By Doug Lindner
SOLON– Solutions were on the horizon for the city last week, as Solon council members found quick consensus on a direction to resolve a dispute with the contractor for the 2012 Main Street improvement project.
A quick decision was also made regarding the city’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) budget for the next fiscal year.
Short two members and juggling a quorum, the Solon City Council met last week at a bit of an accelerated pace, shuffling the agenda to arrange action items.
Chief among those were a series of resolutions tied to budget issues, but there was also discussion regarding a potential agreement with All American Concrete and its subcontractors addressing the city’s concerns over the quality of the asphalt portion of the Main Street project.
Meetings earlier in the month did not produce promising results, and at a Nov. 6 council meeting, it did not appear a compromise was within easy reach.
The city has been critical of the asphalt overlay’s quality and had it tested independently, while the contractor has maintained it substantially met the specifications of the job.
At last week’s Nov. 20 meeting, however, an idea for an agreement was floated and city council members seemed willing to accept it.
Mayor Cami Rasmussen reported that after the Nov. 6 session, conversations with the city’s attorney and engineer had pointed the city in another direction.
She asked council members to consider proceeding with the drafting of an agreement which would extend the warranty on the project to 10 years and include the application of a sealant to all of the asphalt in the spring.
“Whatever needs to be fixed is going to be fixed, right?” asked council member Steve Stange. “In other words, if we start having a pothole here and there, they’re going to come fix that?”
City engineer Dave Schechinger indicated that type of work would be covered by the warranty, which the contractor has agreed to extend.
The sealant, he said, could extend the life of the asphalt by two years and has a value of about $3,000.
Council member Brad Kunkel wondered whether the city should ask for two or three sealant treatments over 10 years.
“I don’t know if they would go for that,” Schechinger responded. “When I spoke to them, they were still resistant to even getting to this point.” He said he could certainly bring it up to them.
Stange contended it would be in the contractor’s best interests to seal the road more than once if the project is going to be under warranty for 10 years.
“I don’t know how they would look at that from a cost-risk-value perspective,” Schechinger said. “I’ve had quite a few discussions just trying to get to the point where we could agree to the preliminary proposal.”
He pointed out the contractor has not officially agreed to it yet, but wanted to see if it would be acceptable for the city.
“So what I’m hearing is we have consensus to move in this direction?” Rasmussen asked, to which the three council members present– Kunkel, Stange and Mark Krall– agreed.
She directed Schechinger and city attorney Jim Martinek to draft language for a potential agreement.
The evening’s other area of compromise centered on the city’s TIF budget.
On the docket for the council members was a resolution to certify the city’s proposed TIF spending for fiscal year 2015, but before it could be considered, three other agenda items regarding the city’s finances had to be dealt with first.
The long and short of it was because of several factors– chiefly cost overruns on major projects and a shortfall in commercial revenues, this has been a tight budget year for the city. Looking at projected numbers for the upcoming fiscal year, the city found that its allocation of TIF and debt service funds was going to result in a three percent tax hike for Solon residents.
“For the taxpayer, that’s a deal,” Stange said of the three percent increase. He said the city had been able to undertake significant road projects over several years without having to raise taxes.
But Kunkel and Rasmussen lobbied against raising property taxes.
They supported an option which would shift approximately $24,000 in expenses to the TIF budget. The tax increase would be reduced, but the general fund would suffer slightly as a result.
City administrator Cassandra Lippincott broke down the impact of the options in a spreadsheet projected on a screen in the library’s meeting room. Increasing the TIF budget would reduce the general fund by $7,000, but the projected general fund would still see an overall increase of about $8,000 over the current year, she explained.
After agreeing to preserve annual spending on curb and gutter projects, and to suspending an annual $10,000 allocation for a Main Street facade program, Stange and Krall joined Kunkel in supporting the option Lippincott had presented.
The necessary resolutions were quickly passed on 3-0 votes.