Middleport discusses possible village projects

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Jan. 13—MIDDLEPORT — Middleport Village Council met in regular session earlier this week to discuss possible projects in the village.

Present during the meeting were council members Shawn Arnott, Ben Reed, Brian Conde, Larry Byer and Susan Page. Also present were Fiscal Officer Susan Baker, Police Chief Mony Wood, Village Administrator Joe Woodall, Building Inspector Mike Hendrickson, and Village Attorney Richard Hedges.

At the beginning of the meeting, Matt Lyons was unanimously appointed by council to fill the vacant seat and was then sworn in by Mayor Hoffman. Brian Conde was unanimously elected as president of council.

Council approved the minutes of the Dec. 13 meeting, payment of bills, finance report, and income tax report. Hedges was appointed as the village attorney for 2022.

Hoffman presented to council a proposed ordinance that would provide for tax abatement on residential and commercial remodeling and new construction through the entire village.

According to a news release about this week's meeting, "He said he felt this would be a great incentive for improvements and new construction in the village and this had been in effect during his previous terms as mayor and it worked out well."

The ordinance is reportedly similar to sample ordinances from other communities and contains the language and requirements of the Ohio Revised Code. Anyone building or remodeling a house would be granted 100 percent tax abatement based on the increased taxes resulting from the cost of the improvements. Hoffman said any abatement on commercial property would be negotiated by council and a proposed committee as required by law. He said two different committees would need to be appointed as required by the Ohio Revised Code and a housing officer would need to be appointed. He recommended that Hendrickson be appointed as the housing officer who would handle all residential housing tax abatement applications. After a short discussion in which all council members voiced their approval of the recommendation, the ordinance was given a first reading.

The news release further stated, "Hoffman said the problems with the Salisbury Fire Levy had been resolved by the prosecutor and auditor and this levy will not be collected in Middleport and Pomeroy. He thanked Hedges for his efforts in seeing the problem was taken care of."

Hoffman said Hendrickson has put together information on sidewalks on South Second, South Third, South Fourth, some areas in between and uptown. Mitch Altire of IBI Group has agreed to put together estimates, design, etc. on what is needed for the application. Hendrickson said this would be a two-phase project replacing the sidewalks in that area and that we would like to submit the project through the ODOT Transportation Alternatives Program. The funds for the proposed project, if approved, would not be available until July 1, 2024. Total cost would be $2,051,500 with $1,060,200 being the cost of the first phase. Village would be responsible for a five percent match ($45,435) and engineering costs of $151,500 for a total of $196,935. Hoffman said he was sure he could come up with the local funds needed if the project were to be approved. In discussion it was pointed out that engineering funds would need to be secured soon after project approval before the project went any further and that grant funds can be obtained for this. After discussion, a resolution was approved authorizing Hoffman to submit the application to ODOT.

Council approved the purchase of a half page ad in the Meigs County Tourism Guide at a cost of $360, using the same ad from last year with a few minor changes.

Hoffman said Conde had informed him the Business Association will not be doing the fireworks this year. Hoffman said this has been a long tradition in Middleport since Bob Gilmore started it back in the early 1990's and he would like council's opinion on whether to drop it or to proceed with a bigger and better celebration, consisting of more than fireworks if we wish to continue the tradition. Hoffman said he discussed this with Mary Wise and that she and Wilbur Stivers would be willing to take charge of activities for that day and would also help in raising funds for the fireworks.

Hoffman said he understood the fireworks would need $5,000 paid up front in order to secure the fireworks and needs to be done very soon. Hoffman suggested the village put up the $5,000 for the down payment with the next $5,000 to be raised by donations. After a lengthy discussion, council agreed to postpone a decision until the next meeting, to allow time for review of the village finances by the fiscal officer and council.

The mayor presented council with bulletins from the Ohio Municipal League informing communities that all ARPA funds can now be used for any legitimate government purpose and the reporting was also being streamlined. The village will receive approximately $124,000 again this year from ARPA funds.

According to the news release, "Police Chief Wood discussed with council some of the problems which have occurred during the past month within the police department and that he had received advice from several agencies, including the FBI, on how to handle the problems. Wood stated that there has been a lot of sickness and he has been very short-handed at various times, but that Pomeroy and the sheriff have helped and Middleport has also helped them when needed."

Village Administrator Woodall discussed the water project with council and said he felt it was moving along well with several crews working at different locations in the community. In response to a question from Byer about the truck purchase, Woodall discussed the proposed truck purchase that was approved several months ago from Mark Porter and "problems encountered in trying to obtain the vehicle," stated the release. Woodall also apologized for the mud the "uptown" area of the village which had been cleaned up.

"Byer stated that the new dump truck purchased by the village looked great and thought it would be a real asset to the community," stated the news release.

Woodall stated that parts had to be ordered for the snow plow on the truck. Byer also stated that he would like to see the cemetery project completed and the backstop completed for the archery range as soon as possible before any other projects were taken on.

Conde inquired about the trophy case project. Hoffman said he talked to Jeff Darst about it and it was moving along well.

Conde said he received the information from the Bunner family on the size and specifications of the handicapped playground equipment which they had purchased. He said he would relay this to Penny Mullen in order for her to give a price for design of the park for that purpose.

Conde also said he had talked to representatives of the Blakeslee Center and they had requested that a "No Outlet" sign be placed at the corner of South Fourth and Lincoln. Hoffman said the sign placement was in process and would be there this week.

"Conde questioned the use of sick leave and felt that it may be abused somewhat," stated the news release. "Hoffman said so much sick leave was allotted to employees by council and some use it and some do not. Hoffman agreed with Conde that the sick time, which is allocated to employees by council, is very liberal. If it needed changed, procedures need to be followed to do so."

Conde also questioned the use of asphalt on repair to some of the brick streets. Hoffman said this was not the policy but the Main Street and South Fourth Avenue intersection had gotten so bad that some asphalt had been used to fill some of the holes. He stated this was one of the worst sections of road in town and needed a lot of attention to correct the problems, such as redoing the intersection in concrete or asphalt, but there were no immediate plans to do this. Conde said the village needed a plan to repair or maintain some of the brick streets. Both the mayor and Woodall said they were open to suggestions or help from anyone who wanted to do this. Hoffman said this was a job for professionals but there does not seem to be any the village could afford or that could do the work..

Also discussed was the vacation time accumulated by Fiscal Officer Baker as it related to when she retires.

Council adjourned with the next regular meeting scheduled for Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.

Information submitted by Middleport Mayor Fred Hoffman.

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