Bexley has few options for new fire contract
With Bexley's five-year contract with Columbus for fire service expiring at the end of the year, Mayor Ben Kessler informed city council last week that the city's bargaining position is "very weak" with little or no alternatives.
Bexley entered into a contract with Columbus in 2007 that accounts for 10 to 15 percent of its annual budget. In 2009, a task force recommended that the city re-evaluate its fire service, but the contract did not include a clause which allowed for adjustments.
The city's budget is about $11.4 million.
"(Columbus has) already indicated that they're not going to accept my contract submittal," Kessler told council members during a Sept. 4 meeting. "We're going to sit down and discuss it, but very possibly, we will end up in the exact same position we are currently and that's the calculation based on a cost to run a fire station."
For the first time in 15 years, Bexley voters approved an income tax increase last November that is expected to generate about $2.69 million a year. Kessler, a councilman at the time, said the increase was crucial to the future of the city to have adequate funding for police, fire and other services.
The rate went from 2 percent to 2.5 percent after city council approved about $934,000 in cuts in 2011.
"All indications are that it will continue to be a five-year contract," Kessler said.
In other business, council voted 6-0 to create a special Main Street improvement fund totaling $1.78 million as efforts continue to give a mile-long stretch of the street a facelift.
Prior to its summer recess in July, council approved money for design and construction documents for a streetscape project slated for 2013. It calls for the installation of brick crosswalks at three intersections and other pedestrian-friendly features such as upgraded landscaping, bike racks and benches.
Kessler has referred to 2013 as "the year of Main Street."
Council also voted 5-0 to amend ordinances which allow for public parking on municipal building grounds and commercial permits.
The mayor will be allowed to place signs in city-owned lots.
"Technically, we are in violation of our own code by allowing public parking on our own City Hall site unless you're visiting City Hall," Kessler said.
The city also will examine standards for valet parking permits. Councilman Steve Keyes expressed concerns about allowing permits for street spaces that are used by the public.
But council President Rick Weber questioned whether the city is legally able to prevent a valet from parking on a public street. City Attorney Louis Chodosh said any plan should include a provision that a valet have adequate insurance.
"Valet parkers do tend to move very fast," Chodosh said.