HEBRON – Alayna Morris was elected village council president at the council’s organizational meeting last Wednesday. She replaces Jim Friend. Morris is just the second woman to serve as council president. Council member Annelle Porter was the first. Wayne Carruthers will continue to represent council on the Planning & Zoning Board.
Committee assignments are the same as last year. They are:
• Finance: Porter (chair), Morris and Carruthers;
• Safety: Friend (chair) Scott Walters and Morris;
• Water/Wastewater: Walters (chair), Porter and Morris;
• Public Works: Carruthers (chair), Tom Marietta and Friend;
• Parks & Recreation: Morris (chair), Friend and Porter; and
• Personnel, Annexaton & Insurance: Marietta (chair), Porter and Carruthers.
Council meetings will continue to be held at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays. Council’s combined committee meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on the Monday between council meetings. Village Administrator Ralph Wise will continue to facilitate these meetings. The January combined committees meeting was cancelled due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Council and combined committees meetings are open to the public.
In the regular meeting following the organizational meeting, Income Tax Administrator Mindy Kester had some good news for council members. Income tax revenue was up $93,000 in 2016 compared to 2015 for a total of $1.8 million. Mayor Mike Mc- Farland warned council members that income tax revenue is highly dependent on the state of the economy and that a downturn could significantly reduce revenue.
In his report, Fire Chief Jack Stickradt said FEMA had now extended the SAFER grant to Nov. 1. That time extension will allow the village to spend the entire $600,000 grant. The grant expired early last December, resulting in the possibility of laying off the four full-time firefighters being paid by the grant. Those layoffs were averted when FEMA extended the term to May 5, 2017, which would have still left $50,000 – $60,000 unspent.
“I was taken aback by the fiscal emergency in December,” Stickradt told council. “We are not in a fiscal emergency. I sensed you wanted to improve operations. I would be very disappointed to take a step back.”
He asked for an opportunity at the next combined committees to give an overview of 2016 and to state the case to come up with the local funds to keep the four additional full-time firefighters. He will be on the February meeting agenda.
McFarland said he had been working with Stickradt and fiscal officer Deborah Morgan. “I want a clear concise picture of how we’re doing fire service in this community,” he said.
Police Chief Larry Brooks presented his annual report. He said self-initiated activity (not resulting from a call) dropped last year in comparison to recent years. He said it was a staffing issue, noting that one officer was called to active military duty and the department is down two part-time officers and a couple of auxiliary (unpaid) officers.
He also discussed the department’s thoughts about how to use a $175,000 bequest from the estate of Thornville resident Jack J. Artz. He left $175,000 each to Thorn Township, Thorn Township EMS, Perry County Sheriff’s Office, Millersport EMS, Licking County Humane Society and Hebron Police.
The department would like to build a garage for police cruisers at the municipal complex. Getting cruisers out of the weather when not in use should extend their life, Brooks explained. He’s not certain how much garage they can get for the $175,000 gift. Brooks will be putting some designs and cost estimates together for council to review.
Marietta asked McFarland about the status of a design plan for lot the village purchased in late 2015 at Main and High streets. McFarland plans to set up another meeting with the residents that shared their thoughts about how to develop the lot once some plans are actually drawn up. He said a Licking County Planning Commission staff member with experience in landscape design will be provide some basic concepts.
Council’s next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the municipal complex.