Whitehall News

City Council members will receive raises in January 2014

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Members of Whitehall City Council likely will receive a raise beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

An ordinance providing the salary increase was among the 10 legislative items introduced during the Aug. 28 meeting of the committees of Whitehall City Council.

"City Council members have not had a raise since 1996," council member Jim Graham said.

Department directors have received races in the more recent past, but council members opted not to provide raises for themselves when those salary increases for the administration were approved.

The annual salary of a council member would increase from $4,000 to $4,600, and the council president's would increase from $4,700 to $5,400 under the proposed ordinance.

The raise would not be effective until Jan. 1, 2014, when new council terms begin. Current council members are prohibited from considering in-term salary increases.

In other action Aug. 28, Whitehall progressed in converting an abandoned armory into the city's first dedicated center for the recreation and parks department.

An ordinance authorizing Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard to enter into a contract with the law firm of Bricker & Eckler to serve as bond counsel for Whitehall was introduced.

"There are a lot of legalities in selling bonds, and we need this expertise," Maggard said.

The city last used bond counsel in 2007, when it re-financed existing bonds. The city has not sought bonds for a new project since the construction of a new fire station in 1997.

Maggard said the city would seek a $10 million bond for the construction of a community center for the recreation and parks department.

The U.S. Army declared the 25,000-square-foot U.S. Army Reserve Center, at 721 County Club Drive, excess property in 2005 as part of that year's Base Realignment and Closure program. As such, it made the center available to Whitehall for $1, with the condition that it be converted to a public use, such as a community center. The former U.S. Army Reserve Center was built circa 1960.

"We won't be able to provide everything for everybody ... because the project is budget-based," Maggard said.

It was not until May that the city received a property deed for the center. Maggard received the deed and signed it May 10. It since has been recorded with the county auditor, formally and officially transferring ownership of the 5-acre parcel, worth about $850,000, to the city of Whitehall.

"Now that it is in our possession, we can fully start the process (of building a community center for our citizens)," Maggard said.

It will take a few years for the city to realize its dream.

It likely will be late 2014 or early 2015 before the community center will be open, Maggard said.

Yet to be determined is whether the city could remodel or refurnish any of the existing structure or simply demolish it and build a new one.

No budget has been established for the demolition or construction, but Ruscilli Construction Co. is providing to Whitehall, at no cost, a feasibility study to determine what part of the structure, if any, could be converted to its intended use.

After the feasibility study, Whitehall is expected to contract with Cincinnati-based MSA Architects to design a plan for converting the reserve center or building a new community center.

No budget has been established for the project.

Both ordinances were scheduled for a first reading during Whitehall City Council's Sept. 4 meeting, which was held after ThisWeek's press time.

Other legislation introduced Aug. 28 and scheduled for a first reading Sept. 4 included those transferring funds and allowing a special permit for a limited automotive-service facility at 4429 E. Main St.

The property is unoccupied.

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