Marietta Council lists priorities

MARIETTA – Members of Marietta’s City Council presented their priorities for the coming year during a committee of the whole session Thursday afternoon.

Council president Walt Brothers began the meeting with a rundown of some of council’s accomplishments in the past year.

“We’ve increased our Internet presence and in a month or so will be initiating a new citywide software program,” he said. “There has been more cooperation between ourselves and the city administration, as well as with the general public.”

Brothers also listed progress on the Armory Square project and the incorporation of a 19-point criteria quality selection process for city project contracts.

“We’re supportive of the creation of a downtown revitalization district, and raised the water rates to make sure our water and sewer projects can continue, and we’ve developed a five-year capital improvement plan,” he said.

Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, was out of town Thursday, but submitted a written list of his priorities for 2013, which included the renovation of Marietta’s City Hall, progress toward the third phase of the Armory Square renovation project, the establishment of a new permanent meeting site for city council, and continued development of the city’s River Trail project.

Councilman Denver Abicht, D-at large, said he would like to see the traffic and pedestrian safety upgrade of the Seventh, Greene and Pike streets intersection proceed.

“I think the latest plan for that project is the best,” he said. “It’s crazy how slow traffic moves through that area, and I don’t see why this project is being held up. We’ll always have complaints from constituents, no matter what we do.”

Abicht said he agreed with Noland that council needs to have better meeting facilities.

Councilman Michael Mullen, I-at large, expressed concern about the city’s future in light of ongoing budget battles in the U.S. Congress.

“It’s all about the money,” he said. “When I look at the fiasco over the debt ceiling and other issues in Washington, D.C., at the end of the day it’s clear we’re going to have less money at the local level than we do today.”

Mullen said dealing with the city’s long-term debt will eventually come down to less government spending.

“It may be time to review our performance audit that was done in October 2007, as we’re working with ever-decreasing resources,” he said.

Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, said he had opposed the performance audit of city services.

“I still think I was right,” he said. “I think the best thing we’ve done is to hire (assistant safety-service director) Bill Dauber. He’s been able to do financial forecasts for us that would have cost $36,000 from the state.”

He said Dauber has helped put together a five-year capital plan for the city.

He noted the city is losing revenue from the state’s local government funding, and the state Legislature has abolished the inheritance tax that has provided annual windfalls of up to $500,000 for the city in past years.

Councilman Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward, said one of his goals for the coming year would be to move the city police department out of the basement of the city hall building.

Thomas said he wanted to see more progress toward the installation of zoned alarm systems in downtown businesses that would help improve safety for responding firefighters.

Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, said he plans to continue working to make sure the city has what it needs to keep moving the wastewater treatment plant upgrade project forward, and to continue the city water line replacement projects.

“I’m also working toward a water well protection ordinance for our city’s drinking water resources,” he said.

McCauley agreed the Seventh, Pike and Greene streets intersection improvement project should move forward.

Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, hopes the city administration will continue to pursue a comprehensive evaluation of the city’s property maintenance code that will include a strategic plan for code enforcement, and penalties for violations.

He would like to see a centralized database to track nuisance complaints and set a reasonable timeframe for response to those complaints.

Kalter wants to see a comprehensive plan for maintenance and repair of city cemeteries.

“Especially Oak Grove Cemetery, which was so heavily damaged by the June 29 (2012) storm,” he said.

Among other developments Kalter would like to see in the coming year are establishing a five-year plan for a city sidewalk repair program; working with township, county and state officials on extending the River Trail from Indian Acres Park to Devola; developing a plan to replace a mile of city water line annually; and working to share some of the city’s hotel/motel tax revenue with ReStore Marietta.

Council also approved a $49,645 contract with Pickering Associates of Parkersburg for professional engineering and construction administration services during the second phase structural and roof project on the Armory Square building.