CIRCLEVILLE — Circleville City Council is set to accept the report from the facilitator of the retreat earlier this year in which members of council and city administration set goals and discussed matters they’d like to tackle in 2023 and beyond.
Barry Keller, council president, said the Jan. 28 meeting was attended by all members of council, the mayor, auditor, council clerk and several citizens.
“It was a good session with a lot of good discussion and feedback,” Keller said.
Among the topics discussed were how the city plans to use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, some of which is already well underway, the safety forces levy, grade separation over the railroad tracks, and more.
“The three ARPA projects to date are the replacement of the downtown trees and sidewalks, the replacement of the belvedere and the remodel and revitalization of the Utilities Building on Franklin Street. There will be more things that will come up later this year.”
Keller said the other big item was the levy since the funds are only on the books currently until the end of 2024.
“We already kicked off the discussion at the last finance committee meeting,” Keller said of the status. “That process is going to take multiple meetings and need a lot of input from the administration, council, safety forces and the public on what it will look like.”
Keller said they also talked about a multi-year project, the upgrades at the Circleville 911 call center where upgrades have been made and they hope to be able to receive cell phone calls directly to the city sometime later this year.
“We’ve put a lot of money into the 911 call center for the city, Keller said. “That work is completed and we’ll soon be able to receive 911 calls from users inside the city instead of having to go through the county 911 system. That should make us eligible to receive some of the funding to the city from the 911 commission. That’ll be a revenue center to help cover the costs of the renovations. I believe that should happen this year.”
Keller shared another city initiative is to educate everyone in local government about the budgeting process and how different revenue streams, budget amounts and the like factor into the city’s finances.
“Budgets are complex because of all the different funding processes that go into our revenues,” Keller said. “The finance committee and the auditor are going to work to train and educate people on all the components of what it takes to put the budget together.”
Keller said that looking ahead one of the long term city goals is a grade separation over the railroad tracks.
“It’s going to take a few more years to look at all of the possible locations of where a grade separation could take place and the estimated cost before ultimately a decision will be made of where it’s going to be,” he said. “We’ll be meeting later this year with our consultant to consider all the various options.
There are some locations more favorable than others and some have big impact to the community and some that will have a lesser impact. It’ll take a lot of discussion. The city also can’t make this happen on its own. There will have to be more support to make this happen from the County, state, federal government and the railroad. It’s going to take a lot of discussion to move forward. We wanted to talk about it to make sure it was still in front of us and keep the conversation active.”
Keller said the group also brushed up on sunshine laws and record keeping to make sure everyone continued to be compliant.
“It’s important to do things legally and properly and we’re trying to do a good job of that with upgrades to our city website,” he said. “The new digital recording system in Council Chambers is a tremendous upgrade from cassette tapes. That’s all in the name of being transparent in the sunshine law.”
On the topic of sunshine laws, Keller said another topic to discuss this year is making the city council clerk a full-time position.
“Another topic was I initiated was a conversation about all the various council meetings, boards and commissions and how our clerk’s position is getting more and more busy and active,” he said. “There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that [Clerk Linda Chancey] does to prepare for a meeting, post meeting and public hearings. We’re going to have the conversation about making that position full time. That’ll be coming before judicial in the near future.”
Keller said many topics were discussed at length but there were some that were briefly broached to keep them on the city’s radar.
“Other topics we touched on briefly with not as much conversation, becoming a certified local government. It’s a long process the strategic planning committee is working on to make sure we become,” Keller said. “We talked about improvements to the parks that we make sure we have a good park maintenance program and make sure we’re taking care of the facilities as need especially with the upcoming summer season.”
As is typical with council’s retreat, no formal action was taken but the items discussed got assigned to their respective committees.
“That way that conversation will go to a committee so if there needs to be formal legislation it will go through that committee for review,” he said.