City must be creative with tight budget

Happy New Year!

A tight Marietta City budget means those in elected offices and members of the public are going to need to work together in creative partnerships to improve the quality of life for everyone.

Marietta City Council made some progressive moves last year, but there is much on the horizon for 2013. The year is going to provide challenges – or opportunities – encouraging both thinking and operating out of the box.

A resolution introduced at council’s last special meeting Dec. 31 provides for council’s endorsement of the Evaluation Matrix for building projects $50,000 and over. The engineering template basically requires contractors bidding on projects provide information up front that permits the city to help insure the city gets both the best quality and price for its projects. The evaluation matrix was developed through a series of public planning meetings involving more than 50 participants from throughout the community.

City Council has established a $5,000 fund for repair of city owned sidewalks. This is in addition to the money previously used to replace sidewalks uprooted by city owned trees in lawn strips. One community member said the $5,000 should be $150,000, but at least it is a start.

As part of the four-year-old Walk Marietta project surveying the city’s 900 blocks with and without sidewalks, the city now has a bit of money to set the example for appropriate repair and replacement of unsafe sidewalks. Hopefully, 2013 will bring a strategic plan for city-wide improvements over coming years.

City Council also for the first time provided a $2,000 fund for repair on the city’s 2.2-mile River Trail. Nine various community groups have agreed to be Friends of the Trail and help with cleaning and repair, but the money allows the city to have the funds to do necessary crack sealing and other repairs where necessary.

City Fire Chief C.W. Durham has asked for council’s assistance this year in encouraging commercial property owners – particularly in the historic downtown area – to install smoke or fire detection systems. Currently, just 25 percent or about 250 of 1,000 commercial buildings have smoke detector or sprinkler systems. Earlier warnings and sprinklers can help protect lives, businesses and the city’s historic ambiance.

While Marietta City and the Ohio Department of Transportation are building the next .97-mile of River Trail Phase III from South Fourth to Jefferson Street (near Kmart) this summer, talks are under way with Muskingum Township and Washington County officials for extending the trail to Devola in River Trail Phase VI.

Waterline breaks the past several days on Greene Street and at Ephraim Cutler Street next to Frontier Shopping Center remind us that we are behind in the plan to replace one mile of the worst or oldest water lines each year. It will take real brain power and planning with limited money to take appropriate care of the city’s 87 miles of critical water supply lines.

Finally, after 10 months of on and off discussions about mobile food vendors, hopefully progress can be made to both accommodate six to eight local vendors and increase foot traffic that could also benefit bricks and mortar restaurants. Council members currently are examining the Louisville, Ky., Athens and Washington, D.C., mobile food vendor rules in an effort to create an economic boost for small businesses without unintended consequences.

Marietta and its area residents are welcome to play a role in helping to make sure City Council action of 2013 has the valuable perspectives each individual has to bring to the governmental process. Again, Happy New Year!

Roger G. Kalter, 1st Ward Marietta City Council representative, Planning, Zoning and Annexation chair.