Vermilion City Council Committees met on Monday, Nov. 15.

Fence on city property

                Mayor Jim Forthofer said behind Ford Lane, some time ago, a fence was put along the city property. A lady had a fence, which has eroded, and wants to rebuild the fence in the same location. He said an ordinance was found by the clerk that defines the fence and says it is allowed and cannot interfere with city utilities.  

Ice jam mitigation

                Councilman Frank Loucka asked the city to consider engaging in a real dialogue with the US Army Corps of Engineers regarding the mitigation of ice jams on the river. He said the river is about 66 miles long, and unfortunately, Vermilion is at the tail end, thus, all the ice and debris pass through Vermilion on its way to the lake. He said the Corps built a break wall possibly 100 yards too close to the mouth, then recently changed the design of the east pier that will complicate the contractor’s ability to clear out ice at the mouth. Also, they do not operate an icebreaker small enough of any benefit/assistance of the city. He said he found the Corps operates a cold weather research lab in New Hampshire, the goal of which is to minimize ice jams. He said the Corps has been of assistance with entities who reach out to them. He said although significantly larger than the Vermilion River, the Niagara River is protected by booms in the winter from ice jams in Buffalo.

                He said a dialogue with the Corps may be valuable and gave members information from New York. “It’s food for thought right now,” said Loucka.

Entrance to skate park

                He said the combined entrance to the city service center/skate park is not in line as far as condition to the other city parks. “The condition of this driveway is atrocious.” He said a “tire-eating chuck hole was just repaired.” He said this driveway is an embarrassment to the city. The mayor asked if this included the parking lot. Loucka said no but added people have been driving in the grass to avoid the pothole.

Fire report

                Fire Chief Chris Stempowski said the VFD responded to 19 incidents, for a total of 218 year to date. He thanked all the fire personnel who helped during Fire Prevention Week for open houses, safety visits, schools, churches, etc. He said it takes a lot of hours and didn’t want it to go unrecognized.

                He said self-contained breathing apparatus (SBCA) testing has been completed, and all the department’s SCBA equipment passed inspection. He said the department has three firefighters enrolled in a confined space rescue operation, put on by a Lorain County Tech Rescue Team and Cleveland State University. He said that ties in with some training he discussed with Service Director Valerius as the wastewater treatment plant.

                He said the department has been accommodating to the VPD and Lifecare EMS during the bridge closure. “I think it has been beneficial to the citizens.” He said the VFD is responding differently during the closure, and went to an all-call at home process, “so it’s all hands on deck.” He said if a call happens on the east side, he has personnel coming from the west. He said if they are not needed, they are staging them on Brill-Tansey. He said throw the railroad maintenance in the mix, and “I’ll say it’s been challenging, but we’re being very responsive. No major issues so far…we’ll keep doing what we’re doing until they get that opened up.”

                Lt. Tom Burger has announced his retirement effective Nov. 20.  He joined the force December 1993, promoted to lieutenant Nov. 1, 2005, and served as a firefighter, EMT, as well as a training officer. “A phenomenal asset to the department,” said Stempowski. “He’s going to be missed.”

                The chief ended his report by reminding residents of having working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. “They do save lives.” He said if the department can assist residents in any way they can.

Baumhart project fire protection

                Claus Road resident Bob Leimbach asked the Chief Stempowski how they fight a fire in a 65-foot facility. The chief said the department is certainly well equipped. He said he would have to see how the building is structured. He said the question is hard to answer, other than it will be built under current fire code. Mayor Forthofer said everyone needs to see what the structure specifically is, codes required for this building, “It’s theory at this point.” The chief said the VFD responds to so many different instances and responds to so many different types of structures and ages of buildings. “It’s hard to pinpoint,” he said.

Road closed means

what it says

                In for Chief Chris Hartung, who was at training in Columbus, Mayor Forthofer said the chief has “seriously reshuffled the schedule for the department” in response to the bridge closing. Normally, three officers are scheduled on the road, but because of the bridge, there are two on the west and two on the east. “It’s been a busy time for the police department. They look forward to this project ending as much as anybody.”

                Councilman Brian Holmes reminded residents and visitors, “If the road sign says road closed, do not enter the road closed area.” Council President Steve Herron made a special mention out to high school students, “Road closed means road closed. Just throwing that out.”

Full-time fire chief

                Herron asked that this issue be on the agenda until it happens. He said this will enable council to have questions answered along the way and wanted an open discussion “about this very important matter.” Mayor Forthofer said once council gives its approval of the final expenditure, he will work with the Ohio Fire Chiefs and Chief Stempowski to advertise for the position. Holovacs said when this was first brought up, he said there was money for this for a ten-year period. Now it’s down to six without possibly passing a levy. He said, “How do we pass levies here?” He said council needs to take that into consideration. He joked, “Don’t put ‘street’ on it, or it will never pass.”  Herron asked if this will be civil service. The mayor said no, it will be treated like the chief of police’s position. Councilman Brian Holmes asked if there would be a board interviewing. The mayor said yes.

Outdoor residential lighting

                Councilman Frank Loucka said in answer to a resident who is feeling harassed by her neighbor who is shining lights into her house, he put this on the agenda. The resident said her neighbor has purposefully been shining lights into her house after putting up a privacy fence. Loucka had some draft legislation from other communities, however, council was lukewarm about pursuing it. Loucka said the lighting has to be measurable. Council President Herron said council cannot legislate everything, and there are civil remedies for this. He said, however, keep his options open, but council did not want to over legislate due to a neighbor dispute. Council at Large Stark said then the administration would have to enforce this.

Ice breaking

                In answer to having icebreaking being put on the agenda, Service Director Valerius said the city received one bid, South Shore Dredge and Dock. Due to the configuration on the east side of the pier, he increased his price by $5,000 to adequately clean ice from that area. Valerius said the eats pier used to be smooth. Now it juts out 10 feet and loops around. He said the 10-foot area is perfect for ice to back out. Owner Tony Scarpelli has reconfigured his barge to hold two excavators so he can clean out the area. The hourly price has been bumped $100 as well. Loucka said he has 20 years’ experience. The city contract says he decides when to break ice. If it’s the city’s, council has to pay more. Valerius said it’s all based on the weather. Mayor Forthofer said he was scheduled to go to a meeting with the Corps of Engineers on Wednesday to talk about the west pier. Loucka said dredging the south side of the river helps with icebreaking due to the flow.

City insurance coverage

                Council President Herron said he put this item on the agenda to have the administration respond to comments from earlier meetings from local businessman Jerry Pearl of Allen Thorley DeLloyd about the city’s insurance, which went to Fitzgibbon Arnold & Co. Herron said Finance Director Amy Hendricks sent council a couple of pieces of correspondence. Councilwoman Barb Brady said Hendricks’ explanations gave her a better understanding of what “agent of record” meant. Councilman Steve Holovacs suggested letting interested parties know more quickly. Herron said there seems to be an industry standard to have a couple of years to provide good coverage. Herron said he knows little of the industry. “Certainly, we all want fairness, but there are other things going on.” Mayor Forthofer said in the past there have been multi-year contracts, and this one should have been. “So, here we are.”

                Mr. Pearl said he questioned how the procedure was done. He said that possibly if the city wants something sponsored, he said they (the company) may not want to do that and keep it in mind. “You may want a nickel, but you may have lost more than it.” Law Director Susan Anderson said the agent of record is not something the city controls, and the current provider has a contract until the end of the year. She said the agent of record has to get the numbers. Pearl said that agent negates other people from getting those markets. Anderson said it is common to have a multi-year contract. She said companies generally do not give rates until the end when they see the claims experience.

                Mayor Forthofer objected to Pearl’s suggestion that the city “snookered” the contract away. “We don’t snooker anyone. We run even and fair bidding.” He also objected to the veiled threat that Pearl’s company would not play ball with the rest of the city if his company did not get the contract, “It’s really unbecoming. What we try to do is bid for the best thing for the residents of Vermilion. Sometimes they are local people, sometimes they’re not. That’s true with every contract we bid. We bid evenly and equally.”  Brady said the city’s insurance was good for the coming year, but council took Pearl’s suggestions about next year’s process. They will look at it next year and look at it in August.

Building inspector resigns

                On the agenda but taken off was an ordinance amending the full-time salary of Bill DiFucci, building inspector. This was taken off the agenda, as Mayor Forthofer said he received a letter of resignation from DiFucci.

Riverside Drive storm sewer pipe

                Service Director Valerius gave an update on the storm sewer pipe project that would alleviate the problem with runoff from Vermilion River onto Riverside Drive. He said the field work has been completed, and the plans are being prepared.

Council special meeting

                Vermilion City Council held a special meeting, giving first reading to Ordinances 2021-81 and 2021-82, related to the rezoning of the B-3 portion of the land to I-1, and amending the definitions in the I-1 light industrial district.