Monday, July 8, 2013 Bluffton Town Council Report - Residents Voice Concerns on Sidewalk Ordinance

by Kathryn Tschuor   The Village of Bluffton’s Council held a regular meeting on the night of Monday, July 8, 2013 to discuss one resolution. Resolution No. 06-13 makes certain transfers between village funds. $183,000.00 will be moved from the General Fund and distributed: $15,000.00 to the Park Fund, $90,000.00 to the Fire & Rescue Improvement Fund, $50,000.00 to the Water Fund and $28,000.00 to the Police Equipment Replacement Fund. $26,111.72 will also be moved out of the Water Fund and into Water Debt Service. Resolution No. 06-13 was passed as an emergency on its first reading.
   A Records Committee meeting was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on July 22nd and a Park Board meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. on July 11th.
   Village Administrator James Mehaffie was not present at the meeting, but his written report was included in the evening’s Council packet. Mehaffie wrote that Bluffton’s 2013 Consumer Confidence Report was approved and placed online. The web address was printed on the utility bills that were recently mailed out.
   There are two airport projects open for bids. Even though the projects will not be started until 2014, the bidding needs to be done now in order to get the grant application submitted in time. The two projects are the sealing of the runway and taxi-way and the rehabilitation of the apron. The deadline for bids is this Friday, July 12, 2013 at 10 a.m.
   The Village Service Department is preparing to do the annual street striping at cross walks, parking spots, stop bars, etc. Additionally, the Allen County Engineer’s office plans to perform the double-yellow striping on Bluffton’s roads. Mayor Gallant said that Mehaffie asked him to mention that the street sweepers will be at work starting Tuesday and the street stripers would be here this week too.
   In his report, Mehaffie also reminded everyone that the Bluffton Swimming Pool will be closing early Thursday in preparation for the WOAL Swim Championships that will be held there this weekend. The pool will be closed both Friday, July 12 and Saturday, July 13 and will reopen on Sunday.
   Mehaffie had also asked that the mayor bring up the resignation of Andrew Probst, a seasonal employee with the service department. Council accepted his resignation.
   Fire Chief Jon Kinn told Council that Tuesday afternoon he would be meeting with Councilmen Collier and Burrell to look at the truck that is going to be replaced. The EMS chief and police chief were not present at Monday night’s meeting.
   Around 8:15 p.m. a short scheduled budget hearing was held. Council reviewed the 2014 budget with Village Fiscal Officer Nancy Kindle providing commentary and answering their questions. Kindle said that there were really no surprises in the budget. There might be a slight increase in income tax. Kindle also described a couple of the larger expenses that were added since last year, and also what numbers remain unchanged. The budget hearing ended at 8:19 p.m. and Council then proceeded to approve the 2014 budget as presented. This concluded Council’s official business for the evening.
   The majority of the meeting time was used by villagers voicing their concerns about the letters they received, which stated that they need to repair their sidewalks. An ordinance establishing rules regarding the existence and maintenance of sidewalks in all residential areas of Bluffton was given a third reading and passed at the May 28, 2013 Council meeting. The sidewalk project resulting from that ordinance will be completed in three phases. In phase I, repairs will need to be made to designated sidewalks in the southeastern half of Bluffton before May 1, 2014.
   During the last week of June, the phase I letters were sent out to property owners to advise them of what sidewalk changes or additions would need to be made around their property, according to the specifications listed in the ordinance. Property owners have until May 2014 to make the changes themselves, at their own expense, before the village will have the work done and assess the property owners the cost.
   Several residents said they didn’t think it was right that they do not own the sidewalks, and yet they are required to fix them at their own expense. With the economy as it is, some people are barely making ends meet and property owners voiced concerns over how they or their neighbors were to pay for fixing the sidewalks. Others questioned the need for the sidewalk repairs. One man said he was told that he would have to tear up his sidewalk because of two cracks, which he thought he could simply patch up. Another man said that his brick sidewalks had been in place longer than he had been alive and there was nothing wrong with them. He asked why brick was no longer an acceptable sidewalk material under the new ordinance.
   A few others wanted to know why sidewalks are necessary at all. They observed that many people walk on the streets, even when sidewalks are available. One woman said that she has lived on her street for 22 years and there has never been an issue with the road not having sidewalks. Mayor Gallant answered, saying that safety is the reason that sidewalks are needed. During the meeting, Gallant also reminded the residents that they could have come to voice their concerns to Council about the ordinance at any of the three readings before it passed.
   Councilman Mitch Kingsley suggested that the residents read the actual ordinance. He said he hoped it might answer many of their questions. Copies of the ordinance are available in the lobby of Town Hall and if it is not already online the village will make it available on the website,

See the full story in the Bluffton News