$39.8M budget approved by council

By Laurie Hamame - lhamame@aimmediamidwest.com

A $39.8 million budget for 2018 was approved this month by Oberlin city council.

The year is expected to end with a balance as high as $8.9 million in the general fund.

“We have really exciting capital projects in the budget,” said city manager Rob Hillard. “We are conservatively laying out a plan to balance out future revenues and any concerns that we may have. All the projects are nuanced and based on needs and scheduling.”

Average electricity rates will increase about 9.5 percent from last year through Oberlin Municipal Light and Power, according to a memo to council from finance director Salvatore Talarico.

The hike is due to higher wholesale power costs from the operation of hydroelectric facilities by American Municipal Power, the city’s provider, and increased costs of operating the Oberlin plant.

Water rates will increase three percent and wastewater rates will remain unchanged.

Personnel costs for the city workforce make up about 63 percent of general fund spending. Talarico said he’s included raises and increased benefit costs, but health care costs are expected decrease about 1.4 percent. The city’s participation in a group health care plan with other cities, and a lower amount of claims will decrease premium costs, he said.

A roughly one percent increase in expenditures includes projects in nearly every operational area across the city.

Major undertakings include:

• $935,112 for Lincoln Street repaving, sewer main repair, and the purchase of a sewer camera attachment.

• $246,343 for the Safe Routes to School program, which aims to create safe ways for children to bike and walk to and from school.

• $117,485 for the next phase of the Oberlin Underground Railroad Center, which includes construction of a 2,081-square-foot building on the north side of the site.

• $25,000 for new trash and recycling dumpsters.

• $108,000 for a water line replacement from Hollywood Street to Prospect Street.

• $100,000 to replace an aging 12-kilovolt electricity distribution system.

• $165,000 for a four-kilovolt upgrade to the city’s electric substation.

• $50,000 from the sustainable reserve program budget for an LED lighting upgrade downtown, which will reduce electric usage by almost 50 percent.

• $25,000 for the installation of a decorative LED walkway along the path of Park Street Park.

• $51,000 for a new police cruiser to replace an older model.

• $52,000 for assorted hoses, ventilation, and communication gear to outfit a new fire truck.

• $86,250 for a new dump truck which will have three times the capacity to haul equipment to and from work sites during water main repairs.

• $375,000 to replace an ultraviolet disinfection system used for final cleansing of wastewater before discharging to Plum Creek.

Hillard said he is especially eager for the Lincoln Street projects and the Safe Routes to School program. The latter he called a tremendous opportunity to promote pedestrian access to many areas of the city.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame