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How does city use license plate fees?

Jason Singer • Jun 7, 2010 at 2:25 AM

Q: Can you find out the city's intention for regular street resurfacing through license plate fees? And also what are the city's plans for re-striping? It's almost June, and a lot of the major thoroughfares are in sorry condition when it comes to striping.

-- Tim on Sheffield Way

A: Thanks for the question, Tim. The only major street the city will resurface this year is Meigs Street from East Washington to East Monroe. The city may do repairs to smaller streets, said Kathy McKillips, the city's deputy engineer. The cost of Meigs Street resurfacing will be about $150,000, and the money will come from Community Block Development Grant funds.

As for the city's $20 license-plate fee, that generates about $430,000 dollars per year. Right now, that money goes toward a variety of things in the street department, including paying off the $300,000 Monroe Street Resurfacing Project from 2008, personnel costs and the cost of several retirements.

In answer to your second question, the traffic department re-stripes streets as needed, McKillips said. If you think there's an area that needs re-striping, you can call Scott Miller, who oversees the city's general services department. His work number is 419-627-5984.

Q: Why was there an issue with no advertising for the clerk's job, and a couple weeks later the finance director retires and an appointment is made immediately with no advertising and no discussion? Please explain! Also, will someone else be hired to fill the auditor's job?

-- Betty on Venice Road

A: Great questions, Betty. Up until this year, the city had a practice of conducting searches for their charter positions. That practice ended when Kelly Kresser was given the city commission clerk's job without Sandusky looking at other resumes. The same happened this spring when Hank Solowiej, the city's longtime senior-account/auditor, took over for finance director Ed Widman, who retired earlier this year.

Personally, I think it's good practice for the city to conduct searches. I like both Kelly and Hank, and think they are both very qualified. But the city owes it to taxpayers to see who else is out there. Even if the city determines Hank and Kelly are the best, the search process forces the city to evaluate its own departments and examine its shortcomings. That could help Kelly, Hank and anyone else in this situation become better employees in the future.

If now is not a good time to conduct a search because of finances or shorthanded-ness, the city can always use the interim tag -- as it has done many times before -- and conduct a search later. As I said earlier, the taxpayers have a right to know the best possible people are serving them. As to your second question, the city will not replace the accountant-auditor's role Hank used to fill. He will oversee all aspects of the finance department by himself.

Q: I've been told the several thousand foreign exchange students that Cedar Point hires for the summer do not pay Sandusky income tax. Is that true?

-- Avery on McCartney Road

A: Thanks for the question, Avery. According to the city's income tax clerk, this isn't true. Everyone older than age 18 who works in the city pays city income tax. No exceptions.

Q: Where are the waterfront watchdogs? They will be up in arms about the yacht club trying to put some boats in the water, but there's a building going up on First Street totally blocking the view of the waterfront -- a huge building -- and we haven't heard one word.

-- Linda on First Street

A: Linda, as opposed to me answering this, I thought I would let the Waterfront Watchdogs answer it themselves. I forwarded your question to Tim Schwanger, a spokesman for Save Our Shoreline Parks, the city's primary Waterfront Watchdog group.

Here is Schwanger's response: "SOSP and the Waterfront Watchdogs are primarily focused on protecting, preserving and enhancing waterfront property that is already public space. It's a difficult task to control what private developers do on their own land. I can tell you the city did try to convince the Hoty Group to reconfigure the building and (move it) further back from the road, (but) to no avail. Since 1988, the Waterfront Watchdogs have tried unsuccessfully to convince the city to open the Pier Track (purchased by the city) at the end of Ogontz Street for the use of First Street-area residents. If the Apex building and property is developed as mixed use, our group will advocate setting aside a portion of this property for a public park and waterfront access."

To ask Jason a question, send a letter to 314 W. Market St., or e-mail singer@sanduskyregister.com. Please include your first name and a location in the e-mail, such as "John from Decatur Street."

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