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Council investing in economic development

Via Review Times

By BRIAN BOHNERT
STAFF WRITER
Fostoria City Council is continuing to show its support for economic development here.
The lawmakers gave a first reading to an ordinance Tuesday to grant an appropriation of $30,000 from the Community Development Fund to Fostoria Economic Development Corporation.
Approval of the ordinance would also allow interest earned from the city’s STAR Ohio account to be expended for the organization.
For the budget year 2014, an additional 75 percent of the interest collected in 2013 from all the loans being paid to the city’s UDAG Revolving Loan Fund would also be authorized to be expended for FEDC, according to the ordinance. The interest collected last year was $27,724.94, meaning $20,793.71 would be awarded to the organization in a one-time payment with the agreement that the FEDC director would make quarterly reports to council.
In other business, the city’s long-awaited Stearns Road project took another step forward Tuesday as council gave a third and final reading to an improvement and maintenance agreement between the city of Fostoria and Perry Township, Wood County, that will allow for greater semi-truck access from Ohio 20 to “commercial and industrial locations” in Fostoria.
The project, which has been in the planning stages for the better part of a decade, will widen approximately one-half mile of Stearns Road in Perry Township to three lanes while also installing curbs and storm water drains.
Construction is expected to begin sometime this spring.
A third reading, and subsequent approval, was given to an ordinance relating to sewer regulations.
Council also gave a first reading to an ordinance creating a new section of the codified ordinances relating to wind energy systems being installed within city limits.
Zoning Inspector Sandy Coleman said she was approached by a resident who wanted to build a windmill on his property. Having no previous rules on the books for such an instance, she and the Fostoria Planning Commission recommended an ordinance be drafted as a proactive measure.
“A lot of these alternative energy companies are really pushing their projects,” Coleman said. “This is a conglomeration of ordinances from several different cities. We just put in what fit for our community.”
A public hearing on the commission’s recommendation for the wind energy systems ordinance will be at 7:20 p.m. April 1 in council chambers. Coleman said the city is required to host a public hearing any time the zoning ordinance is to be changed.
Council also briefly discussed the possibility of removing one of the group’s two at-large seats to save the city money. While Law Director Tim Hoover said it could be done, he said he recommends council find another way to cut the $5,500 the councilperson would make instead of “tinkering with the whole form of government.”
During his report, Mayor Eric Keckler announced several events for the coming months, including the Easter egg scramble at Fostoria Intermediate Elementary School on April 12 and the 22nd annual Fostoria Glass Pageant this May. He also read a proclamation making March Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.
Following a brief executive session to discuss collective bargaining, the group ratified a contract between the city and Fostoria Police Department’s patrol and detective’s union.
Prior to the end of the meeting, council reappointed Betsy Faeth to the Seneca County Board of Health for a five-year term, running form March 1, 2014-March 1, 2019.
The next meeting of Fostoria City Council will be at 7:30 p.m. March 18 in council chambers on the second floor of the municipal building.
During the meeting, 2nd Ward City Council Representative Greg Flores expressed concern over a lack of financial transparency between FEDC and the citizens of Fostoria.
With the proposed $30,000 coming from tax revenue as opposed to city money, Flores said he would like FEDC to show what its doing with taxpayer money so citizens can see their return on investment.
“If we could ask for a quarterly report on our money, shouldn’t we be able to ask for a report on the citizen’s money as well to let them know what they’re doing with it?” Flores asked. “… The citizens don’t know what they’re doing. They see no jobs or they see no progress; and, they don’t come to those meetings. They’re not privy to those meetings to hear them say what they’re doing. And, they’re giving money to them.”
Despite a lack of measurable results as of late, Mayor Eric Keckler said FEDC has been working hard and he doesn’t think anyone on the board would be opposed to showing where the money is going.
“We’ve all seen that there hasn’t been a lot of progress lately, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we give up on FEDC,” Keckler said. “… Maybe we can see that, once a month or every other month once a new director is assigned, that they could give a report on activities …”
Prior to the council meeting, City Auditor Steve Garner gave the financial report for the month ending Jan. 31, 2014. Compared to this time last year, Garner said the city’s general fund revenue is up .05 percent, rising from $499,378.08 to $501,871.22. In addition, he said general fund expenses are also up 9.94 percent.

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