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03-11-03: Electric department cut as Celina budget passes
The Daily Standard
    Celina's 2003 operating budget was finally passed Monday night, but not without dissenters and a last-minute chop of $570,000 from the electric department.
    Several council members began the budget discussion by asking why a $536,000 building for the electric department was included, when they were under the impression it was already removed.
    "That's a big hunk of change," councilwoman Sharon LaRue said. "That's bothers me."
    LaRue said she thought the building, which would house a new electric bucket-truck, was removed during a committee meeting. Councilman Bob Nuding said he thought the same thing, as did Council President Bill Sell.
    Nuding also said it was unusual that an additional position in the electric fund was still in the budget. He said both items were removed, and Safety-Service Director Mike Sovinski put them back.
    Sovinski said it was not a matter of the items being put back in, because they were never removed. Also, he and Mayor Paul Arnold said purchases larger than $15,000 need additional approval from the council and the items would have been back on the table at a later date.
    Ultimately, the appropriations passed, for a total of $34 million in all funds, including $5.39 million in the general fund.
    Prior to the vote, Nuding asked that the meeting's minutes state his thought that ethical questions may be raised in the future if the motion is passed. President Sell said he didn't understand what Nuding was saying.
    Nuding said Sell was not supposed to understand, and asked that the minutes say "Mr. Nuding said this vote, right here and now, down the road, may have ethical issues."
    After the meeting, Nuding would not elaborate to The Daily Standard on his comment. He said when it happens it will need no explanation.
    When the vote was taken to remove the electric building and the new employee from the budget, Nuding and Councilwoman Angie King voted against it, though they argued for it.
    The final vote to approve the appropriations had the same dissenters. Before the vote, LaRue said she would support the budget if she could have assurance that the issue of the community development department will not disappear.
    LaRue, King and Nuding spearheaded a discussion exactly one month ago on whether Celina needs a community development department. The three said the city isn't getting the "bang for the buck" from the department, headed by Sue Canary. They indicated at a Feb. 11 committee meeting they would not support the budget if the department was included.
    The three circulated a letter at Monday's council meeting stating their revised thoughts on the department.
    The letter said that many in the community have voiced their support for the department.
    "We have listened. We agree that there is a need for community development activities," the letter states, adding that a committee needs to take a hard look at the job performance of Canary and Director of Administrative Services Dave Schmidt.
    The audience section of the council chambers on Monday was filled with community and business community members, many who came in support of the department.
    Local attorney Tom Lammers urged the council not to cut the department from the budget.
    "You are being well served by the department you have now," Lammers said, adding the amount of jobs being performed would normally be handled by a staff of four or five.
    Tom Saddler from Community First Bank and Tom Schwartz, former Celina safety-service director, also told the council not to scrap the department.
    "Let's control our own future," Schwartz said.
    In another matter of business, council members approved a resolution offering support of a plan by Williamsburg Square Apartments that could bring in $1.5 million for upgrades to the low-income housing facility. The facility is seeking tax credits from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.
    Also, Mayor Arnold said he will be creating an ad-hoc committee of community members in the near future to examine the conditions, efficiency and needs of the city's various departments.


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P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822