Marietta Council OKs wage freeze

Marietta City Council met Wednesday in a special meeting to vote upon a wage freeze and additional health insurance premium requirements for the non-bargaining, non-union employees.

Both ordinances were adopted unanimously, though the wage freeze was clarified with an amendment put forth by Employee Relations Chairwoman Cassidi Shoaf.

“This is by the request of employees to more clearly state that this legislation applies only to 2018,” said Shoaf. “With further legislation required this council’s intent, based upon current financial conditions, is to defer longevity pay until 2019. We recognize the burden these changes place on city employees and wish we were in an economic state that this change was not warranted. I offer my heartfelt sympathy to the families that may be adversely affected and pledge to do all I can to make Marietta’s economic future brighter.”

Council’s votes changed the insurance premium to be paid by city employees from 15 percent to 17.5 percent and froze all step increases and longevity incentives for 2018.

Streets Committee

City Engineer Joe Tucker and Project Manager Eric Lambert gave a few updates to council’s streets committee Wednesday.

They outlined that while the Washington County Commissioners may dispute the easement rights previously signed over to the city to extend River Trail Phase V north of the wastewater plant to Walmart, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which oversees the project, the easement still stands.

“I have asked ODOT District 10 on three separate occasions and they have come back each time saying yes we have that easement,” said Lambert. “Since Feb. 23, 2016 nothing has changed either with how we’re covering the local share of the cost.”

Of the $183,762.60 local share, only $63,700 remains for the cost of construction. The timeline of construction Tucker said is now in the hands of ODOT, pending approval via vote from Marietta City Council next week.

“That’s covered by a low-interest loan to be paid over 10 years secured by the bed tax,” noted Lambert.

In total the project is projected to cost $2,798,957 and will be covered by a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grant, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources Clean Ohio Trail Fund and Recreation Trails Grants, an Ohio Department of Transportation Alternatives grant and a 3-percent interest loan through the state infrastructure bank to be paid back over 10 years.

“That’s approximately $8,000 per year paid for by the bed tax,” said Tucker. “There’s no money coming from the streets fund or general fund on this project. I am extremely proud of Eric to get these funding sources all lined up at the same time. He’s got $2.6 million in grants on a $2.7 million project. Now it’s in ODOT’s court.”

The project’s anticipated beginning construction time is May of this year with completion of construction in November of 2019.

Streets also discussed a future project to be budgeted for in 2019 addressing the slippage of Harmar Hill along Lancaster Street.

Current broad estimates for engineering and construction place the project at a $772,184 price tag. With four years of applications that has placed the city in the running for Wood-Washington-Wirt Regional Planning Organization funding and Ohio Public Works Commission funding of $680,912 of that total. Anticipated construction of the Lancaster Street improvement would not begin at least until October of 2019.