City Council OKs $2.8M in bonds

The issuance of more than $2.8 million in bond anticipation notes for improvements to the city water system and city hall renovations was approved by Marietta City Council Thursday.

Bond anticipation notes, or BANs, are a means of short-term financing that the city plans to repay through a future regular bond issue.

“We’re situating ourselves for a future bond issue, and with current low interest rates, this seems to be the best way to go for now,” said Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, who chairs council’s finance committee.

The first of the two BAN ordinances approved Thursday included $1.05 million for rehabilitation of the water treatment plant lime slag storage bin, replacing and installing water lines, acquiring and installing backup power generation and related electrical work, installing erosion control measures at the water plant, and upgrading the wellfield electrical system.

The second BAN legislation, for $1.8 million, would cover the costs of renovating the city hall building, including furnishings and equipment.

Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, and chairman of the lands, buildings and parks committee, expressed some reservation prior to approval of the city hall BAN.

“I’m concerned that we have not seen a final plan for the renovation of that building,” he said.

Vukovic said he agreed, but the building is in dire need of repair, and if the funding is not addressed now it could delay the project for another year.

“The roof is leaking and this is a rapidly deteriorating building,” he said. “We have to do something. But we’re not appropriating any monies at this time, we’re just putting the money in place because we had no money for this project otherwise.”

Bill Dauber, assistant safety-service director, added that the city hall renovation would allow offices to be moved there from other city buildings that could then be put up for sale.

In other business Thursday, council approved the city police department to enter into a contract with AlphaLink Technologies of Newark, Ohio, for the purchase of a camera surveillance system that will be used to provide protection for bridges, commercial and private river traffic, and events on the Ohio River within the Huntington Port Security area near Marietta.

The equipment will be 100 percent funded through a Homeland Security Grant of $33,878.

Vukovic said he was hesitant to approve the measure.

“This is supposed to put surveillance cameras under the I-77 bridge, but I don’t know that we have the authority to monitor that bridge or that portion of the Ohio River (both of which belong to West Virginia),” he said. “And we don’t know that pleasure boaters won’t be observed by these cameras. The opportunity is there. Cameras are showing up everywhere, and there’s a real lack of privacy. But if something does occur like what happened in Boston this week, those cameras would pick it up.”

Vukovic was referring to the bombs detonated during Monday’s Boston Marathon that killed three and injured approximately 170 others.

Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick assured Vukovic that, when the grant request was originally submitted in 2009, West Virginia authorities with the Huntington Port gave the city the necessary permission.

“This is for the state of West Virginia, so I can’t see that they would not give us permission to monitor the bridge and river,” McKitrick said.

Police and fire committee chairman Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward, agreed.

“And after seeing what happened in Boston this week, we need to get our technology up to date in order to keep watch on our barges and other river traffic in the event of a terrorist attack on this industrial area,” he said.

Councilman Michael Mullen, I-at large, considers the surveillance a necessary evil.

“As much as I hate that we have to make such moves, the news of the last several days seems to dictate that action,” he said. “This is now the way of the world. But we want people to know we’re not scrutinizing pleasure boaters. This is really about the much larger issue of homeland security.”

The measure passed unanimously, although Vukovic hesitated momentarily before casting his vote.