By Linda Dillman
A charter change for the Nov. 7 election proposed by Canal Winchester City Councilman Patrick Shea would bring an end to the mayor’s position in Canal Winchester as early as Jan. 1, 2028 and replace it with a strong council-manager form of government.
“I asked Mr. Boggs (law director) to draw this up,” Shea said.
Council discussed the proposed charter amendment—up for a first reading—during its April 3 work session. If the ordinance passes the three-reading process, the amendment could appear on the November ballot and be decided by city voters.
If approved by voters, the charter change would become effective in 2028. It would eliminate the mayoral job and replace it with a council appointed city manager. All department heads would fall under the control of the city manager, who could remove them without cause, which is similar to the powers now granted to the mayor.
The ordinance states “…that proposed charter amendments providing for a transition of the city’s form of government from Strong Mayor-Council to Council-City Manager shall be submitted to the electors of the city. Council shall appoint a city manager, who shall serve as the chief administrative officer of the city, by a majority vote of its members. The tenure of the appointment shall be indefinite, but shall continue at the pleasure of the council.”
According to the proposed amendment, the city manager would be the chief executive, administrative and law enforcement officer of Canal Winchester. In order to appear on the November ballot, the charter change would need to be adopted and made effective before August.
The council president would be required to perform ceremonial duties and functions as necessary, along with judicial powers and functions granted to all municipal mayors.
“With the city administrator change that was approved in 2010, our city has almost doubled in size,” said Shea. “All this is (proposed charter change) is asking the council to put this on the ballot in November to allow our citizens to decide if they want a city manager form of government or maintain a strong mayor form of government.”
Shea said the city has “been exceptionally blessed” to have consistent leadership over the last 12 years. However, he added that his personal fear is if an “incompetent” mayor is elected, it will take four years to elect a different mayor.
Councilman Mike Walker felt council should wait with Shea’s idea until the city administrator’s position is ironed out and then revisit the proposed charter change.
Councilwoman Jill Amos called Shea’s ordinance “totally opposite to what we talked about. I thought we were talking about a city administrator, not a council-manager strong.”
“If we go to an administrator—allowed by the charter—it is a change in operation, that was the rationale,” said Shea. “If we’re going to look for a professional manager, which is what we should have for the city, we want as much continuity as possible. A mayor-strong kind of government doesn’t offer that kind of continuity. It is a conversation that is out there. I wanted to start the discussion.”
A city administrator would serve at the pleasure of the mayor, whereas a city manager would only report to council.
Before council voted to table the proposed charter ordinance, Shea asked the law director how many signatures were required by a citizen-mounted petition drive to get the change on the ballot.
Boggs said the requirement asks for 10 percent of the number of votes cast by Canal Winchester voters for governor in the last election.
“At the end of the day, if the voters don’t like it, they’ll say no,” said Shea.
Swimming pool news
Discussion items during the work session also included an ordinance updating swimming pool admission rates and another creating a seasonal aquatics supervisor position.
An ordinance updating the pool’s daily admission rate to $8 for visitors ages 3-59, $3 for ages 60 and above, $5 for daycare and free for ages two and under was up for a first reading.
Patrons can register online for memberships, but will need to complete the process in person at pre-scheduled open house sessions.
“Last year we did everything online,” said Finance Director Amanda Jackson, who reported the process created issues such as the use of stolen credit cards.
A proposed pool policy change could restrict admission during the Memorial Day weekend to individuals and families who previously completed the application process and received their membership cards.
In addition, day passes would not be sold during the first week of operation.
The seasonal aquatics manager would be required to safeguard and regulate the conduct of patrons, which takes much of the burden off of lifeguards who are responsible for monitoring the pool area.
A manager would assist the public service director in coordinating pool operations and assist the finance director in pool admissions and concessions. The hourly pay rate is $21.01 to $29.08.
Crisis Response Team
Council also received information from Canal Winchester Schools about a Crisis Response Team providing an immediate, on-the-scene response to traumatic situations occurring within the community.
The team is partnering with police departments, mental health providers, community members and/or government officials to ensure complete wraparound services to those affected by incidents including homicides, suicides and unexpected tragic deaths.
Team members include licensed social worker and organizer Arnetta Davis, Aletha Mullins, Dee De Doling-Dade, Kim Vojacek, and Angela Bensonhaver. Mullins is the contact for the food pantry and other material needs.
“The Crisis Care Response Team for the Canal Winchester Local School District is being formed because we’ve had a lot of different traumatic events in Canal and I have been the sole one to go-to and respond,” Davis said.
She emphasized the program is not limited to kids, but is also for all people living in the school district and the team’s goal is to provide for temporary immediate needs not to exceed 90 days.