PIQUA — The Piqua City Commissioners again heard residents’ concerns regarding issues with the city’s utilities department during the commission’s regular meeting on Tuesday.
A special meeting to address these issues took place in June, during which a discussion was held regarding a utilities impact report that the city had released in response to a petition submitted by the group Citizens for Fair Piqua Utilities Pricing (now called Watch Piqua).
The 50-page document included explanations and responses to the petition, including an explanation of storm water fees, fees for paying the same day as a shut-off, the $50 fee for checking meters, billing cycles, the implementation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system, level billing, acceptance of government assistance programs, and more.
The full report is available on the city’s website at piquaoh.org.
According to City Manager Gary Huff, a follow-up report is due to be finalized and released by the end of July. At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Huff addressed attendees, acknowledging the delay in results with regard to changes and improvements.
“I’ve asked city staff to take a look at each one of those (issues) and determine what kind of recommendations we can come back with,” he said. “One of the things that was mentioned was different communities did things different ways; part of looking at what changes can be made has been looking at other communities and coming up with ideas of how we can address some of those things, so that’s been the hold up.”
During the public comment segment of Tuesday’s meeting, Jey Roman, of Piqua, requested that a work session be held after the release of the follow-up report.
“I think one of the things that people were discouraged about is that (the special meeting in June) was a little bit too formal and it didn’t seem like people could really give ideas,” Roman said. “I think it would be important to involve everybody as far as the community — anybody who would like to come — to try to discuss what routes we can go, so I was just seeing if that was a possibility … I just feel like the gap in the bridge could be filled if we did this.”
The commissioners approved the scheduling of a work session for Aug. 1, at 7 p.m. Mayor Kazy Hinds noted that the structure of the session would allow for a more relaxed atmosphere for residents to express ideas.
In other business, the commission entered into executive session to consider the purchase or sale of property for public purposes before passing a resolution approving the purchase of part of in-lot 43, which has a street address of 120 S. Main St.
According to the resolution, the purchase of the property is to facilitate economic development along the downtown Piqua riverfront area as planned by Riverfront District Development Strategy.
The property, which was owned by James and Beth McGail, was purchased for a symbolic price of $1, as the couple wished to donate the building to the city.
Also approved was a resolution to establish the Downtown Piqua Revitalization District.
“The purpose of the Downtown Revitalization District is to provide additional liquor license quotas for the downtown area,” said Chris Schmiesing, community and economic development director. “Ohio law provides each jurisdictional area with a quota of permits for each type of liquor license. Currently, we have two types of liquor license that are at or exceed the quota allowance and there are no additional permits remaining.”
Schmiesing noted that this creates a challenge when it comes to attracting new restaurants or entertainment venues to the community.
“By using the provisions in the Ohio Revised Code to establish a Downtown Revitalization District, this would give us a means for increasing our liquor license quota for the area by eight licenses, which would be a very important thing to have as we continue to talk about additional restaurants and amenities in our downtown.”
Schmiesing noted that all eight licenses are the same — D5, or “all encompassing” licenses. This license allows spirituous liquor for on-premises consumption only, beer, wine and mixed beverages for on-premises, or off-premises in original sealed containers, until 2:30 a.m.
Multiple residents in attendance expressed concern about approval of these licenses, noting the possibility of negative effects bars can have on an area.
Schmiesing noted that restaurateurs who may be interested in opening a business within the downtown area will “more often than not” wish to serve alcohol at their establishment.
“That is by far and away one of the amenities that we hear from citizens that is most desired: additional restaurants; so, we are actively working on trying to address that,” he said. “Without the additional quota of liquor licenses, it becomes very difficult to be able to recruit restaurants.”
Schmiesing added that within the language of the Revitalization District is recognition of an objective to attract amenities that have “broad appeal” rather than to establish “attractive nuisances.”
“One of the provisions is that the D5s that are created for the Revitalization District can only be used in the district, (and) can only be issued to a retail food establishment or food service operation that 75 percent of its business is generated from the food sales as compared to the alcohol,“ he said.
Commissioners also approved the appointment of James “Chris” Grissom to the 4th Ward Commissioner’s seat.
Grissom was one of two candidates to submit applications of interest into the position. He was formally sworn in after Tuesday’s meeting, and a public swearing-in ceremony will be held during the next regular meeting of commissioners, which is to be held Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 6 p.m., in Commission Chambers at 201 W. Water St.
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