PIQUA — The Piqua City Commission approved a resolution with a list of goals for city staff to develop or implement to help address residents’ concerns with utility bills by a majority vote of 4-1 during its meeting on Tuesday.
Commissioner Bill Vogt voted against the resolution, as well as all other new items of business not on the commission’s consent agenda.
The resolution included the following objectives:
• Review financial software programs to provided additional billing details
• Post on the city website the assistance programs available to customers
• Develop a pool fill-up policy that waives the wastewater fee
• Purchase AMP voltage devices for use by customers
• Establish level billing for customers that have 12 months of service and current on fees
• Establish a payment plan policy for extenuating circumstances
• Consider establishing a Round-Up Fund for customers needing assistance
• Establish a shut-off policy for cold weather
• Post all utility rates on a single city web page
The resolution followed over four months of members of the local group Watch Piqua, organized over Facebook, and other residents attending commission meetings to bring forward their concerns with city utilities, including costs, billing processes, and more, as well as two Utilities Impact Reports and recommendations the city put together and posted on its website. A number of the objectives listed in the resolution came from a worksession the commission held with the public on Aug. 1.
During public comment, Bill Jaqua of Piqua asked, “Where is the accountability in this resolution?”
Another resident asked if there were deadlines in place for the objectives in the resolution. City Manager Gary Huff said the city does not have a date by which to finish those objectives.
Downtown development, park improvements approaching
Following that, the commission approved amending the city’s construction management services agreement with Poggemeyer Design Group in regard to the Downtown Revitalization Program. Schmiesing explained the city had more applications than previously anticipated for the program, which is funded by Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding from the state. The contract amount increased from approximately $44,500 to $52,000 to accommodate the extra time and resources Poggemeyer Design Group spent on the project. Schmiesing added the city expects approximately 12 downtown businesses in the Downtown Historic District to take part in this program.
Later during the meeting, the commission approved a contract with Brumbaugh Construction, Inc. for the removal and installation of electric, storm, water, and wasterwater infrastructure for the Lock 9 Park improvements. The project will also include excavating and grading work that will expose the existing canal walls. The contract cost is approximately $565,951, and the commission also approved a contingency amount of $40,000.
Director of Community and Economic Development Chris Schmiesing said this contract amount came in under the engineer’s estimate of $670,628, noting there were seven bids for the project.
During public comment, Jaqua asked from where the money for this project is coming. Huff said the funding was from the various utility departments.
Later on, Huff said the improvements at Lock 9 Park are happening in phases. He said the city has grant applications pending for other aspects of the park improvements and has also received donations for future phases of the project.
General comments, announcements from the public
At the end of the meeting, Jey Roman of Piqua asked for clarification on the park project and its benefit.
“The utilities have to be relocated in order for the park to be developed,” Huff said.
Also during the general public comment portion of the meeting, Jaqua expressed dissatisfaction for city leadership.
“It’s time for a new mayor,” Jaqua said, asking when the city would appoint a new mayor. Hinds said the city would appoint the mayor in the first meeting of January.
Jaqua also called the city’s economic development plan a “total disaster.”
“It’s time for a change, and I’m here to call for it,” Jaqua said.
Earlier during the announcement portion of the meeting, Jaqua said the state auditor released city’s financial report for 2018 this week. He brought up again in the meeting, commenting on the city’s debt.
Following Jaqua, Edna Stiefel of Piqua called on the city to help support neighborhood groups and revitalization efforts.
“I’m asking the city to back the neighborhood groups and maybe help us to get back on our feet,” Stiefel said.
Also during the announcement portion of the meeting, Jeff Lange of Protecting Our Water Ways (POWW) spoke in favor of having one of Piqua’s low-head dams removed.
“It is a very dangerous item on the Great Miami River,” Lange said. He said removing it would improve biodiversity of the river and promote recreational use of the river in the form of canoeing and kayaking.
At the end of the meeting, Commissioners John Martin and Vogt each spoke about how they were not in favor of removing the dam, but asked residents to contact the commissioners to let them know what the residents want and how they want to use the river. Martin and Vogt each spoke about keeping the dam so power boats could be used on the river.
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