Whitehall News

ODOT will pay 80 percent of Main Street repaving bill

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Whitehall City Council on Feb. 19 took its first step toward resurfacing its part of U.S. Route 40 -- East Main Street, within the city limits.

Council members adopted a resolution authorizing Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard to enter into a contract with the Ohio Department of Transportation for the improvement of U.S. Route 40. The project includes the milling and resurfacing of the entirety of East Main Street within the city limit of Whitehall, totaling about 2.25 miles.

ODOT will fund 80 percent, and the city 20 percent of the estimated cost of the project, which isn't expected to exceed $1.25 million, service director Ray Ogden said.

"The project is expected to start about the beginning of July," Ogden said, and should be finished in about seven days.

ODOT has yet to bid the project or award a contract.

"Night paving is likely, but those details are yet to be worked out," Ogden said.

The road will remain open to at least one-way traffic at all times, he said.

The project is part of ODOT's Urban Paving Initiative.

East Main Street was last resurfaced in 2002. Since then, state Route 16 (East Broad Street) and state Route 317 (North and South Hamilton Road) have been resurfaced once as part of the program.

All three arterial roads in Whitehall are state or U.S. routes and are eligible for such ODOT funding.

In other action at the Feb. 19 meeting, council members passed a battery of emergency ordinances, all transferring funds from one account to another in an effort to meet financial obligations.

Auditor Dan Miller and Maggard asked council members for passage of numerous such ordinances, several of which were introduced Feb. 19 and immediately passed.

Such legislation included ordinances appropriating $6,428 from nonappropriated revenue in the general fund to the self-funded health insurance account; appropriating $100,000 from nonappropriated general-fund revenue to the technology fund; and appropriating $200,000 from the self-funded health insurance account to the employee medical-center-management account.

The latter transfer was required, Maggard said, to begin operational funding of the city's new employee wellness center that was scheduled to open Feb. 25 (See related story).

Council voted 6-1 to approve an ordinance to create a new part-time position of an information technology technician. Councilwoman Leslie LaCorte dissented. The part-time position is in addition to a full-time technician and a full-time director of information technology.

The salary range of the new part-time position is $16 to $21.83 per hour.

Lastly, council members approved a resolution that Miller prepared, "strongly opposing the passage of House Bill 5 by the Ohio General Assembly."

The bill, in its infancy stages in the legislative process, seeks to modify how Ohio municipalities collect income tax.

Maggard previously said she believes the proposed changes would have a detrimental effect on Whitehall, perhaps reducing the annual income tax revenue for the city by as much as $250,000.

During public polling, McAlister Avenue resident Robert Miller addressed council about the need for the city's police department to treat citizens equally. Miller was referring to the recent closure of a criminal case against Whitehall school board member Brandon Howard, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon.

Howard was carrying a gun Aug. 7 during the city's National Night Out event at John Bishop Park, Whitehall police said.

Howard told police he had a permit but could not produce it at the scene. Police allowed another board member to take possession of the gun, and Howard told police he would report to the station the following day to show the permit.

Police levied a felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon upon discovering Howard had no permit, but the case ended with a plea bargain to a misdemeanor charge, in part, prosecutors said, because it could not be proven the gun police had impounded two days later was the same gun Howard had at the park.

"The police know the laws. If someone (other than Howard) had been stopped, I don't think they would get the same amount of leniency," Miller said.

Maggard told Miller she understood his concern but that Whitehall police "had never been in this situation before" and gave Howard the benefit of the doubt.

"It's been hard on the Howard family and Whitehall, and I hope we all learned from it," Maggard said.

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