MOUNT VERNON — At Monday’s council meeting, Councilman Chuck Dice was furious, and said so.
“I’m furious because the federal government, through FEMA, has caused hardship to a lot of citizens in my ward and citizens to the south,” he said. “FEMA has updated its flood plain maps. ... People who were not required to have flood insurance in the past, now they are going to have to have it. I think it’s bad timing with the economy and an added extra expense.”
Dice said that according to FEMA, the level of the river has decreased 6 inches, but the flow of the river has not changed. That doesn’t correlate, he said.
City Engineer Cameron Keaton said it was his understanding FEMA did not restudy the rivers and streams.
“I think what they have is better contours on the ground, aerial photos, elevations,” said Keaton. “They plugged that information into a computer model to come up with the new flood plains.”
Keaton said homeowners who do not agree with FEMA’s assessment as to whether they are in a flood plain can appeal the decision. Homeowners would have to get a flood elevation certificate, showing they are higher than the flood plain. That, he said, could start the process to remove a property from the flood insurance requirement. The insurance is required by lending institutions.
Maps are available in the engineer’s office for residents to view to determine whether they are in a flood plain. Councilwoman Rebecca Jordan said maps are available at wwwFEMA.gov; click on flood maps. She also pointed out that with the updated maps, some homeowners are now out of flood plain areas, and insurance may no longer be required.
“So those people may want to check, too,” she said.
Councilman Mike Hillier requested an update on the old middle school on North Mulberry Street. The 30-day time frame for owner John Bechtel to comply with minimum repairs was Aug. 16.
Mayor Richard Mavis said Bechtel is working on repairing the roof, and that Assistant Fire Chief Chris Menapace walked through the building. According to Mavis, Menapace said the west part of the building — the area council members did not have access to during a walk-through earlier this year — was secure, as were doors and entryways. Replacement or repair of the windows has not yet been done.
Hillier pointed out the Aug. 16 date was the date repairs were to have been completed. City Law Director Bill Smith said he reviewed Menapace’s report, but has not talked with Safety-Service Director Dave Glass.
Councilman John Fair said he has heard of a few complaints about tickets being given to individuals for exceeding the two-hour parking limit while they are volunteering at Gay Street churches. He asked whether the churches could purchase a spot for volunteers to park, or whether a special sticker could be created and distributed so drivers would not be ticked.
Mavis said similar concerns have been voiced by proprietors of beauty salons along Gay Street, as some of their customers could be in the shop for three to four hours.
“We are not trying to drive people out of the downtown area,” he said. “We are working on some sort of a voucher for people who visit businesses in that area.”
Mavis said in its continuing efforts to develop a long-range fire protection plan for the city, a letter has been sent to officials at Kno-Ho-Co-Ashland regarding the former Hiawatha school. He said the city may be interested in acquiring the two-acre property as a site for a fire station.
“We keep exploring where we can supply the best services,” he said, “and Sychar Road seems to provide that for the east and north ends. It would necessitate tearing down the building and creating a suitable site.”
The current asking price is $75,000.
City officials have been looking at a potential fire station on Upper Gilchrist Road, but the road would need to be improved in order to handle the large equipment.
Plans have also changed regarding a connector road between Yauger Road and Coshocton Avenue. Plans now call for the road to be located on Knox Community Hospital property rather than Lowe’s property. The road will use the existing traffic signal at Coshocton and go through to the existing entrance on Yauger Road. It will run west of the hospital’s helipad, across the dike for the detention pond.
“There will be two exits off this new road that will get you into the hospital,” said Mavis.
Mavis said this option would take a little over two acres from KCH. Council authorized the retention of Jobes Henderson & Associates for engineering services in conjunction with the connector road.
Two items of note include a donation of $50 accepted by the city on behalf of Charles Whitney to the Shade Tree Commission. Scott said that although the amount may not be material, the intent to honor Whitney is significant.
Councilman Bruce Hawkins said the city passed its financial audit.
“I have never seen one with no written recommendations,” he said. “We had no written recommendations, and had only two verbal comments.”
One comment relates to the life of capital assets, the other to creating a formal government-owned vehicle policy.
In other business, council:
•Appointed Ian Watson, Joan Stallard and David Baker to the library board of trustees; Council President John Booth to the Mid-Ohio Transit Authority Board; and Fair to the American Red Cross of Knox County Board.
•Authorized Glass to submit an application to the Ohio Public Works Commission for funding of the Mount Vernon Roadway Rehabilitation and Improvement project. Originally involving the intersection improvements at Ohio 229 and Edgewood Road, the project has been expanded so money can be used for street resurfacing.
•Authorized Glass to bid for brick street repair on McArthur and McKenzie streets. The area involved on McKenzie Street is from High Street to Ohio Avenue; McArthur Street involves Chestnut Street to Ohio Avenue. If funds are available, the portion of McKenzie Street north of High Street will be considered. Repairs will include curbs, gutters and brick replacement.
•Authorized Glass to apply for $300,000 in Clean Ohio Fund money to do an environmental assessment of the former American National Can property. “This will tell us where the environmental issues are and what needs to be done to get it cleaned up,” said Mavis.
•Renewed a franchise agreement with Licking Rural Electrification so it can provide service to the Blackjack Road area. The state of Ohio sets the areas to be served by various electric companies; the area of the Sanoh expansion falls within the jurisdiction of LRE, even though it has been annexed into the city.