Code updates among city's annual housekeeping chores

Sarah Sole
ThisWeek group

Whether it's a laundry list of necessary changes or merely a handful of modifications, New Albany leaders regularly have to update city code to match state laws.

The latest code update is slated for Tuesday, Nov. 17, when New Albany City Council is expected to vote on two ordinances that would bring the code up to date. 

Council clerk Jennifer Mason said in some years, the city ends up changing a great deal of code, but during others, only two or three sections are changed.

Some changes are needed to comply with state or federal laws or agencies, she said.  

In this case, all the changes are modifying criminal or traffic-related code sections, said city attorney Mitch Banchefsky. The changes would go into effect 30 days after the council vote, he said.

New Albany Village Hall.

According to the legislative report to council, these changes include such edits as adding “fentanyl-related compounds” to the definition of controlled substances and creating a broader description of a motorized bicycle.

In one specific case, the definition of telecommunications harassment is proposed to be updated to include evolving technology, Banchefsky said.

“We want to keep our code as much as possible in conformance with the Ohio Revised Code," he said.

He said doing so makes filing complaints much simpler for New Albany police officers because they would not have to look back and forth between state and city codes during their bookkeeping.

The city has the ability to impose stricter fines and penalties than the state does, but city law cannot be less strict than state law, Banchefsky said.

Banchefsky said the city keep tracks of changes to state law by using outside contractor Municode, who has the job up updating New Albany’s codified ordinances periodically. There also are times when state legislature makes changes that require immediate attention, he said.

“We just try to be cautious,” he said.

Very few cities update and publish their own code because of the time-intensive nature of doing so and the risk of mistakes, Banchefsky said.  

City spokesman Scott McAfee said the city’s Municode costs are assessed several different ways.

The base cost for the city's online published code is around $1,300 annually, he said.

The city also pays for special services, McAfee said. For example, the city paid $400 for Municode to compare the Traffic and General Offenses section of the New Albany code to the Ohio Revised Code, he said.

McAfee said the city also pays for any city code updates that council adopts. The cost is $18 per page changed and $10 per image that is inserted or changed, he said.

“This is our biggest variable cost,” he said. “We haven’t changed much code this year until now.”

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah