Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher on Jan. 17 broke a 3-3 vote to authorize the city to move forward with funding the Roadway Asset Management Plan, or RAMP, which is a plan to address the city's crumbling roads.

Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher on Jan. 17 broke a 3-3 vote to authorize the city to move forward with funding the Roadway Asset Management Plan, or RAMP, which is a plan to address the city's crumbling roads.

Council president Dan Hayes, vice president Bryan Lenzo and Pat Sagar voted to approve a funding plan that would allow the city to take on debt to finance the RAMP.

Bernard Brush and new council members Mike Fox and Mike Compton voted against the measure.

Merissa McKinstry was absent, forcing Butcher to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Butcher said his vote should not be interpreted to mean that he necessarily is in favor of going into debt for the RAMP.

"Regardless if I had supported it or not, I didn't want it to die on the floor given that it had another vote that still needs to happen (at the Feb. 6 council meeting)," he said. "And, if I hadn't, council wouldn't have had the chance to ask itself the question Feb. 6."

The next step is for council to vote on the bond anticipation notes Feb. 6. Council's Jan. 17 vote allowed city administrator Tim Boland to proceed with a funding proposal whereby $1.3 million of the planned road repairs would be financed by the city and $750,000 would be borrowed this year, with an additional $750,000 in 2013.

"The financing approach was approved as direction to the administration on how to proceed but the actual authorization of bond anticipation note financing will require additional council action," Boland said.

Boland said no one is arguing that the city's roads need to be addressed immediately. He said the debate swirls around how much of the repairs should be financed in-house and how much should be borrowed through bond anticipation notes.

"Every community has to weigh taking on additional debt," he said.

Brush said he believes going into debt isn't prudent because it limits what the city can do in the future, if an emergency comes up or if Pataskala receives a grant requiring matching funds.

"As (finance director Jason Carr) responded to my question about how we intend to pay back the $1.5 million we will borrow, it will come from the income-tax spread over 10 years," Brush said.

He said that means about $150,000 in principal and 3 percent interest per year that must come first from net income-tax receipts of about $3.1 million per year.

And, Brush said the police department will take $2.5 million to $2.7 million per year starting in 2013, leaving only $250,000 to $450,000 per year for future road repairs and replacements for a RAMP program calling for $20 million over the next 10 years.

"It doesn't make sense to just fix a couple of roads and leave the rest of the projects sitting idle because we just ran out of money," he said. "Let's use the money we do have each year to repair and patch using our own equipment and labor so the taxpayers can see what we can deliver with limited funds."

Then, he said, if council members believe that the RAMP still can't wait any longer, they should place a specific road levy on the ballot for the voters to decide.

Compton said that should the plan be approved, council will discuss Feb. 6 how best to use the first $750,000.

"I don't want to dump it all into one road," he said.

Compton said he would rather see some work done to several roads, not just one or two.

"While undetermined at this point, the $750,000 in 2012 will go toward other roads approved, with focus on aligning the term of the debt with the useful life of the improvement," Boland said.

He said the 2013 borrowed funding would be used exclusively for a Broad Street project, for which ODOT will pay for 80 percent of necessary improvements. He said roughly $600,000 would go toward Pataskala's 20-percent match for ODOT funding and the remaining $150,000 would go toward improving pedestrian access along Broad Street.

"That's part of the commitment to our residents," he said.

Boland said much of Broad Street lacks sidewalks and deciding how and where to place new sidewalks will be a "parallel project" to ODOT's roadwork.

"No one wants to go into debt; it's never a first option, but it is a realistic option to consider," Boland said. "We have more roads in critical need than we have resources."

He said some roads are well beyond patching and require long-term repairs. At that time, he said interest rates may be significantly higher. Right now, interest rates are historically low.

"Is there a better time to do it than now?" Boland said. "Sooner or later, we need to do a long-term fix."

Once the method of financing is determined, council members must decide which roads are repaired first. That has been the subject of lively debate among residents, many of whom believe their road is in the worst shape.

In other news from the Jan. 17 meeting, Carr announced his resignation as finance director, effective April 17. He will work on the 2011 audit and help the city find his replacement.

Carr said family obligations were affecting his ability to hold down the position, which he's held part-time since 2007. Carr is a full-time CPA for the Newark firm of Wilson, Shannon & Snow.

"During Jason Carr's time as the city finance director, he has overseen numerous changes and been recognized for the performance of his office," Butcher said in a press release.

He said Carr had three years of clean audit findings and was awarded the Ohio Auditor of State Award with Distinction for his 2009 and 2010 audits.

Carr was also awarded the Government Finance Officers Association Award for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 2009 and 2010, among other accomplishments.

"The finance operation is more transparent and has gained the public's trust," Butcher said. "These results over the past six years provide additional proof that it was a good decision when council supported my selection of Jason Carr as our finance director."

He expressed his appreciation for Carr and his one staff member, Janice Claprood.

"Our finance office is not only better now than what they found when they began, but the community owes a debt of gratitude for the significant improvements they both have made," Butcher said. "The director of finance is clearly not a position that I really was prepared or wanted to have to replace at this time, and while I had hoped that Jason would stay for at least two more years, I respect his decision."

Butcher said he's thankful Carr agreed to stay beyond the 60-day notice required in his contract and for his willingness to assist the mayor and council in the search for his successor.

Butcher said he will serve on a committee with Carr, Hayes, Lenzo and McKinstry to discuss Carr's replacement. It will meet Jan. 24 at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers and before the Feb. 6 council meeting to discuss whether Carr's replacement will be full-time or part-time or if the city will contract for outside finance services.

Butcher said he hopes to have a recommendation for council by the Feb. 6 meeting.