Training facility renovations approved

Commission hears first reading on taxicab ordinance

By Sam Wildow -

PIQUA — The Piqua City Commission approved renovations to be done to the police training facility on State Route 66 during their meeting Tuesday evening. The renovations will utilize funds from the estate of Richard A. Bucholtz.

The Piqua Police Department received a bequest from the estate of Bucholtz to use $70,000 gifted to the department for the purpose of maintaining that facility, which was originally built by police officers during the 1960s and 1970s. The building is a shared facility between police employees and the city for both fitness and training purposes.

“In December 2014, we got notified that we were named as a beneficiary in a will by Richard A. Bucholtz,” Chief of Police Bruce Jamison said. Jamison went on to express the department’s appreciation for this gift, saying, “This is a gentleman who lived … right outside of town, took a lot of pride in his property, was very devoted to his wife.”

In looking for a connection to the police department, Jamison said that they gave him a traffic citation after an accident at one point.

“We did have some contact with him. Closest thing I could find was we did write him a ticket, and he still left us money,” Jamison said. “But it was out of a traffic crash, and the officer drove him home, I think showed some kindness there.”

The renovation project is not to exceed $81,500, which includes a contingency. The contract was awarded to G.L. Contracting LTD. Jamison noted that the project will use some local funds that were budgeted for a different project that has not yet come to fruition.

“It’s a minimal amount of city dollars,” Jamison said.

The commission also heard the first reading of an ordinance amending the city’s code in regard to taxicabs. In particular, the ordinance updates the language in the city code to reflect changes in the state law that address companies like Uber and Lyft. City Attorney Stacy Wall said that the state is regulating brands like Uber separately from other taxicab companies.

“We didn’t have an incident,” Wall said, explaining why these changes were being brought forward at this time.

Wall said that the current legislation that the city has is outdated. This ordinance updates definitions of what qualifies as a taxicab or a transportation network company. A license will also be required to operate a taxicab or similar entity, and the city will issue them.

Wall added that the changes are also being made to protect residents.

Commissioner Joe Wilson asked multiple questions in regard to background checks for the taxicab drivers.

“What would exclude them?” Wilson asked.

Wall and Jamison explained that the state came up with a list of past criminal charges that would exclude a person from obtaining a license from the city, centering around offenses involving driving and also possible sex offenses within the last seven years.

“This list is good enough to protect our citizens?” Wilson asked.

Jamison said that the list was “written very well.” Both Jamison and Wall said that this list, as well as the multiple databases they will use to check the backgrounds of people applying for licenses, is better than what they do now for checking on taxicab or Uber drivers, as the city does not currently do background checks for them.

“It provides us with a whole lot more protection than we’ve ever had,” Jamison said.

Wilson also asked about the possibility of both legal and illegal immigrants driving for taxicabs or transportation network companies. Wall explained that they would have to have a valid Ohio driver’s license and they would still undergo background checks. Jamison said he did not foresee it becoming a major problem, adding that there was currently not much they could do with illegal immigrants as it stands.

This ordinance will undergo two more readings before the commission votes on it.

Next, the commission approved purchasing road salt from Compass Minerals America, Inc. at a cost of $55.19 per ton. This year’s road salt prices are approximately $17 less per ton. The city budgeted $179,950 for road salt for 2016. They approved the expenditure of $137,975 based on purchasing 2,500 tons. The city will not be required to purchase all of that road salt if the city has a mild winter.

Following that, the commission authorized purchasing two heart monitor/defibrillators for the Piqua Fire Department. The purchase order will be with Physio-Control, Inc. for the purchase of two Lifepak Defibrillators at a cost not to exceed $48,268.14. This purchase will be made to replace older models that will no longer be usable. Chief Brent Pohlschneider of the Piqua Fire Department noted that they respond to approximately 4,000 EMS calls per year and they utilize those defibrillators on around 75 percent of those calls.

The commission waived the three-reading rule and approved an ordinance to make appropriations for the city. The commission waived the three-reading rule in order to stay ahead of schedule with the new Water Treatment Plant project as well as to utilize new grant funding opportunities.

The commission also heard a presentation from Juliya Hsiang, a student who interned with the city through the Upper Miami Valley Local Government Management Internship. She interned at the fire department and learned about Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in relation to the city’s fire hydrants. Hsiang explained that GIS are various applications for urban planning and city modeling.

“Once we got her into the fire department, she didn’t want to leave the fire department,” City Manager Gary Huff said.

“A lot of workers in our city are really dedicated to bettering the lives of any citizen,” Hsiang said. “It’s truly an amazing experience, and it has widened my horizons in ways I didn’t think possible.”

Commission hears first reading on taxicab ordinance

By Sam Wildow

Reach Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336

Reach Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336