HUBER HEIGHTS — Two ordinances to pay supplemental bills turned out to be anything but a supplemental issue at the Huber Heights City Council meeting Monday night.
The supplemental bills were in one ordinance when they made it out of council’s work session last week. By the time they made it to agenda for Monday’s meeting, they had been split into two ordinances. The first included bills totaling $63,345.51 for a variety of bills. The second included bills dealing solely with Carriage Trails subdivision bills and came to $1,777,000.
Councilmen Tyler Starline and Glenn Otto were at the center of the controversy over how the change was made.
Starline explained how he had contacted City Finance Director Jim Bell with an inquiry to find out information about whether it was possible to split the bills. Bell talked with City Manager Rob Schommer and they were presented to council as two separate ordinances Monday.
Starline and Otto both explained they felt that with council not at full strength Monday due to the absence of member Judy Blankenship, the Carriage Trails portion would not pass a vote of council. If there were two separate ordinances, some of the bills could be paid and the Carriage Hills portion could be tabled for later action when the entire council could take up the issue.
But other members of council weren’t buying it.
“Lots of people from Carriage Hills reached out to me Friday,” said Council Member Janell Smith. “Frankly, they’re getting tired of it. It looks like discrimination.” Smith also said she thought the switch was a violation of the city charter. “This is not how the city is supposed to be run,” she said.
Council Member Ed Lyons criticized what he called “secret conversations” that led to the change.
“Nearly 38,000 residents see it as one item on Tuesday, then on Monday we’re coming up with two items,” he said. “It’s bait and switch.”
The debate turned into a momentary shouting match before Starline withdrew his motion to pay the first set of bills. Council then voted 5-2 not to waive second and third readings on the ordinance, with Starline and Otto voting “yes.” Otto said he thought the bills should be paid and other council members were “cutting off their nose to spite their face.” That vote sent the supplemental bills to a second reading.
Schommer then quickly recommended that the second ordinance concerning the Carriage Trails bills be delayed for a second reading, which means the supplemental bills will be back before council at its next meeting.
Mayor Tom McMasters said “the process was in error” and later in the meeting suggested that Schommer work on a more formalized process for interaction between council members and city staff.
City council members also discussed the proposed city charter changes recommended by the city charter commission.
Schommer reported that the city staff recommended an ordinance concerning the recommendations be sent to a second reading rather than being passed as emergency legislation since legal counsel advised that some of the wording was ambiguous and could be read as possibly limiting council’s ability to act on some issue.
Council members agreed to the delay. Council must approve the charter changes by Aug. 6 so they can be presented to the public in the November election. Council plans to vote on the changes at its next meeting.
The discussion on the charter opened the door for Council Member Nancy Byrge to criticize McMasters for his opposition to a portion of the suggested changes that would allow passage of legislation on a first reading without declaring an emergency. She said she was disappointed in the mayor’s lack of leadership.
McMasters said he does not think a single reading gives residents enough time to discuss the issue completely.
The meeting wasn’t all about disagreements.
All members of council found time to thank the volunteers and city employees who made the city’s Star Spangled Celebration July 4 event a success.
Schommer said that vendors at the event estimated there were 10,000-12,000 people in attendance. Council members took turns thanking the Arts and Beautification Committee as well as volunteers who worked on the parade and rest of the celebration.
Byrge and Smith both suggested that one improvement for next year’s celebration could be improved traffic control.
Council’s next meeting will be July 25 at city hall.
Reach David Lindeman at 937-684-8983.