London council discusses process for vetting legislation

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(Posted Sept. 10, 2020)

Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Confusion over the intended use for CARES Act funding led to a somewhat heated discussion among London city council members regarding legislation review processes.

On Sept. 1, council member Brenda Russell introduced a resolution to appropriate $4,776 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for use by the city’s fire department. Issued by the federal government, CARES Act funds can be used to cover pandemic-related expenses.

Russell said the fire department planned to use the funds for “maintenance of equipment.” Council member Carla Blazier asked if that was an approved use of the funds.

After further questions about the specifics of the request, Mayor Pat Closser called Fire Chief Todd Eades for more information. Closser then relayed to council that Eades planned to use the money for the replacement of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, which falls within the CARES Act guidelines. Closser also clarified that the “maintenance of equipment” referred to the budget line to which the money would be assigned.

Henry Comer, council president, took issue with the fact that the legislation was introduced without clear understanding of its contents. Russell and Closser stated that the committee meeting at which the legislation would have been discussed prior to the full council meeting had been cancelled. Comer contended that introduction of the legislation should have waited until after the next committee meeting.

“We’re supposed to take all of these ordinances through committee so we know what we are talking about,” he said.

When Comer pushed the issue, Russell asked, “Is there concern about how Todd will use the money? Do you not trust Todd to use this money correctly? Is that what the problem is?”

Comer replied, “It’s not that he’s going to use it in some way he’s not supposed to. It’s that it was presented here and we had no clue what they were even going to use it for…It was something that should have been brought through a committee.”

Closser and council member Josh Peters noted that council often introduces and votes on legislation that has not gone through committee. Comer acknowledged that fact, but added that those instance should only occur when legislation is time sensitive. The CARES Act appropriation was not time sensitive.

Closser said that any time a council member has questions about proposed legislation, they can call the administration office or the appropriate department head prior to council meetings.

After the discussion, Peters moved to suspend the three-reading rule to vote on the CARES Act appropriation. Council then passed the legislation unanimously.

In other action, council passed a resolution giving consent to the Ohio Department of Transportation to replace and upgrade guardrails on West High Street (U.S. Route 42) by Von Kanel Field and along the Center Street (State Route 665) curve.

“There’s no cost to the city for this (project),” said Peters, who sponsored the legislation.

The project is scheduled to be done by Dec. 1.

Council has set public hearings for the vacation of two alleys. The first will take place at the Sept. 17 council meeting and involves an alley on North Oak Street. The second will take place at the Oct. 1 council meeting and involves an alley on Logan Avenue.

The next regular meeting of council is set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at city hall, 20 S. Walnut St. Dates, times, locations, communication methods, and cancellations for all city government meetings are subject to change. If meeting changes occur, a 24-hour notice will be posted to the city’s Facebook page and website, londonohio.gov/city-meeting-schedule. As for COVID-19 safety procedures, the city complies with the rules in place at the time of each meeting. Video recordings of council meetings can be found on the city’s website.

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