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Marietta City Council hears Census 2020 pitch

Administration lacks unanimous support for new positions

Washington County Job and Family Services Director Flite Freimann enlists Marietta City Council and administration in the promotion of 2020 Census participation Thursday as the first guest speaker invited during the new legislative term. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

With consensus on the 2020 Census, but not on staffing proposals from the new administration, Marietta City Council’s second regular business meeting of the year covered more than usual for the legislative body Thursday.

The legislators heard from their first guest speaker of the new term, invited by Council President Susan Vessels.

“We peaked in population in 1970… but I do not think the 2010 census accurately represented the number of residents in our community,” explained Washington County Job and Family Services Director Flite Freimann, enlisting the support and cheerleading of the legislators to encourage city residents to participate in the census count this year.

Freimann said the three target groups at risk of being missed by the count are seniors–especially those raising grandchildren, couch surfers and young adults potentially residing in unauthorized subletting or other housing situations.

“These are the most likely not to fill out the census because they don’t want to be found out,” said Freimann. “But we need to inform them that the census is 100 percent confidential. That it is a violation of federal law for any law enforcement or other agency to take that personal information. Your answers on the census are completely confidential.”

But after Freimann’s remarks, an introduction from County Commission candidate Charlie Schilling, and the participation of two Cub Scouts, unanimous consensus didn’t continue through the introduction of Ordinances 2-10 and Resolutions 2-4.

Ordinance 9 failed to endure past its first reading, needing six votes to suspend the second and third readings proposed by Councilwoman Cassidi Shoaf.

The legislation proposed would officially create the new position of human resources director, whom Mayor Josh Schlicher assigned Jeff Skinner to fill beginning Jan. 1.

Skinner has taken up residence with Safety-Service Director Steve Wetz in former Director Jonathan Hupp’s office of city hall.

Initially, Councilman Geoff Schenkel moved to table the ordinance, pending further review, receiving support for the motion by veteran Councilman Mike McCauley.

Though that motion failed, so did the motion to suspend the second and third readings, meaning Ordinance 9 will return to the legislative body for further consideration on Feb. 6, or before if the council calls a special business meeting.

Ordinance 10 Schenkel also moved to table, with McCauley’s support. The document did end up passing after a suspension of the second and third readings, however, but not the support of Schenkel.

After the meeting Schenkel explained his hesitation to support both ordinances (the second concerning the creation of a new budget and procurement director position for Bill Dauber, formerly assistant safety-service director) without clear answers to the impact of both positions on city finances.

“In the end, I couldn’t find reasons to justify the vote. Our work felt sloppy with producing the legislation,” said the fourth ward councilman. “Our process in executive session did not feel clean. We didn’t see the job descriptions until late in the day today. I’m sure we’re going to get there eventually, but I can’t say yes yet.”

While most cities in Ohio fully split the balance of power over finances away from their executive branches (mayors) to the review of city finance directors or auditors and the ultimate approval of legislators (city council) the creation of the new position further consolidates that bypass under the city mayor in Marietta.

Council will next meet for Police and Fire Committee at 4 p.m. on Jan. 22 in the second-floor conference room of 304 Putnam St.

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