Any legislation that sets aside half a million dollars of taxpayer money for anything, even something as necessary as new utility lines, deserves more than a quick trip through Findlay City Council.
But that happened this week when council rushed passage of a bill that made the city a partner in the construction of a waterline and sanitary sewer extension with One Energy at 12385 Township Road 215, north of Findlay.
The cost to the city to help extend the lines more than 2,000 feet into the county to One Energy’s property will be $456,105.
Officials maintained it was necessary to push the bill through on one reading, instead of the usual three, because crews were available to dig and because of the possibility of future economic development in the same area as One Energy.
The project got the green light after Councilman Grant Russel made a motion to suspend the second and third readings of the bill. Russel’s request passed 9-2, and by a similar vote, council gave the go-ahead to proceed.
The two nay votes were cast by council members Holly Frische and Jeff Wobser.
Frishe, who chairs council’s Water and Sewer Committee, had gone to the Appropriations Committee meeting about a month ago with several concerns and questions about the One Energy project. She said she was advised that council would be provided the answers before Tuesday’s meeting.
Frishe voted no, she said, because the answers never came before the votes were taken.
One question both Frishe and Wobser had was whether Whirlpool Corp. may want to partner with the city and One Energy and tie into the proposed utility lines. Whirlpool’s involvement could have reduced the city’s investment in the project.
Frishe also requested a more detailed breakdown of the project costs, including a separation of the material and labor costs. In the past, the city has usually paid for materials involved in extensions that go into non-annexed land, but not the labor.
Certainly, the information may have been useful to council.
Emergency legislation is OK in certain situations, such as paying bills and other routine matters, but it should rarely be put in play when big-ticket projects come up.
Some economic development situations may be an exception to the three-reading rule, too, especially if time is truly of the essence. But there’s been no indication yet that additional business would be locating near One Energy, which will be the only beneficiary of the city utilities.
Council appears to have again rubber-stamped legislation worthy of more thorough public airing. Worse yet, by fast-tracking the infrastructure project, council may have agreed to spending considerably more money than the city needed to.
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