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Marietta City Council discusses fire contracts, law director delays

Fire Chief C.W. Durham requests Marietta City Council members consider an end to out-of-city fire response contracts Thursday during committee discussions. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

In a series of committee discussions Thursday, Marietta City Council reviewed a proposal to end outside fire response contracts, delays from the law director’s office in soliciting bids for zoning consultants before review of paving change orders and planning for 2022.

FIRE CONTRACTS

Fire Chief C.W. Durham presented to council the current 30 contracts covering 36 properties within the county outside of the city limits.

“Out of those, the average is just a little over three miles of response time to get there, the longest contract we hold is six miles from the nearest fire station,” he said.

He reported that in the last few months he’s seen an uptick in requests for contracted fire protection outside of city limits, leading to a review of whether the practice should be allowed to continue.

“Currently in codified ordinance, if someone would ask tomorrow for a personal contract outside the city, we would still be obligated to give that to them,” he explained, noting he has no authority to deny as long as the property is located near a fire hydrant.

But the inverse of the service is response time and distance to return home.

“This pulls away from the resources we have,” he said.

Durham asked for a stay on future contracts outside city limits while allowing time to let those who have not lapsed to run out and residents, commercial and industrial properties outside of city limits to make other arrangements.

Councilman Mike McCauley asked if the contract stoppage would impact mutual aid. Durham reported that no, stopping outside contracts would not be impacted.

Current contract prices for fire protection outside of city limits were set in the 1970s, drawing currently an average revenue to the general fund of $10,500 per year.

Durham reported that neither Athens nor Parkersburg have contracts with outside entities from their incorporated boundaries, while Cambridge is contracted to cover the neighboring township.

Police and Fire Committee Chairman Bill Gossett said he anticipates further discussion on the proposition before requesting legislation to come before the full council.

ZONING DELAYS

A request for qualifications for a zoning consultant, last discussed in committee in April with the intention to solicit a selection pool for zoning ordinance review, was noted into council records with delays Thursday.

Chairman of Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee Geoff Schenkel noted documentation of the formal request has not met the outlined legislative requirements passed by the voting body this past spring.

He said he received paper copies of what was sent out this week via his front porch from the city law director Wednesday.

“I will do my best without his presence to answer the questions,” said Schenkel. “These were supposed to be out by June 11. The letter dated is June 8, but not sent until a little more recently, went out to 25 different firms all the way from California back to the east coast … As of this morning, the letter is on the city website.”

“I thought we were going to advertise it in the newspaper?” Council member Susan Boyer asked.

“He has looked into some legal journals in the Columbus area,” said Schenkel. “He has not put one in the newspaper.”

Sixmo Inc., represented by Sam Tuten and Bret Allphin, who is also running for council’s open second ward seat due to the retirement of Council member Mike McCauley this year, requested that all 25 firms be read into the record.

Schenkel also noted that both Sixmo and OHM Advisors who had been part of initial discussions of the legislative body both in 2020 and early 2021 were left off the initial mailing list.

“(Law Director Paul Bertram) assured me they were mailed letters before he left town today,” reported Schenkel. “I don’t think we’re going to get this underway by the end of 2020 like we hoped.”

The legislators present also noted a prevalence of law firms on the list spanning from Columbus, to Cincinnati and Akron and fewer land development or otherwise planning-specific firms with the expertise in zoning work as initially requested including Finance Chairman Mike Scales noting an intention to not be “lawyer-heavy” as clear direction dating back to July 2020.

Three out of the 25 firms contacted were not law firms.

The next discussion on the results of the requests for qualification is scheduled for Aug. 12 to review and determine whether additional requests would be sent out. The meeting is set for 4 p.m.

OTHER BUSINESS

In Streets Committee the legislators heard from the city engineer concerning a change order adding work on Acme Street from Greene to Kenwood in the northbound lane and the addition of Wyoming Road to this year’s paving project solely funded through local dollars.

The $33,928.65 change order brought the total for this year’s work up to $433,414.85 and is expected to see introduction, suspension of readings and a vote on Aug. 5.

Council also discussed a proposed memorial plaque and donation offered for a corner of Fourth and Ohio streets in memory of past residents and a right-of-way application for St. Lukes Lutheran Church.

Council also heard a presentation from members of the Start Westward Monument Society on Thursday, noting the monument sculptor’s ties to national history and the Klu Klux Klan. See a future edition of the Times for more.

Council is next scheduled to meet Monday at 4 p.m. in room 10 of the Armory.

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