Wauseon residents will get a two-month reprieve from a scheduled water rate hike in consideration of the economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
During a meeting live-streamed Monday on the city’s Facebook page, City Council amended the third reading of an ordinance approving the rate increase, changing the starting date from June 1 to Aug. 1. Council members unanimously agreed to the delay, citing the unsteady economic conditions resulting from COVID-19.
“A lot of people are out of work, and we have to give them time to, maybe, get back to work before their rates go up a little bit,” Councilor Harold Stickley said.
The new water rates per 100 cubic feet include:
• Residential – first 700 cubic feet, $6.17; over 700 cubic feet, $4.10; minimum charge per billing, $7.11
• Commercial – first 20 100 cubic feet, $6.17; over 20 hundred cubic feet, $4.10; minimum charge per billing $20.85
Public Service Director Keith Torbet said, regardless of the delay, the rates do need to be increased. “I understand the council’s reservations about the June 1 increase, but the figures are right there in black and white. Hopefully, our industry rebounds and we don’t have to look at even a larger increase,” he said.
In other business, Council approved a motion to honor the city’s 250 military veterans with downtown signs, but will place the action on hold until current coronavirus restrictions are eased.
Buildings and Grounds Committee member Harold Stickley said $4,000 in donations have been raised to create weather-resistant signs for downtown light poles that honor veterans living in the city. Each double-sided sign will include the photos of two veterans. The signs would be produced by Tomahawk Printing at a cost of $50 per side, and would be stored at American Legion Post #265 on Shoop Avenue and at VFW Post #7424 on Ottokee Street.
The committee members requested the signs be put up and removed with assistance from the city’s Public Works Department.
“I think that would be a really nice sight in the downtown area,” Mayor Kathy Huner said of the project.
Stickley said the committee hoped the signs could be placed downtown by this year’s scheduled Homecoming event because veterans have been selected to be grand marshals in the parade. He said signs are also being considered for placement on Shoop Avenue and Elm Street.
He said the committee has tabled a suggestion to place a permanent Homecoming sign on Lawrence Avenue. Stickley said it wouldn’t be financially prudent to pay for the $7,000-$8,000 sign during the coronavirus pandemic. “With the situation that we’re in, we’re going to table that and bring it back at a later date,” he said.
Addressing the pandemic, Huner took a moment to praise city administrators for their cooperation during a difficult time.
“The administration just pulled together…Everyone just jumped on board, and it has fallen into place…We did everything that we could possibly do to keep it safe in our community,” she said.
Huner added, “We’re not out of the woods. We’re going to see the after-effects of this, whether it be with our programs or our finances. We just don’t know what’s going to happen, but we sure are doing our darnedest to try to make it work. And the community has really supported our first responders and our administration. It’s been amazing.”
In department reports:
• Fire Chief Rick Sluder said the department is maintaining the status quo during the pandemic. “We’re just keeping things clean, waiting for something to happen,” he said.
Sluder said the department’s EMT crews use a screening process on every patient based on their symptoms.
He also reported the department has enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to sustain for two or three days, and they have ordered more.
• Police Chief Kevin Chittenden said the department’s K-9 officer, Pharoah, will be retired May 1. He said the 10-year-old German Shepherd is showing signs of age and slowing down. After retirement, Pharoah will remain with Dawn Belford, the department’s canine handler.
A new K-9 officer will be considered after coronavirus restrictions are eased.
Chittenden said the department has a sufficient supply of goggles and masks for use by officers during the pandemic, and recently acquired a supply of sanitizer. He said additional PPE has been ordered.
He reminded the city’s residents to continue practicing COVID-19 guidelines set forth by the Fulton County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’ve got to be in this together to get through this,” Chittenden said.
• Public Service Director Keith Torbet said the Shoop Avenue repaving project is proceeding well.
He said the city’s spring clean-up has been delayed until fall, likely in September following the Fulton County Fair.
Torbet said Public Works employees are working staggered shifts to keep working in close quarters with one another to a minimum.
• Finance Director Jamie Giguere reported that the city received a government stimulus check for approximately $5,800.
• Law Director Tom McWatters III said the city has drafted multiple policies related to the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the Fulton County Economic Development Corporation has developed a small business fund with money provided from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He said $5,000 grants are available for small businesses in the city.
Council also passed the second reading of a resolution authorizing the mayor to advertise for, accept the lowest bid for, and enter into agreement for ADA-compliant downtown ramps.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.