Council thanks longtime employee; city gets auditor award

By Krista Anderson - For the Expositor

Wauseon City Council members evoked a spirit of gratitude this holiday season as they thanked Larry Frey, a 28 year city employee.

Monday night at the council meeting, the council members all stood, shook his hand and thanked him for his dedication to the city. Frey was also given a clock to commemorate his retirement with the city.

The City of Wauseon was awarded the Auditor of State Award by Lori Brodie, from Auditor Keith Faber’s office. Brodie commented while giving the award that only eight percent of cities in Ohio qualify for this prestigious award. “The city does an awesome job at accounting for every dollar,” she said.

Going forward, all council members agreed with no further amendments on a 50 page budget for the year 2022. “The budget is less next year than last year, due to bonds being paid off and not as much COVID-19 money coming in,” said Director of Finance, Jaimie Giguere.

However, under new business, a motion was made and carried to increase premium pay to city employees for COVID exposure during the time period of March 2020 to June 2020. Depending on the amount of exposure, city employees will each get a portion of the $5,225 from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

The Building and Grounds committee reported the city will benefit greatly by expanding the Arrowhead Trails subdivision by 19 houses. These houses would be financed through a tax increment financing program (TIF). Ben Gleckler is the local builder and developer to support this program. The mayor, Kathy Huner, stated that new housing is limited in the city so this would be good to bring new families into the area.

Councilman Harold Stickley led the discussion, stating great benefits would come to the city by increased tax revenue which would help the school system. He went on to quote the famous WWII veteran, George Patton, “If you’re holding you’re not moving forward. We need to move forward.” It was detailed that the building proposal will not cost the city anything.

When asked how the bonds will be repaid, Tom McWatters, Director of Law, explained the money would come from the tax revenue from the increased value from the sale of the lots. The council discussed the importance of accountability, putting safety measures in place to keep the city from a financial loss, if the developer walks away. A personal guarantee signed by the developer will be required, as well as other safeguards to protect the city.

Income tax revenue was up over 11% from 2019. Giguere stated that the department is doing a phenomenal job getting people to file their taxes and then collecting those taxes. The finance department has sent out over 2,000 letters to remind people to file.

The council’s agenda continued hearing several emergency ordinances, including one to increase the Consumer Price Index (CPI) wage scale. The scale adjustment was made to meet the current needs. When asked how many employees this adjustment affects, it was stated that only two employees below scale would be affected, there were no employees found to be above the scale at this time.

Tom McWatters asked to have an emergency resolution made due to limited timing to allow the mayor to file on behalf of the city for an opiod settlement from the distributors. It needs to be filed by Dec. 8, 2021. “It will be a fairly decent amount of money coming to the city,” said McWatters, emphasizing the importance of this settlement.

Other emergency resolutions heard and approved by the council included authorizing Mayor Huner to:

– Request qualifications for an engineer;

– Enter into an agreement with Ohio Plan Risk Management for Casualty, Liability, Fire, and Property Damage Insurance;

– Enter into an agreement with Met Life to provide life insurance and voluntary dental and vision insurance for full-time employees;

– Enter into agreements for health insurance coverage with Pareto Captive Services, LLC, Berkshire Hathaway and Lucent Health Services.

When asked what constitutes hearing an item as an emergency resolution, the mayor responded by saying, “It’s mostly timing. If we don’t have the time to go through all three readings on an item due to deadlines, then we vote to do ‘a one and done’.” She explained that in the instance of insurance for city employees, the quotes don’t arrive until some time in November. If members don’t do an emergency resolution, then city employees won’t have insurance come the first of January.

The police department asked to purchase two new vehicles. But at this time, only one will be purchased. The decision was made to purchase a Tahoe.

The mayor introduced the topic of new business by saying, “We have a really busy weekend coming up; there is an all day sculpting event in the city.” This Saturday, December 11, 2021, various businesses will have at least 33 ice sculptures being created all over the city. It all starts at 8 a.m. and will end at various times.

Christmas for Kids will be happening and there will be a Cookie Walk starting at the church behind Sullivans. The County is doing Christmas at the Cabin, which is something new this year. And don’t forget, Bethlehem on Sunday at the Church of Wauseon. At the end of the meeting, Tom McWatters exclaimed, “We have our own Hallmark town, no need to watch the movies.”

By Krista Anderson

For the Expositor