the township could purchase a basic counter for about $500.

• Trustees unanimously approved Prince’s proposal to name the Union Township Complex’s large meeting room the Jesse Ours Meeting Room in recognition of his 28 years as a trustee and perfect attendance. A plaque will be installed with the new name.

• Prince also proposed hiring a graduate business student for a summer internship to collect data on the level of economic activity in the township’s portion of the Newark industrial park. He noted that employment has been dropping and building vacancies are increasing. Prince hopes the study will provide a better picture of what is happening and why; and most importantly, what can be done – first to stop the slide and then help turn it around. He was asked to develop an outline for the project.

• Trustees next meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, at the Union Township Complex.

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