MOUNT VERNON — After making a few changes, City Council approved legislation creating a taxi cab board and modifying city ordinances regarding licensing of taxi drivers and taxi cabs. Up for second readings, council waived the third reading and passed ordinances 2009-40* and 2009-41*.
Councilman Mike Hillier, chairman of the Fire, Police and Civil Defense Committee, said he spoke with the owner of Safe Cab Co., whose concerns included a conflict of interest with the Mount Vernon Police Chief sitting on the taxi appeal board, the cost of insurance and whether MOTA was included under the regulations.
“There were some concerns about [me sitting on] the taxi cab board,” said Police Chief Mike Merrilees. “We initially thought the law director or his designee could serve instead. But after looking into it, there is also some conflict of interest there as well because somebody from that office would prosecute if the need arose.”
Merrilees said the ordinance was changed so that a citizen at large, appointed by the mayor and approved by council, would serve on the board along with the mayor and the safety-service director.
The penalties for violating licensing regulations were also changed. The first violation will result in a first-degree misdemeanor charge. Subsequent violations will be a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
Since she is in the insurance field, Councilman Burt Hanson asked Councilwoman Rebecca Jordan for her opinion on the required minimums of $100,000 per person and $330,000 per accident. Jordan said those were standard requirements in the industry.
Each auto for hire is required to obtain a license, which will be good for one year from the date issued. License fees, as well as fines from violations, will be put into into a newly created fund, the Public Service Street Repair Fund. Money in this fund is to be used solely for repairing streets, avenues, alleys and lanes within the city.
After some discussion, council authorized Safety-Service Director Dave Glass to enter into an agreement with the Knox County Commissioners for housing city prisoners in the county jail. The commissioners are requesting a 4 percent increase in the amount the city pays. Mavis said that after discussing the 4 percent number with the commissioners, and the commissioners reviewed the numbers, the commissioners felt the city was getting a good deal.
“They feel they can defend a 4 percent increase,” said Mavis.
Hillier pointed out the city should get a good deal because the city is the largest contributor to the jail.
“It seems like every year we’re down to the last meeting of the year to decide this contract,” he said. “What I would like to see is a contract by Nov. 1 so we can begin discussing it earlier. When they say they’re giving us a good deal, yes, because we’re the largest contributor.”
Councilman John Fair agreed.
“I felt like we got hoodwinked at the last minute,” said Fair. “I think discussing it earlier would give us more time and there would be no surprises.”
Councilman Chuck Dice also agreed, and questioned the rate being charged for prisoners housed from out of the county.
“I agree 100 percent with you, Mike,” he said. “... My only comment is instead of charging us more, why not charge more to those from out of the county?”
Mavis said the fee is $60 per day for out-of-county prisoners, compared to the $35 the city would pay.
In other action, council passed an interim budget for the first two months of 2010, and approved appropriations and transfers. According to Terry Scott, city auditor, the 2010 budget is around $11 million compared to $8 million for 2009. One of the appropriations was $2,006.56, the semi-annual distribution from the Walter & Jane Rudin Trust Fund to the W&J Rudin-Downwtown Beautification Fund.
Council also approved renewal of an agreement with the Ohio Department of Development for federal CDBG funds. According to Scott, funds received are put into the Revolving Loan Fund, then disbursed to homeowners through the housing rehab program. Eighty percent of the money loaned to the homeowner is forgiven; for the remaining 20 percent, a lien is placed on the house. Whenever the house is sold, that 20 percent is returned to the revolving loan fund and loaned out once again.
Prior to the regular council session, council discussed the parking lot on South Mulberry and Vine streets, behind the King of Clubs. The Mount Vernon Parking Co. is requesting the city seal and stripe the lot, as well as eliminate the entrance from South Mulberry Street. The parking company will maintain the lot and will get the revenue generated from parking meters and/or rental of spaces. If the South Mulberry Street entrance is eliminated, the lot will hold 21 spaces; some of the spaces would have a three-hour parking limit.
“The city will retain ownership of the lot,” said Mavis. “This is just a mechanism to put it into the hands of someone who would monitor it. And it does address the three-hour parking limit request, and generate some money for the parking company.”
“Council provides money through the bed tax to the parking company,” said Council president John Booth. “It seems to me they should be willing to foot the cost of getting the lot ready. We’re looking at a tighter budget next year; I think especially since they are going to make revenue off of it, they should get it ready.”
Dice asked what the owner of the King of Clubs thought about the proposal, and said he would like to see a few spots reserved for that business. Glass pointed out the lot would not be monitored after 7 p.m. anyway, so it would not conflict with King of Clubs customers. Dice said the business opens at 11 a.m, so there could be potential conflict.
Council also briefly discussed continued truck traffic on East High Street, the rerouting of traffic when the Coshocton Avenue project gets under way, and an increased police presence to monitor traffic on East High Street. Jordan said she will bring up the issue again after she has reviewed traffic accident counts from Merrilees.
Councilman Bruce Hawkins read proclamations honoring outgoing councilmen Hanson and Derk Demaree for their service to the city.