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Mansfield City Council tables dry dam proposal in committee

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Van Harlingen

Mansfield City Council 3rd Ward representative Jon Van Harlingen asks questions July 20 about a proposed dry dam at North Lake Park. (Richland Source file photo)

MANSFIELD -- Jason Lawrence has been asking for a Mansfield City Council committee meeting to discuss a dry dam proposal in North Lake Park, aimed at protecting homes and businesses in the north end floodplain.

The 5th Ward representative got his wish Tuesday night.

3rd Ward representative Jon Van Harlingen, chair of council's public utilities committee, opened a discussion on the proposed $15.5 million project.

But the legislation got no further.

Van Harlingen and panel members Phil Scott (At-large) and Cheryl Meier (2nd Ward), after a nearly 40-minute discussion with city engineer Bob Bianchi, tabled in committee legislation that would would allow the city to enter into a contract for design and engineering services for the Touby Run Flood Mitigation Hazard Project.

Jason Lawrence

Mansfield City Council 5th Ward representative Jason Lawrence asks if a proposed dry dam proposal will emerge from the public utilities committee on Tuesday evening.

Bianchi said Monday the two-year design and engineering work would cost about $1.5 million, which would come from the city's sewer fund.

No members of council spoke against the dry dam proposal, first introduced to local lawmakers three years ago after several years of study. Lawrence said in June his goal was to have an engineered and designed "shovel ready" proposal ready in two years as funding options are developed for the project itself.

But the three members of the committee, led by Van Harlingen, continued to question where funds will come from to pay for the project and if the design/engineering study would offer a project the city can't afford without significant grant funding.

Before allowing the proposal to advance, Van Harlingen, also chair of council's finance committee, said he wanted to see an update on the current status of the city's water and sewer funds and also receive information from the city's finance director regarding the city's credit rating.

The committee's decision halted, at least temporarily, progress of the proposal, which had been scheduled to be discussed during caucus Tuesday night and then undergo readings on Aug. 3, Aug. 17 and Sept. 7.

Previously, Van Harlingen has pointed out the city has taken on more than $50 million in bond debt in recent years, including $10 million for state-mandated improvements at the wastewater treatment plant and $35 million for state-mandated improvements at the water treatment plant.

Even after some council members spoke in favor of the notion, citing potential economic development in the north end, Van Harlingen remained unconvinced.

"What we are gonna get back? Where's the investment coming from? I think we could debate this subject all night long. Is there a Fortune 500 company that's gonna drop into a city block downtown?" he asked.

"What is the economic impact? Because we're talking about investing an awful lot of money to make it happen and we're not giving the citizens the option to make a choice," Van Harlingen said.

The dry dam issue was put on the back burner in 2019 until anticipated revenue from the $17 million water meter program was realized, a project slowed in 2020 by COVID-19 that is still not complete.

"I am not opposed to the project," Scott said in agreeing with Van Harlingen. "But as I have said before, I am leery about putting the city in fiscal danger. I think we can wait to get these reports (before moving forward)."

Council members Kimberly Moton (6th Ward), Alomar Davenport (4th Ward) and Stephanie Zader (At-large) all spoke in favor of the legislation.

Davenport

Alomar Davenport, who represents the 4th Ward on Mansfield City Council, speaks in favor of the dry dam project Tuesday night.

"I believe this is crucial to future economic development here in Mansfield," Davenport said. "I think something we as an administration, as a council, as a city, we have gotten stuck in this working-poor mentality.

"I'm from a working poor family, so there is no stigma to that. But what I am trying to say is we have become so conditioned to just getting by, to just doing what is necessary and it doesn't seem like we have any interest in investing in things that could bring additional revenue, that can help stimulate economic development, stimulate economic growth here in Mansfield," Davenport said.

During the discussion with Bianchi, the engineer said the city could possibly receive up to 75 percent of the dam's construction costs through a Federal Emergency Management Association's Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant.

The key, Bianchi said, was having a shovel-ready proposal to use in going after what he described as "very competitive" grants.

Bob Bianchi

Bob Bianchi, engineer for the City of Mansfield, answers questions Tuesday about a proposed dry dam.

"It's my understanding they are going to be pouring more dollars into the BRIC program, so that program is less competitive. It's very new. Doing the final design, the full design, having a shovel-ready project, puts us in a better position to perhaps get that grant," Bianchi said.

Also on Tuesday, City Council:

-- approved a contract with Getz Builders for a design-build project to construct a training facility for the police department at 310 Miller Parkway, near Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport. The city's Board of Control approved the $303,400 project in May.

Dan Krizan

Mansfield Fire Dept. Chief Steve Strickling (left) and Safety-Service Director Lori Cope speak July 20 as Mansfield City Council honors fire Capt. Dan Krizan, who recently retired after 44 years of service.

-- approved a resolution honoring Capt. Daniel Krizan, who retired from the Mansfield Fire Dept. on June 20 after more than 44 years of service. Krizen, who joined the department in 1977, received the department's Legion of Merit Award in 1981, 1990 and 2014. He was also selected as the department's Firefighter of the Year in 2002. Krizan received the department's Bronze Star in 1994, 1996, 2007 and 2011 and the department's Purple Heart Award in 1999 and twice in 2006. Krizan was presented the State of Ohio Medal of Valor in 1991.

-- listened as Safety-Service Director Lori Cope read an Ohio Senate resolution honoring the Mansfield Fire Department for its efforts, including the successful rescue of five people, two of them children, from an Arthur Avenue house fire on June 7. The resolution was signed by state Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) and Senate President Matt Huffman.

- approved the appointments of Maura Teynor, Jennifer Kime, Lee Tasseff, Braxton Daniels, Jennifer Pennel, Susan Gentile and Patrick Clinage to the new Mansfield Arts Commission.

-- approved demolitions of structures at 85 W. Sixth St., 232 W. Sixth St., 234 Bowman St. and 518 King St.

-- approved a proposal allowing the city to trade in 18 older police department shotguns to offset some of the cost of 15 Sig Sauer P320 duty pistols. The shotguns have a trade-in value of $3,275 and the new pistols will cost $6,878.85, meaning the final cost to the city would be $3,603.85.

-- approved accepting grants from the Richland County Foundation, the Mansfield Law Director's Office and others to purchase, install and implement a Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives (MILO) simulator to train officers in de-escalation techniques and appropriate use of force.

-- approved spending $100,000 from the Downtown Improvement Find for a joint parking lot improvement project with First English Lutheran Church.

-- approved acceptance of a $28,800 grant from the National Association of Police Athletics/Activities Leagues to be used by the Mansfield Police Athletic League.

-- approved the acceptance of a $118,421.87 grant from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services for METRICH drug task force operations.

--approved acceptance of funding in the amount of $329,280 from the Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Corrections for the probation improvement and incentive program.

-- approved acceptance of a $3,000 grant from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources Division of Forestry to be used to help cover about half the costs of a new drone for the Mansfield Fire Dept.

-- approved legislation authorizing payment of $45,579.10 to the Ohio Dept. of Transportation to help pay for repaving work done on Ohio 39 between Taylortown Road and the city limits.

-- discussed during caucus proposed changes to the city's ordinances regulating private alarm businesses.

-- approved the acceptance of a donated bench from Alyssa Adkins to be placed at North Lake Park.

-- approved a payment of $4,922.96 to MG Energy for work done previously to repair the pool pump at Liberty Park.

-- discussed during caucus entering into a contract with Penchura for the construction of splash pads in North Lake Park and Johns Park.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"