Bexley City Council sets priorities for coming year

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Messenger photo by John Matuszak

From left, Jeff McClelland, Ben Kessler and Jed Morison take their oaths of office as Bexley City Council members Jan. 7. McClelland was re-elected to his sixth term in November. Kessler is beginning his first term. Morison served for eight years and was elected again last fall after a two-year absence. Mark Masser, who joined council in 1986 and was re-elected in November, did not attend the ceremony.

Bexley City Council set its committee assignments and laid out some of its 2008 priorities, including recycling and raising revenue, at its Jan. 8 meeting.

Matt Lampke, elected council president at a brief meeting the day before, named Councilwoman Robyn Jones the chair of the finance committee. She will be serving with Jeff McClelland and Mark Masser.

Ben Kessler, beginning his first term, was named chairman of the zoning and development committee. Lampke explained that Kessler’s experience as a real estate appraiser would benefit that committee. Rick Weber and Jones will also serve on the committee.

Jed Morison, returning to council after a two-year hiatus following an eight-year stint, was appointed chairman of the safety committee. Morison has continued to be a vocal advocate for construction of a new police station, and during his previous terms in office promoted bike helmet use for children.

Lampke is asking Morison to scrutinize the city’s mayor’s court operation to determine how it can be more cost-efficient.

"Our mayor’s court doesn’t make money, but it shouldn’t lose money, either," Lampke said.

Morison said the committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. on the date of the first council meeting of the month. He is joined on the safety committee by Kessler and Masser.

Jeff McClelland was named chairman of the parks, forestry and recreation committee. The councilman has been active in forming the Jeffrey Mansion Commission, which is drafting proposals for renovations at the landmark building, as well as changes in programming and management.

A public hearing on the commission’s report will be held Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Ave.

Jones and Kessler will also serve on the parks committee.

The service committee, which oversees the city’s utilities and infrastructure, will be headed by Rick Weber, who will be joined by Morison and McClelland.

Finding revenue to repair more of the city’s sidewalks will be a priority for the committee, Lampke said. Those repairs are eating up 25 percent of the street levy funds, keeping the city from maintaining those surfaces, he pointed out.

Increasing participation in the city’s recycling program will be another initiative of the committee, Weber said.

While Bexley has high resident participation in recycling, it has hit a plateau, according to Weber, and he will looking for ways to boost cooperation.

A city-wide composting project could be part of that package, commented Weber, who will be meeting with representatives of Rumpke, the city’s waste hauler.

Mark Masser, who was not at the meeting, was appointed chairman of the water, sewer and drainage committee because, Lampke joked, he is the oldest member of council and was probably around when the lines were installed. Morison and Weber will also serve on the committee.

Lampke said that his role as council president will be to look at "the big picture" and work with the committee chairs on important initiatives.

In addition to their other duties, Lampke is asking all council members to search for ways to increase revenue for the city.

Flat income tax and estate tax collections the last couple of years, along with rising costs, have left the city with a considerable deficit.

One money-maker could be accepting donations for naming rights to the city’s alleys, Lampke suggested.

Lampke said he is planning to establish a Jeffrey Mansion Foundation in the coming year, but will be looking to others to find ways to fund it.

Lampke also wants to form a senior citizens commission to look at services provided to Bexley’s older citizens.

Council is also debating the need for a city charter review commission in 2008.

Lampke pointed out that there is a deadline of Feb. 15 for forming the commission if council determines it is necessary.

The last commission was active 10 years ago, although charter amendments have been proposed through council ordinances in the interim.

McClelland does not think that there will be any problem attracting volunteers, but he did not think there were any burning issues that needed to be addressed.

"My thinking is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it," McClelland said.

One change that might be considered is a primary or an election run-off for the city’s mayoral race, Lampke noted, prompted by the eight-candidate contest last November.

But the city has three years to deal with that issue, he added.

City Council meetings will continue to be held at the Cassingham school complex’s community room during January.

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