City goes back to drawing board on levy options

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(Posted May 25, 2022)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

London city leaders are going back to the drawing board to determine what direction to go following a recent levy failure.

In the May 3 election, the city asked for an income tax increase for additional funding for the fire/EMS department and to build a new police department and new community center. The measure failed 32.25 percent to 67.75 percent.

A need for additional dollars for the fire/EMS department is pressing.

“We can’t wait until the last minute to know what we’re doing for fire and EMS funding,” said council member Greg Eades at the May 19 council meeting.

The deadline to submit levy requests to the Board of Elections for the Nov. 8 general election is Aug. 10. Council is required to hold three readings on legislation to place a levy on the ballot. Council holds regular meetings twice a month.

“By the next meeting, we’re going to have to have something ready,” Eades said, stating that city leaders need to discuss what worked and didn’t work with the previous levy request, what could be changed, if a property tax would be another way to go, and if there’s a different way to look at the situation altogether.

Henry Comer, council president, suggested the city look into going back to contracting with Madison County EMD for EMS services. He said the city needs a Plan B in case another attempt at passing a levy for fire/EMS fails.

“I would rather be ahead of the game than behind the game,” he said.

Resident Michael Norman said he would like to see the previous levy request divided into three separate levy requests–one for fire/EMS, one for the police station, and one for the community center. He said he understands that this could mean some of the items pass and some don’t put stated that the bundled approach is all or nothing.

Josh Peters, chairman of council’s finance committee, invited all council members to attend the next finance meeting to discuss possibilities. That meeting is set for 6 p.m. June 6 at city hall, 20 S. Walnut St., and is open to the public.

Water Meter Fee

The city is installing new water meters. They are read via a cellular endpoint, rather than manually. The cellular readings will eliminate estimated billing and reduce manpower needs.

The company that provides the cellular read service charges a fee to transmit the data. Council voted 6-1, with Josh Peters casting the “no” vote, to apply that fee to customers’ water bills once all of the meters are installed. This year, that cost is 89 cents per month per meter.

By doing the installation with city crews, the city is saving approximately $340,000. Some have asked why the Board of Public Utilities cannot absorb the cellular transmission fee as a matter of doing business, especially with the savings on installation.

Rex Castle, London’s safety-service director, explained that the $340,000 isn’t sitting in the bank. The city took out a loan to cover the cost of the water meters. Because the installation is being done in-house, the city is borrowing a little over $1 million instead of $1.4 million. The in-house work is a way of reducing debt load, he said.

Playground Build

Merri Mac Park Miracle and the city are looking for volunteers to help install new playground equipment at Merri Mac Park.

The installation is set for 8 a.m.-5 p.m. June 2-4. Volunteers are needed for four- or eight-hour shifts on those days. Organizers estimate they need 25 volunteers per day. Many of the slots are filled but more help is needed. Lunch will be served to those who lend a hand.

Merri Mac Park Miracle is a non-profit group working in tandem with the city to raise funds for improvements at the park. By handling the installation themselves, the groups are saving at least $25,000, said Brenda Russell, a Merri Mac Park Miracle representative.

In addition to installing new playground equipment, volunteers will give the park’s shelter house a facelift and repair the existing swings.

Anyone who would like to volunteer is asked to call Amy Rees at city hall, (740) 852-3243.

Miscellaneous

Mayor Patrick Closser reported that city leaders have been meeting with home developers. One project already under way will bring approximately 60 new homes to the Brooksedge area off Garfield Avenue. Home construction should start in late fall. The houses will range in price from $280,000 to $380,000. Developers for two other housing projects are finalizing their land acquisition deals, Closser said, promising to report more information soon.

The city has hired a new parks and recreation director. Landon McKenzie officially starts the job Memorial Day weekend. He replaces Tammy Braskett who announced her resignation earlier this year.

London’s fireworks display is scheduled to take place at dusk on July 3 at London High School. The city’s Independence Day parade is set for 11 a.m. July 4.

Movies By Moonlight returns to the city’s entertainment schedule. Closser said he is finalizing dates and movie selections. His hopes are to hold two or three movie nights this summer.

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