Mr. Hall Block (far right) and Ms. Laney Nofer (center) of the Van Wert County Foundation and Van Wert Forward address questions from the City Council concerning the downtown parking proposal. (DHI Media/Robin Pennell)
Mr. Hall Block (far right) and Ms. Laney Nofer (center) of the Van Wert County Foundation and Van Wert Forward address questions from the City Council concerning the downtown parking proposal. (DHI Media/Robin Pennell)
By Robin Pennell

The Times Bulletin

VAN WERT — The Van Wert City Council met last night to further discuss downtown parking locations needed after the renovation phases are complete. At a Meeting of the Whole before the council meeting, representatives from the Van Wert County Foundation and Van Wert Forward were there to answer any further questions that may have been generated over the past two weeks. The Council reported that they had no questions from constituents.

Van Wert Forward had no further changes in the plan that they had proposed two weeks ago. They reported that they had sample language for the parking ordinance change that will be needed for the renovations. Martha Balyeat noted her concerns about parking when the downtown fills with retail business again. She said, “Parking was always an issue. Many of the retail people self-policed parking…I can’t imagine not having some sort of regulations on parking.”

Andrew Davis expressed his concern about having funds for investing in parking plans. He said, “I know that phase I here is minimal as far as the master plan and everything that is going into it. And I know there were mentions in here of potential metered parking and potential other things that are going to require an investment, probably from the city at some point, that’s going to require us to put finances toward this project. And we’re financially strained right now. So I want to make sure and I want to be sure as we take steps that we know that this is going to cost us money at some point.”

Thompson addressed the concerns of Davis, “I know we can’t foretell the future, but the financial constraints that this city is in right now is assuming the status quo of downtown remains the same. If those buildings start to fill up and more jobs come, that ultimately has the ability to change the tax revenue for the city. I don’t think that meters are the right thing to do in Van Wert.” He continued to say that if meters were installed, they would pay for themselves and continue providing revenue.

Laney Nofer handed out the draft of the ordinance that they had written in the simplest way they felt they could present it. The Council proposed to prepare a draft for discussion at the next Council meeting. Andrew Davis abstained from his vote feeling that not enough discussion had been done to place a draft of the ordinance in front of the Council.

When the audience was asked if they had any comments on other matters, Jordan Dettrow of Van Wert noted that he observed a donation box for the Special Olympics that had been placed in view of Fox Road in front of the License Bureau. President Thompson stated that he had been recently notified of the donation box and that it had been addressed. The placement of donation boxes had been outlawed in 2017. Anyone wanting to place a donation box must have the approval of the city prior to placing a box. Jay Flemming stated that he made contact with the person who placed the box that afternoon. Thompson reminded the public to call the city or Flemming if they observe a donation box placed in the city. The council feels that donation boxes negatively portray the city and the organization it represents.

Mayor Ken Markward reported that he met with the Optimists to discuss charter commission questions. The Council plans to hold a public meeting for constituents to ask questions about the charter. The date will be set before early voting begins which is October 5. The date and time will be announced publicly as soon as it is confirmed. Those interested should watch for a public service announcement. The date is expected to be set the week prior to October 5. The meeting is expected to be held at the lecture hall at the PAC.

The mayor announced that 104 trash vouchers had been claimed to date. Plenty of vouchers remain at the city utility office. The vouchers must be used during the month of September. The Eagle Scouts have begun a project that COVID-19 had delayed. In the area of the old Clark gas station off West Main, the triangle is being prepared for new sidewalks and a planting area.

Markward also noted that city voting districts will need to be redrawn. The division between North and South will need to be moved from Main Street southward, and the East and West division will need to be moved from route 127 westward. The redistricting will be guided by the Board of Elections for the city council to review and approve.

Jay Flemming, Safety Service Director, told the Council that about five basketball hoops were installed directly on streets creating a hazard for area children and drivers. Hoops should be removed or relocated into yards. The city will be addressing the problem in these locations in the near future.

Auditor Martha Balyeat reported that August showed $162 million in the bank and on the books. Income tax has increased 14% which may be a temporary number depending on the economy. The end of August showed that $370,000 in additional taxes were collected which is $150,000 better than last year and 10% better than 2019.

Balyeat also stated that Sunshine Law training will be held virtually on September 30, 2021, for those Council members who still need it. All Council members need to have a certificate of attendance on file in the event of a State audit. Funds from the American Rescue Plan must have a plan for spending by the end of October. The plan must be approved by legal and the council. The funds must be used by 2024.

Law Director John Hatcher informed the Council that the council needed to inform him on how he should vote on Opioid settlements in the future. Council agreed to give him the freedom to vote the way he feels is best for the city. Hatcher announced that he would like materials to be developed to help the police understand the city’s code ordinance and how and when to enforce it.

Bill Marshall, Health, Service, and Safety Chair, announced that he will continue to bring up the issue of abandoned properties and the hazards that they cause. He noted that many of the buildings on his list had been removed with the help of the Land Bank project. However, the list will keep increasing as landowners abandon or neglect their properties. Many of the buildings cannot be saved. He is adamant that the city should find a solution to the problem.

The Council approved a motion for the area of Vision Industrial Park to be included in the airport CRA map. Including Vision Industrial Park will allow developers of projects in that area to seek Community Investment abatements.

Andrew Davis announced that he will be hosting a collaboration meeting from 6:30 to 7:45 pm at Franklin Park on Wednesday, September 15.

The next meeting of the Council will be Monday, September 27, at 6:30 pm in the Municipal Building.