Whitehall News

Council tackles legal fees, union contracts, watershed plan

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Whitehall City Council members held an emergency meeting Jan. 8 to pay an invoice for legal services.

The meeting was held on the second Tuesday of the month, when council committees typically convene, but the emergency meeting was necessary because the city was required to pay the invoice of $3,582 before the next regular meeting of council, which was scheduled for Jan. 15, the third Tuesday of the month, Whitehall City Council President Jim Graham said.

The legal fees were due to Eastman & Smith for its representation of the city in a legal case concerning Woodcliff Condominiums.

The city had sought to demolish the condominiums at the northeast corner of East Broad Street and North Hamilton Road.

An agreement was reached in November, ending a five-year process, in which the owners of the condominiums agreed to adhere to a strict timeline to make all the required repairs to the 317 units to ensure that all meet health and safety codes.

The condominium association agreed to pay the city's legal fees associated with the city's latest action, but the city had other expenses due to the law firm.

In action at the regularly scheduled meeting of the committees Jan. 8, members considered five draft ordinances.

One piece of legislation was a resolution of support for the Big Walnut Watershed Balanced Growth Plan. Another ordinance would create a new part-time position for an IT technician, and one ordinance would authorize Mayor Kim Maggard to enter into a new three-year collective-bargaining contract with the Communication Workers of America Local 4320.

The new three-year contract is retroactive to Jan. 1 and extends to Dec. 31, 2015, replacing a three-year contract that expired Dec. 31, 2012.

Maggard said negotiations lasted about two months and resulted in a "fair contract."

The union ratified the contract Dec. 28. Council members are expected to approve the contract as an emergency measure Jan. 15.

The contract provides salary increases of 2.25 percent, 2.25 percent and 2.65 percent in each of the three years, but employees also will pay higher health-insurance premiums, prescription co-pays and deductibles under the new contract.

The newly created part-time IT technician will augment an existing full-time IT technician.

The contract affects 26 employees, including three in the service department, administrative clerks and record clerks at the police department.

The resolution of support for the watershed plan is in response to a request from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

David Rutter, watershed coordinator for MORPC, presented the tenets of the plan during the July 17, 2012, council meeting.

If the plan is endorsed, MORPC could apply for grants, financial assistance and other kinds of support for policies within the plan.

"The plans are voluntary and not regulatory," Rutter said.

Thirty-one cities, villages, townships or counties are within the Big Walnut Balanced Growth Plan, including Whitehall, Rutter said. Each regulatory council, township, planning commission or zoning commission has been asked to endorse or already has endorsed the plan, Rutter said.

"The purpose of a balanced-growth plan is to protect water quality and to realize that how we develop plan affects the quality of water," Rutter said.

The plan establishes priorities for land use and includes the designations of priority conservation, priority development and priority agricultural.

To view the Big Walnut Balanced Growth Plan, or any of the five balanced growth plans, go online to balancedgrowthplanning.morpc.org.

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