Delaware County Commissioners were welcomed into the Delaware City Council Chambers Thursday by Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle and city council for a special joint session.
“I guess we haven’t had a meeting in two-and-a-half years,” said Riggle. “So, it’s due time.”
“We’re pleased to be here and looking forward to this,” said Delaware County Commissioner Gary Merrell.
The first topic of the joint session was the reimbursement agreement for the city’s EMS (Emergency Medical Services) from the county.
City Manager Tom Homan said the EMS reimbursement issue is something that keeps coming up. He said there had been discussions in the past about the EMS agreement, but then negotiations for Sawmill Parkway started and sidelined the EMS discussions.
“It is an agreement we have with the county to provide reimbursement to the city based upon transport and non-transport runs for the city,” he said. “The agreement we’re currently operating under expired in 2008.”
Homan said there were the efforts of the coalition, City of Delaware, and Liberty, Orange, Genoa and Harlem townships, that “tried to come up with a global solution that didn’t materialize.”
In 1971, the board of commissioners established a o.5 percent sales tax to fund emergency medical services. The coalition sought to end what they saw as a duplication of EMS services between the county and the coalition. The coalition wanted to contract with the county to be the sole first responders in their coverage areas.
Homan said the city was looking to restart past conversations on the subject of EMS reimbursement from the county because they were going well until they got sidetracked.
“We are asking tonight for some direction as to who we would initiate those negations with from the county’s team in updating it,” said Homan. “We still think that there’s merit to the global solution, but we do think the immediate issue is the agreement we negated back in the early 2000s that we’re still operating under.”
The commissioners pointed to County Administrator Michael Frommer, Assistant County Administrator Si Kille, and EMS Chief Mike Schuiling as the people that would need to be involved in the negotiations.
Riggle said the city had sent a letter to the county last week about county funding for the Point Railroad Bridge Replacement Project.
The $25 million project aims to relieve the traffic bottleneck at the intersection of U.S. Route 36/State Route 37 on the east side of Delaware. City Council approved an ordinance in November appropriating nearly $1 million for preliminary engineering services for the project. The multi-year project is expected to take until 2024 to complete.
When Riggle asked if there were questions about the letter, Commissioner Barb Lewis said the dollar amount was higher than expected.
“We had talked about a million, a million-and-a-half, then the request was $3.2 million,” said Commissioner Jeff Benton. “We would like to understand why.”
Benton said the county engineer has “$191 million planned in transportation projects in the next five years” and has “$160 million in funding.”
“Already he is underfunded,” Benton said. “He’s running his reserves down to cover that $30 million gap.”
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said he saw the project as more of a regional project with the talk of development along the U.S. 36/37 State Route corridor.
“The Point is a big issue with that transportation corridor,” he said.
Merrell suggested the conversation be moved to the meeting with the county engineer next week.
Transportation Improvement District Partnership Opportunities was the next item on the joint session’s agenda.
Benton said there were 33 counties in the state that have set up Transportation Improvement Districts (TIDs).
“It’s an interesting idea,” he said. “It has a lot of power that makes them interesting and attractive. They can borrow money, and the money that is borrowed doesn’t count against the jurisdictions debt obligation other than they have committed money to it.”
Benton said it is a streamlined process so things can be done faster, save money, and has the power to require utilities to move their utilities at their expense.
The city approached the heated topic of public parking with the commissioners with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding Delaware County parking facilities.
“The county has been very, very receptive to public parking in its lots,” said Homan. “They are signed that way, and I think that makes a lot of sense. People are starting to discover they can cross Central Avenue and find parking on those surface lots (behind the Hayes Building and new courthouse).”
Homan said the hangup was over the use of the garage space of the new courthouse.
“We know the county has some concerns with security,” he said. “At some point, perhaps, we can revisit that in the future if possible.”
Shafer jumped in and said he sees the garage space as being off the table at this time with the county, but suggested giving it couple a years to see how things go.
“That would be my suggestion,” said Lewis.
Merrell said in one of the versions of the MOU, he asked that the parking just north of the commissioners’ building be removed from the public parking list because it’s where the 911 personnel park at night.
“I asked that be removed for their safety,” he said. “We’ve open a lot of other parking spaces.”
“We just thought that at some point in the future there might be a point that the county would consider (the garage), but that’s not the case now,” Homan said.
Also discussed in the joint session was the county and city sewer master plans, and the corresponding service agreements.
Blake Jordan, city utility director, said there is a lot of development going on in the southern portion of the city, but the next steps would be to open up conversations about the northern area and setting up the boundary lines for infrastructure.
The session also lead to the discussion of the continued economic development work between the city and county on the development of US 36/ 37 State Route corridor from I-71 and the Entrepreneurial Center agreement with Ohio Wesleyan University, which both entities have passed resolutions to support.