Reynoldsburg looks at city charter issues

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Messenger photo by John Matuszak
Reynoldburg magazine photo contest winners, from left, Shua Mapes, Bridgette Wade and Jennifer Brett, were presented with their prizes by publisher Les Somogyi at the July 9 City Council meeting. Janette Cole and Barbara Boone were also winners, but could not attend the presentation. Somogyi said 70 entries were received for the contest, with categories for "My Hometown" and "Reynoldsburg’s Children." First place awards were given to Wade for an action shot of her daughter, Brittany, sliding into home during a softball game, and by Mapes for a photo of a baby duck shadowed by its mother. The winners received a one-night stay in a Hocking Hills resort. Second prizes went to Cole and Boone, and third prizes went to Wade and Brett. The photos are on display in the Municipal Building lobby.

When Reynoldsburg’s voters head to the polls in November, they may see a few changes to the city’s charter for their consideration – including one that would eliminate partisan primary elections.

The ordinances to place the charter amendments on the fall ballot received their first readings July 9.

Reynoldsburg City Council Finance Committee was first presented July 2 with the proposed changes to the city charter for their consideration.

Nathan Burd, chairman of the Charter Review Commission, told council the five-member commission, which has been meeting since spring, has made recommendations about changes to propose sending to the ballot.

"There was a lot of debate about the makeup of the commission, but we worked very well together," Burd told council. Other commission members included: Leslie Kelly, Norm Brusk, Donald Hallowes and Thomas Drabick.

Probably the most notable amendment the committee is proposing will remove the partisan primary, Burd said.

"Under our current election process, we have partisan primaries," Burd explained in an interview following the meeting. "So each spring, the Republicans and Democrats each choose their candidates via partisan primary elections. For example, in the recent mayoral election, Republicans chose Brad McCloud and Democrats chose Jim Casteel in their primaries. In the fall, these candidates face off in the general election and Independents are also able to run in the general election. The winner in the general election takes office."

However, Burd said the Charter Review Commission is proposing an amendment that would change this process.

"Under the amendment, there would be no partisan primary," he said. "Instead, everyone – regardless of their party identification – runs in the spring primary. The two top vote-getters in one-on-one races then move on to face off in the general election."

He said this is a significant change in the way the city elects its city officials.

"Candidates would not have R’s or D’s next to their names on the ballot, and Independents would have to run in the primary instead of automatically being included in the general election."

Burd noted the nonpartisan election amendment did not receive unanimous approval by members of the Charter Review Commission. For a charter review amendment to be passed on to council, it must receive three votes. The nonpartisan election amendment passed by a vote of 3-2, with Burd and Kelly casting the dissenting votes.

"It was heavily debated and there are disagreements on the Charter Review Commission regarding this issue," he said. "All of the other amendments received unanimous 5-0 votes."

Burd said other changes the Charter Review Commission has brought to council for consideration include:

•Canceling the primary election if no primary election is necessary. Burd said this was brought to light after Hilliard was required to hold a primary election even though there were no candidates or issues on the ballot, costing the county thousands of dollars in fees to open the polls for the non-election.

•Allowing the president pro-tempore of council, who is serving as acting mayor, to approve or veto emergency legislation in the event a true emergency occurs in the absence of the mayor and the president of council.

•Clarifying language permitting the city attorney to have other employment during a term in office.

•Clarifying wording regarding ward boundaries and appointment to council, and ensuring that members of the commission are electors of the city.

Burd said the commission is not expecting council to approve sending all of the changes to the ballot in November. Instead, the changes are being proposed as options for council to discuss and consider.

"We were figuring council wouldn’t send them all through," he said.

William Hills, president of council, said due to their August hiatus, council has only two more meetings to consider the issues before they need to be filed with the county board of elections to be on the November ballot.

"Historically it has gone through two readings and then passed as emergency," Hills said, noting all charter changes need to have five affirmative votes of council before they can be sent to the ballot for voter consideration.

At the July 9 council meeting, Service-Safety Director Steve DeBolt reported that lower than expected bids for street repairs will allow the city to increase road repairs this year.

Last winter was especially hard on Reynoldsburg’s streets, making it necessary to do more repairs, he added.

The bid for resurfacing asphalt streets came in $80,000 under estimates, and the cost for replacing two concrete streets will be $20,000 less.

It will cost as much to replace Merchants Drive and Officeview Drive, the two concrete streets, as to repair them, DeBolt said. That project will cost $222,175.

DeBolt wants to repair six sections of asphalt streets – East Green Boulevard, Farmsbury, Hanson Drive, Taylorwoods Drive and two sections of Kingsley Drive – at a cost of $567,848.

Part of the cost will be covered through permissive taxes from Licking and Franklin counties.

Construction will take about 90 days, DeBolt said.

Eastside Editor John Matuszak
contributed to this report.

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