By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester City Council discussed a pair of big ticket items on their Sept. 18 agenda—one for Destination: Canal Winchester and another for Canal Winchester Human Services, in addition to proposed rule changes.
Human Services is asking for additional financial support for their senior transportation service and the council rules committee proposed changes in council representation on the Destination: Canal Winchester board and how often the organization provides financial updates.
Human Services’ agreement with the city runs out at the end of the year and an ordinance for the new agreement, if approved, starts Jan. 1, 2024, through Dec. 31, 2026.
“This is very, very similar to the previous agreement we’ve had,” said
Canal Winchester Finance Director Amanda Jackson. “It has gone through legal review with minor changes and we have updated the dollar amounts.”
According to the agreement, Human Services will receive $73,000 in 2024, $75,300 in 2025 and $77,500 in 2026 for senior transportation. The program provides transportation for senior citizens and disabled residents of Canal Winchester to medical appointments and quality-of-life assistance.
Following a rules committee meeting, a resolution was proposed amending the number of meetings council members are required to attend while serving as an appointed representative to city organizations, in addition to changes for Destination: Canal Winchester, which is funded by the city’s bed tax.
“It changes our current bed tax ordinance,” said Councilman Patrick Shea. “Having an elected official keeping an eye on money flowing through that organization. It was my idea (a voting seat on the organization’s board) because of the amount of money going into that organization.”
Destination: Canal Winchester serves as the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau and, as such, is statutorily required by the state. It is funded through bed tax receipts and its director, Karen Stiles, is paid $22,000 through the general fund.
“The amount distributed out of collected bed tax funds amounts to 25 percent, which varies from year to year,” said Jackson. “So far this year, we’ve given them about $93,000. They were given $133,000 in 2022. That is what is required as a CVB.”
However, Councilwoman Laurie Amick said asking for voting rights on a non-profit board and asking them to change their by-laws—in her opinion—is government overreach. She said there is a possibility of an ethics issue.
“We run the risk of not demonstrating trust without just cause for the organizations that thoroughly serve this community,” said Amick. “These organizations do a lot for our community.”
Amick said she was advised by a representative of the Ohio ethics board that council should “probably” not have a voting member on the Destination: Canal Winchester board. Since council approves the city’s budget, it could cause ethical violations because the organization receives city money and city streets are used for a festival administered by the organization.
“I was told it’s much better that a council representative is not a voting member,” said Amick.
According to the proposed resolution, bed tax revenue would be placed in a separate fund for Destination: Canal Winchester, subject to the organization’s performance on a specific set of terms and conditions defined in the ordinance.
The rules resolution also outlined council appointments to organizations such as CWJRD, Human Services, CWICC, Chamber of Commerce and Destination:Canal Winchester.
According to the resolution, it is the responsibility of council members to attend at least 75 percent of annual meetings held by the organization. If the organization holds three or fewer meetings per calendar year, the appointed council member is required to attend each meeting unless their attendance is excused due to illness or unforeseen circumstances.
Under changes to council limitations on debate, language addressing restrictions on the number of times a council member is permitted to speak for or against a proposition is up to the discretion of the presiding officer, who may advance or restrict follow-up questions as necessary.
Rules could be suspended to permit unlimited debate by a vote of two-thirds of the council majority. Previously, the vote was a three-fourths majority.