Wed., 6:53am: Council nixes shale drilling rules

SALEM- City Council Tuesday night voted down a zoning amendment that would have restricted shale drilling within city limits.

Council agreed that the issue should be returned to the Rules and Ordinance Committee after Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey explained that council has no legal authority to restrict the drilling which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources through state level legislation. She said she believed passing the amendment would leave the city vulnerable to lawsuits that could cost the city significant money.

She added that if council was passing the amendment only as a statement that may never be acted upon, then the amendment is a “waste of time and effort, and a little misleading to the citizens of Salem.”

Other council members indicated that the message behind the amendment is to let people know that drilling won’t take place just anywhere and agreed that it may be better related as a statement through a resolution, not a law.

The amendment would have restricted drilling to industrial sites in the city.

In other business council appointed Tim Weingart to the Utilities Commission, replacing Ken Kenst who had been serving as an interim member after the retirement of Geoff Goll in September. The term ends Dec. 31, 2016.

Weingart is employed at Great Lakes Pump where for the past 28 years he has handled the sales and distribution of wastewater pumps.

Council approved the appointment unanimously.

Additionally council authorized Superintendent of Utilities Don Weingart to advertise for bids to sell the department’s scrap metals and unused equipment, which he said would exceed the $1,000 limit in the Ohio Revised Code, and for sludge removal from the wastewater treatment and water plants.

During a Utilities Committee meeting prior to the council meeting, Weingart said he is seeking a three-year contract versus the current five-year one that expires in December, during which the department has spent $1.3 million for removal from the wastewater treatment plant. He noted that sludge from the water plant has been stored at the facility but will begin to need removed in 2014 at a likely cost of at least $250,000 annually. He said he expected the costs to be higher due to increases in transportation costs.

Committee members questioned whether the sludge from the water plant could be sold, but Weingart said although it has some lime value, its commercial value would be offset by the significant cost to store and distribute the material.

Council also added Home Savings to the city’s list of depositories for funds and observed a moment of silence for the late former Fire Chief Lee Cranmer who passed away last week.

Also at the meeting Treasurer Robert Tullis clarified that the city does not offer online tax filing due to cost. He said it would cost $10,000 to start plus a yearly fee. Residents may calculate it online and print it off, but must mail it or drop it off, he said, noting that the city tax is not included in the eFile for federal and state tax returns.

The Nov. 5 council meeting has been changed to 7 p.m. Nov. 6 in council chambers due to elections.

A Rules and Ordinances Committee meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8 in council chambers