Athens City Council convened in committees on Monday to discuss a number of city projects, including the proposed new fire department headquarters and underground city infrastructure.
City and Safety Services
The City and Safety Services Committee discussed the city’s ongoing effort to outsource information technology services to a third-party company. Athens Service Safety Director Andy Stone presented a request to Council for authorization to enter into a contract with Business System Solutions Inc., or BSSI, a company that provides cybersecurity and IT solutions in the Southeast Ohio area. The company will manage the city’s IT systems in place of two previous city employees, with a yearly cost of approximately $132,000.
Also brought forward was a proposal to update the network connecting city buildings from an aged microwave point-to-point system to in-ground fiber. The fiber can also be leveraged in the future for economic development, including the potential for WiFi on Court Street. The proposal seeks authorization of $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to install the fiber and necessary conduits, a project that Stone anticipates spanning five years.
Stone also discussed with the committee the need for the authorization of an additional $6,000 for further emergency repairs to the fire department headquarters, which Council authorized in 2021. During repairs, it was discovered an additional beam and column were needed, pushing the project over the $50,000 threshold and requiring Council authorization.
Council revisited the plan for construction of new fire department headquarters, seeking authorization of $70,000 and an additional appropriation of $40,000 for stage one design costs. The city is seeking the services of McCall & Associates Architects for the initial design of the building, which will be located on Stimson Avenue. A public meeting will be held Jan. 19 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Athens Community Center for citizens to voice thoughts and concerns surrounding the project and the new fire building.
Finance and Personnel
The Finance and Personnel committee discussed the reopener of a police contract that would maintain the current healthcare provisions, provide a 2.5% raise for 2022 and a 2.25% raise the following year. A second item the committee addressed was the potential for a one-time $1,000 retention bonus for each member of the bargaining unit.
The committee additionally discussed the need to authorize the online auction of unneeded or obsolete items, including office equipment or items seized due to involvement in criminal activity. An online sale allows the city to expand and reach a greater number of potential buyers than a traditional auction, Stone said.
The Transportation Committee discussed the continuation of the Uptown Improvement Project in keeping with a previously formulated master plan. Specifically, the committee analyzed cross streets in the central business district and the potential for improvement. The proposed ordinance would authorize the hire of a design firm to do conceptual design and construction drawings.
The committee also seeks approval for the disposal of 38 vehicles as the city seeks to downsize. Stone anticipates the sale of approximately 20 of the vehicles in the next year.
Planning and Development
The Planning and Development Committee brought forward two utility easements for authorization, which allow the city convenient access to utilities on private properties. It also presented a Title 49 application by Good Works, Inc., which would allow the nonprofit to install a handicap accessible parking space that would overlap the city’s right-of-way.