Ottawa Ohio - Putnam Sentinel

OTTAWA — A routine aspect of every council meeting took a turn during Ottawa’s village council meeting on Monday. As it came time to approve the payment of bills, Council President David Michel raised a point.

“I do have one question on this: a table and four chairs for $2,300?” Michel asked, referring to a line item in the bills. “What kind of table is that?”

The answer to that question came from Public Works Supervisor Dan Lehman, who described the furniture as a conference table at the village’s water treatment plant.

“I know that stuff ain’t cheap,” Mayor Dean Meyer said. “This is one of those things for me. This is out at the water treatment plant. [Water Director Doug Schroeder] is our water treatment guy; he knows what he needs. I’m not going to micromanage what he does. If he’d run it by me, I’d give him my opinion, but that’s his baby. It’s coming out of his budget. He knows that budget’s tight, so I’m going to trust him.”

“Fair enough, but at the same time there has to be oversight,” Michel responded. “That just seems like an exhorbitant amount of money and maybe what’s throwing me is it says table and four chairs.”

With pressure on municipalities to provide ever-increasing services while dealing with diminishing support from the State — and even, according to some, a state administration bent on balancing its budget at the expense of small local governments — Michel’s concern isn’t without validity.

Schroeder, however, has a different perspective. For him, the conference table is both tool and prop; a functional place to work out issues at the plant, as well as a means by which he hopes to lend the department increased credibility with state agencies, such as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

“Everyone was informed on what we were doing,” Schroeder said. “It’s a nice sturdy table with four sturdy chairs. We use this conference table in here to formulate our plans every day. And, when we talk to the EPA, we have something dignified.”

Schroeder then questioned council’s priorities, expressing his perspective that members are more concerned about a relatively minor expense and less so about retaining village personnel. As a case in point, Schroeder pointed to Matt Otto, a lab technician for the village who recently tendered his resignation, joining five others who have left the village’s water treatment plant this year alone, including the village’s former water superintendent, Jason Phillips. As with Phillips, Otto, according to Schroeder, has assumed a position with the City of Findlay’s water treatment facility.

“It’s a constant banter,” Schroeder said, referring to council’s price consciousness, “but they never question why they’re losing people. Any one of those council members can come out here and confront me face-to-face. I’m not spending money wastefully.”

Addressing a different expense, council also approved and accepted an estimate for repairs to the village’s municipal building. Exterior work provided by Schroeder Masonry, Inc., at a cost of $25,125 will include the stabilization of brickwork on the building’s face and bell tower.

In other business, council:

• heard the second reading of an ordinance that will increase village water rates by seven percent.

• unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the mayor and clerk-treasurer’s signature on a contract with the Miller City-New Cleveland Local School District. The contract provides a wastewater supervisor for the school district’s wastewater treatment plant.

• approved a resolution — with one nay vote from Councilor Jeff Ducey — accepting a proposal in the amount of $7,350 from Chip’s Grindin’ for tree removal at West Fourth and Sugar Streets as part of the village’s utilization plan for open space created by flood mitigation efforts.

• approved a resolution authorizing — with two nay votes cast by Ducey and out-going Councilor John Salsburey — the mayor’s signature on a government aggregation master retail gas supply agreement with Constellation Energy Resources, LLC. Contributing to the two councilor’s concerns was an expressed failure to effectively reduce consumer costs. “Last year, they said it was cheaper to opt out (of the aggregation agreement),” Michel said.

• denied a request by village resident Brett Fry related to utility billing relief.

The Ottawa Village Counci will hold its last meeting of 2017 on Monday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. in the village offices.