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11-20-02: Council members say they still want to explore ways to assist local businessman
Rockford Village Council Solicitor advises against co-signing loan

The Daily Standard

    ROCKFORD - The chance of Rockford village officials co-signing a loan for a local businessman appear to be getting slimmer, but officials vowed to explore more creative ways to possibly assist him in opening a downtown business.
    Kevin Ross of Ross Automotive, had asked village officials to consider co-signing an $80,000 loan that would allow him to open an auto parts store in the Riley Chevrolet building on Main Street. That effort lost steam at Tuesday's regular council meeting where Solicitor Judy Koesters rendered an opinion advising against such a deal.
    Ohio law and the state constitution prohibit public money from being spent to benefit private interests, Koesters' written opinion said. The town also cannot lend its credit to a private entity, she said.
    Council member Eugene Steiner said if officials would have signed the loan, the town would have to encumber the money to cover it in case of default. That would mean the money would be set aside and could not be spent for other purposes.
    Mark Miller, a business associate of Ross', urged village officials to look at ways to work within existing laws to make the project happen. The village of St. Henry owns a building it leases to a private company and the city of Sidney currently is working on a joint venture that includes private and public money, Miller said.
    Village officials agreed to allow Administrator Jeff Long to research how other public-private deals are struck. Long said he would also look into the financing options if the town were to buy the building and lease it back to Ross.
    "I'd just like to look at all the options," council member Nick Sell said.
    "I can't see the point. We've got our answer," council member Keith Rutledge said.
    Council members also heard from another resident at Tuesday's meeting. Ron Searight, 406 W. North St., told village officials his residence does not have adequate water pressure.
    "If somebody's taking a shower somewhere else, I can barely get a trickle," Searight said.
    Long said he would check the pressure and investigate wheth-er there is anything the village can do to improve the situation.
    In other water issues, Long reported that a recent round of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency-mandated water testing for lead and copper found two homes that tested above the action level for lead. Long said both homes will have water lines replaced as part of the Franklin and Market streets water line replacement project. Overall, 20 sites were tested and only the two along the old line tested positive, he said.
    In other business Tuesday, council members:
    € Passed first reading of the 2003 budget. The estimated budget shows a $537,034 general fund, $201,335 water fund, $293,537 sewer fund, $183,925 street maintenance and repair fund and $11,400 state highway fund.
    € Passed first reading of an annual pay ordinance granting 2 percent pay raises to all village employees, except utility technician Tom Beahrs, who will get 5 percent because he did not receive a raise last year. The ordinance also reduces the hours police officers must work from 45 to 40 per week.
    € Passed first reading of an ordinance setting up a registration process for contractors working within the village. For a $10 annual fee, contractors will have to register to do any work in town. By registering, contractors agree to abide by zoning regulations and to properly withhold village income tax from their workers.
    € Passed first reading of an ordinance that puts the responsibility of paying utility bills with property owners, not tenants. The change will alleviate disputes among tenants and ensure the village gets paid, Long said.


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