Hilliard City Council is expected to consider legislation to increase the permissive tax for vehicle registration by $5 next year and to prohibit the possession of electronic-smoking devices by people under 21 when it meets at 7 p.m. Monday, March 23.
Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has brought sweeping action statewide in an effort to contain the spread of the disease, council will meet remotely, with members livestreaming from their residences via an online service, according to David Ball, the city’s director of communications.
“Our goal is to stream (Microsoft) Teams via Facebook,” Ball said.
The city has not attempted it before, he said.
The meeting will be streamed live on Facebook at facebook.com/HilliardGov and not through the city’s standard system at hilliardoh.iqm2.com/citizens/default.aspx.
Emailed comments and questions are requested in advance, if possible, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The agenda is available at hilliardoh.iqm2.com/citizens/default.aspx.
Residents also may ask questions or offer opinions on the Facebook feed during the meeting, Ball said. Council will be provided with relevant comments and questions at the appropriate times, he said.
Hilliard is among the many governments responding to directives from Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton about how to control the spread of the coronavirus.
On March 13, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost wrote to elected officials that in keeping with DeWine’s state order prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people, “we are now presented with a situation in which a public body might not be able to comply with both the terms of the order and the Open Meetings Act. Stopping the business of government is not an option, and we must now reconcile the two.”
Yost’s letter offered guidance and not an official legal position, according to Dave O’Neil, Yost’s senior public-information officer. Public bodies should consult with their legal counsels, O’Neil said.
Yost wrote that local officials might meet in a telephone conference or virtual call, but the public must be able to hear all discussions and deliberations, and if any officials’ connection is dropped, the meeting must be suspended until it is restored.
“It is reasonable to read the OMA’s ‘in-person’ requirement as permitting a member of the public body to appear at a public meeting via teleconference,” Yost wrote.
All other requirements of the OMA must be fulfilled, he said, and a quorum must still be present.
Some other local government bodies are opting to postpone meetings.
Whitehall City Council canceled its meeting that was scheduled Tuesday, March 24.
After the Hilliard school board livestreamed a meeting from its central offices March 17, with only five board members and three administrators present, board members canceled a work session that was slated for April 6.
The board would have met March 23 – the fourth Monday of the month – but it was not held because it is during the district’s scheduled spring break.
The next board meeting is scheduled April 13, the second Monday of April.
The Norwich Township trustees met March 3 and at an emergency session March 12, and they do not have another scheduled meeting until April 7.
It is possible the April 7 meeting will be postponed, but if not, the township is preparing to broadcast it, said Norwich Township administrator Jamie Fisher.
It is not something the township has done before, “but we have to be ready for this,” Fisher said.
Meanwhile, council’s March 23 agenda includes an ordinance that would raise the fee for a Hilliard resident to register a vehicle by $5 beginning next year.
According to the authorizing ordinance, it must be approved by July 1 in order to be effective Jan. 1, 2021, and it would generate an additional $178,528 to be used toward road construction, repair and maintenance.
Lindsey Bohrer, assistant communications director for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, previously said Hilliard’s additional permissive tax should generate about $158,000.
In 2019, 37,399 vehicles of one kind or another were registered by owners living in the Hilliard taxing district, Bohrer said.
Using 2019 as a baseline when 37,399 vehicles were registered, and subtracting 228 commercial trucks which are exempt, the remaining 37,171 vehicles, at $5 per vehicle, generates $185,855, according to Bohrer said.
The Department of Public Safety applies a “reduction factor” of 85 percent to allow for partial-year registrations, for which the permissive tax is prorated.
After applying the reduction factor, the annual additional income is rounded up to $158,000, Bohrer said.
Meanwhile, Ball said, the city’s estimate “is based on more data being considered about the number of cars and what we’re likely to get.”
In addition to the ordinance that would make it unlawful for any person under 21 to purchase, use, or possess electronic smoking devices, another ordinance to be considered would appropriate funds for a diversion-program coordinator.
The coordinator would work with numerous entities, including the school district and the police division, to establish a policy for youth-diversion program, Ball said.
The legislation is intended to divert nonviolent juveniles found in possession of electronic smoking devices into an educational program to teach the health risks of vaping, Hilliard prosecutor Dawn Steele said previously.
The program also could be wider in scope, Ball said.
After the program is developed, it could accept people charged with other crimes for whom intervention is recommended, Ball said.
The coordinator’s position has an annual salary range of $45,000 to $60,000, plus benefits, according to the legislation.