Pickerington City Council approved legislation to paint the Columbus Street water tower by an emergency vote that raised the ghosts of emergency votes past.
Council passed the ordinance by emergency at its Aug. 7 meeting because the winning contractor, George Kountoupes Painting, Co., Inc., could only schedule the job for August due to other time commitments, according to City Engineer Brenda Van Cleave.
Had the agreement with the painters been reached earlier in the year, council could have voted on it in three consecutive meetings to allow input from community members. By deeming the water tower ordinance an emergency, the council only needed to vote Aug. 7.
In 2002, Pickerington voters approved a charter amendment to restrict the passage of legislation by emergency. The amendment requires a three-fourths vote of council and that the ordinance or resolution specifically state why it should be considered an emergency.
One year, prior to the charter change, a previous council passed 75 percent of its legislation by emergency leading to the construction of thousands of homes, Councilman Jeffrey Fix said.
"I look on that with disgust," said Fix.
"The previous administration used (emergency legislation) quite a bit," Councilwoman Heidi Riggs said. "We do a better job of planning and negotiating. I will support this, but I just don’t like it."
George Kountoupes Painting, Co. came highly recommended and their bid of $180,000 was $34,000 less than the next closest bidder. The city budgeted $200,000. The total of the project will be around $230,000 with additions including the city logo for $7,700 and upgrading to longer-lasting exterior paint for $35,000, Van Cleave said.
Council has stopped abusing the emergency option, Fix said. "It is unfortunate to be put in this position, but saving the citizens $34,000 is not an abuse."
Water tower painting season ends soon. Had council not approved the painting contract by emergency, the city would have to begin the process again next spring. The contract includes cleaning and painting the inside and outside of the tank.
"There is significant peeling inside the tank and a good deal of silt. The previous paint should have lasted 15 years, but it has only been 10," said Van Cleave.
The city became aware of the peeling paint in 2006 and completed a bidding document in June 2007. Pickerington’s law firm told the city that they needed to file a different bidding form.
"The current law director prefers a different form," City Manager Judith Gilleland said. "If the bids worked out we would be painting at the appropriate time. The (time) restrictions are given to us by the contractor which we had no way of knowing."
Councilman Michael Sabatino opposed passing the ordinance by emergency.
"This quote-unquote emergency is self-inflicted and I’m having a hard time seeing a true emergency," Sabatino said. "This is a manufactured emergency. Non-sufficient prior planning put us in this position."