Trick-or-treat is on in London…as of now

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(Posted Sept. 22, 2020)

Andrew Garrett, Staff Writer

Beggar’s Night is officially on for the city of London–as of now.

At the Sept. 17 city council meeting, Mayor Pat Closser announced that the annual Halloween event will take place this year, barring any changes made at the state level regarding COVID-19 safety protocols.

“The city of London does plan to have trick-or-treat on Thursday, Oct. 29 from 6 to 8 p.m.,” Closser said. “I am currently waiting on guidance from the state and county health department.”

To date, the city has not set formal rules or guidelines pertaining to trick-or-treat activities and COVID-19, but Closser said he will provide any updates to residents via the city’s website and social media pages.

Council members also discussed a proposed ordinance that calls for an increase in the city’s stormwater utility fee from $3 to $5 in 2020, and then by an additional $1.50 starting every January until 2025, bringing the fee to a total of $11 a month by January 2025 for residential properties. The fee for commercial properties would increase by the same $1.50 over five years, putting the fees for businesses at $17 per month by January 2025.

The increase would help to cover repairs and maintenance to the city’s stormwater system.

“Currently, the only way that account is funded is by the capital money, and we’ve been using that for the last two years,” said council member Brenda Russell, who sponsored the legislation. “We want some leverage, some build-up so that we can have some money to work on these storm systems.”

Russell said that once the city surpasses 10,000 in population, the Environmental Protection Agency will require the city to have a stormwater retention plan. This money would help the city to keep up with growing infrastructure needs.

“We’re going to have to tell (the EPA) how we’re going to pay for that,” Russell said. “We’re going to need a plan.”

Some council members expressed concern about raising fees but said they understood the need for repairs.

“I think this is a good five-year plan for the city. The only thing I don’t like is to jump right on this and not give city residents any time to think about this or address council,” said council member Josh Peters. ”I know it needs done.”

No decision was made on the increase at the meeting, but council plans to revisit the measure in the coming weeks.

Also on Sept. 17, after weeks of deliberation, council voted to vacate the alleyway at 157 N. Oak St. A public hearing was held at the meeting. Two residents spoke on the matter, sharing differing opinions.

“I’d rather not see it close for the simple fact that my wife and I use it,” said resident Jeff Krieg. “It’s not a huge inconvenience, but I’d just rather not see it close if that’s a possibility. Alleys are there for a reason.”

Duane Gamble Jr., whose property abuts the alley, said he would like to see it close for safety reasons.

“My main concern is just the kids. They’re always playing and you know how kids are. You can tell them all the time to be careful,” he said.

Gamble’s property is one of four households whose properties touch the alley and he, along with the other three homeowners, signed off on the closure.

The North Oak alley was one of several alleyways up for vacation. City officials will hold public hearings for alleys at South Walnut and Vernon Avenue, West High Street, and State Route 56 and Logan Avenue in October and November.

City officials also are looking at switching to cellular water meters. Closser said the decision would affect all 3,810 meters in the city.

“There have been some issues with reading the meters, and these would help with accuracy,” Closser said. “This would help detect leaks faster, show what we are producing versus what we are billing for, and give the citizens a much more accurate bill.”

Closser said the estimated cost would be $1.3 million but would save the city workers time and effort reading the meters. That saved time could then go to infrastructure repair projects. The proposal is being finalized, Closser said.

In other action, council:
• granted the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) permission to apply for a $400,000 no-interest loan in Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) capital improvement money for wastewater repair; and

• gave BPU the green light to apply for a grant to cover meter replacement from the OPWC State Capital Improvement Program.

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