By DENISE GRANT
Findlay City Council met in special session Tuesday, with the meeting broadcast online and over cable for the public.
The meeting was a makeup session of sorts for council’s regular meeting that was scheduled for March 17, and canceled due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the agenda were several city projects in need of council’s approval, However, with the city’s business tax collections projected to drop by about $5 million this year, only the most necessary of projects and those that won’t tap city operating funds were approved.
Council unanimously approved about $750,000 from the city’s capital improvement fund to pay for street resurfacing and curb replacement.
Council also authorized the city service director to seek bids on several water and sewer projects expected to cost about $275,000. The legislation was set for its second reading as of the March 17 meeting. On Tuesday, council waived its three-reading rule for legislation and authorized the bidding.
Councilman Jeff Wobser, R-at-large, voted against waiving the third reading, but did vote in favor of the bidding.
Councilman Grant Russel, R-at-large, said money for the water and sewer projects are taken from dedicated funds, and the spending will not affect the city’s operating budget.
A $99,671 contract was also awarded to Hohenbrink Excavating, Findlay, for the installation of a 6-inch waterline along Rutherford Avenue. A total of $119,00 is being appropriated for the project. The additional money is needed for construction, inspection and a contingency on the project.
Legislation for the Rutherford Avenue waterline was also only on its second reading, but council voted 9-1 to waive the third reading, with Wobser again opposed.
The contract was awarded with a 10-0 vote.
In this case, Russel said the waterline must be replaced. He said the city has “a problem with stacking projects that need to be done.”
Mayor Christina Muryn said city officials are working on plans to curb the city’s spending this year, instructing city departments to end discretionary spending and hiring new people.
Muryn said the city’s capital plan will also be modified, eliminating plans this year to purchase new equipment, vehicles, repair parking lots and install new streetlights, for example.
Auditor Jim Staschiak advised council to set a spending limit with its operating expenses, keeping in mind the city should finish the year with enough money to operate for at least three months, which is about $8 million.
The city finished 2019 with a cash balance of $13 million, and had expected it to grow to about $14 million by the end of this year. But with the projected $5 million loss in business taxes, Staschiak said the city is quickly approaching the year-end balance threshold.
Staschiak called the projected loss dramatic.
“That money is just going to go away,” he said. “It’s going to be gone.”