The Village of Oak Harbor finished some municipal business Monday, affirming a contract with its new administrator and picking a person to fill a recently vacated council seat.
Village council voted unanimously for a $70,000 annual contract for new Village Administrator Randy Genzman. The contract is open-ended, containing no specific date for reviews for re-negotiations and no clauses for buyouts in the event of an unexpected departure as previous contracts have provided outgoing employees.
Genzman called it a win-win proposal for the village and himself. If village officials have issues with his work, there are no potential payouts hanging in the balance. And should Genzman opt to leave, there are no restrictions binding him, he said.
Genzman, a native of Oak Harbor, has worked for the village for more than two decades.
He replaced Robert Pauley, who left unexpectedly in February under a firestorm of criticism, including heavy-handed handling of staff and issues with the public. He had been administrator since 2009.
Genzman will answer to council, which now includes former councilwoman Donna Wendt-Eilliot, who was appointed by a vote of council and given the oath of office Monday.
The councilwoman, who had served nearly a quarter of a century, opted to leave her position last December when she decided to not seek another term. She said she made that decision because of problems created by the former administration and she felt council members were not working for the good of the village.
However, last month, Brad Weis resigned his council seat. The Toledo Police Department captain accepted a job as Genoa police chief and said his new responsibilities interfered with his ability to carry out his council seat full term.
Wendt-Elliot and Dawn Haar, an Oak Harbor resident who specializes in legal work for the commercial trucking industry, both submitted letters of interest to council.
As Monday’s meeting began, Mayor Bill Eberle asked both candidates to give an impromptu speech regarding their interest in the job.
Wendt-Elliot cited her previous experience and said she left under difficult circumstances. She believed, however, in recent months she had seen council working more cohesively with each other and the administration and saw the chance to get things done.
Haar, a former assistant prosecutor in Ottawa, Sandusky and Wood counties, noted she has worked in stressed and aggravated situations on both sides of the law and was not shocked by very many things. As an open-minded person, she added she would seek information both from in and outside village chambers in order to make informed decisions.
She said she believed she could bring a new prospective to the council and wanted the chance to make decisions that would improve the lives of fellow village residents.
The mayor, who is charged with advising council on the issue, recommended Haar for the vacant seat. She won the votes of councilmen Don Douglas and Jim Seaman. In the end, though, Wendt-Elliot took her seat among her former peers with the support of council members Jon Fickert, Sue Rahm and Jackie Macko.
Haar was disappointed in the vote but not surprised. She said she intends to attend future meetings to see what develops. Macko caught up with Haar after the meeting and explained she put her vote behind experience. But, she added, she hoped Haar would keep an interest in village dealings and perhaps join a committee or two. Haar thanked her for her kind words.
While glad to be once again seated at the council, Wendt-Elliot voiced disdain as the meeting drew to an end for how the interview process was conducted in public forum.
“It was not ethically or morally right. I was very embarrassed as I was taking my oath of office,” she said.
She noted that interviews in the past had been done in closed door session to allow council members a better chance to speak to the candidates.
Mayor Eberle pointed out the same procedure was used when a council seat was filled earlier in the year by Councilman Jon Fickert.
“Are you saying that was wrong?” he asked.
Village Solicitor Jim Barney intervened in the conversation.
The mayor can conduct the interviews in “whatever way he sees fit,” Barney said. “None of the process is mandatory,” he explained.
Sewer system relief
Councilman Seaman wanted to know how the village sewer system has fared in the aftermath of recent rains.
“Did we have any complaints?” he asked regarding flooding.
No, Genzman answered. The administrator noted that the re-opening of the combined sewer overflow regulator No. 8 at Portage Street is complete. That allows the flow to be diverted to the Portage River in times of heavy rains. The re-opening of CSO 6 at Church Street is half done and the one at Portage Fire Station must be put off until the water levels are low enough for digging to proceed.
Resident Dennis Schiets showed up at council with another sewer issue.
His Benton Street home of 38 years is one of several private sewer systems still operational in the village. He pays full sewer and storm water system bills but “We still have to maintain the aging lines,” he said.
Those lines were installed in the 1930s when the conversion from outhouses to underground utilities began.
“I feel I deserve some kind of rebate. Something has to be done on the 100 block of Benton Street,” Schiets told council.
Genzman explained the private line was indeed one of several in the village. This particular line runs through the backyards and drains in the village sewer system at Main Street. That is why, he said, the residents there pay sewer rates.
Several years ago village officials looked at that line and considered installing new sewer lines from St. Paul Church south along an alley toward Main Street, Genzman said.
The project, like most utility projects, would require residents to pay to a portion of the installation costs, amounting to thousands of dollars assessments for each homeowner. The residents opted not to do it, he said.
“I love this village,” Schiets said. Still, “I have consulted attorneys in Toledo.”
He said he would like to see the issue thrashed out more before he’s forced to take legal action.
Village council is working on plans to get better garbage pickup rates for the village.
The current contract with Republic Services runs out at the end of the year. Council, though, has until September to decide if it wants to exercise a one-year option.
In the previous bidding process, council noted the regulations were so restrictive there was no competition. Council had Genzman revise the lengthy document into a more concise one that could spur more interest.
Council directed Genzman to begin the bidding process with the assistance of Barney. The goal is to get the bids back by Aug. 1 for review. If those bids aren’t satisfactory, they’ll still have the option for continued service with Republic.