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Newton Falls Special Council Meeting


Newton Falls – The council members gathered at the community center with the mayor, city manager, and city clerk last week for a special work session. The law director was not present.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Waddell opened the workshop, instructing those present that this was a time to put ideas and questions on the open table and “resolve differences in a professional and productive manner.” This time should be used to find ways in which Council would continue to serve the public and the best interests of the community.
During the two-hour time frame, Police Chief John Kuivila reminded Council about the issues with dispatching and the importance of moving forward with the intention of addressing them quickly. “I believe we need to keep dispatch,” he said. “It’s a benefit to the community.” However, he cautioned that the budget has already been cut and more cuts may be in the future for the police department. The dispatch center is currently costing roughly $300,000 a year. It could possibly be outsourced if it comes down to it, but the Chief expressed concern that other departments would not want to dispatch for Newton Falls because of the turmoil that has been going on. He also stated he needs the support of council whichever way he decides to go concerning this matter and is still seeking clarification from council on which way they will collectively agree.
Councilman Monteville suggested that he would like to have the opportunity to sit down and write out the pros and cons for the various options and see something on paper in order to make a decision. Mr. Haney has plans to prepare a report so that Council may schedule an executive session to “hammer things out” and start to move forward on what is becoming quite the time-sensitive issue.
Further in monetary concerns for the city, the Finance Director has “serious concerns about the general fund going forward” and discussed plans for road maintenance around town. “By 2012 we will be unable to carry current services in as they are,” she explained, anticipating changes in government funding. Councilwoman Johnson asked about how the city is collecting from people who have not paid their utility bills, specifically those who have been consistently in arrears for months and months. The Finance Director assured that “we will be pursuing a higher level of collections this year for people who are delinquent.”
Also on the agenda for the special meeting was setting clear and specific performance goals for the city manager. Each council member submitted a list of what projects they would like to see Mr. Haney involved in and tangible goals he is expected to meet. Other highlights include discussion of the new baseball concession stand to be built for the youth leagues, which is in its early stages; looking at long-term design of the park facilities in general and the most effective and architecturally-pleasing layout for twenty years down the road; a suggestion made by Mr. Haney to institute an Adopt-a-Spot program to encourage local businesses or groups to volunteer to clean up, beautify and maintain the landscaping in public areas, mentioning specifically the Waste Water Plant signs; and fine-tuning the aforementioned list of expectations for the city manager by identifying what are reasonable requests and quantifiable goals.
Councilman Luonuansuu made the motion to hold a regularly-scheduled conversational caucus before the official business portion of council meetings. Effective starting with the next meeting on February 7th at 6pm, this time will be untelevised and will allow council members to hash out details and be on the same page on issues to be discussed in front of the public. The motion passed 4-1. The televised portion will now begin at 7pm.
A meeting is also planned for February 28th to further discuss the finance and dispatch issues.