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NEW BREMEN — An area mayor had to break a tie vote — something that doesn’t happen often — during a village’s first council meeting of the year Tuesday evening.
During the reading of a resolution to approve the 3-1-1 Citizen Response system, which is through Town Square Software LLC, it came down to New Bremen Mayor Jeff Pape to pass the second reading, after Councilor Steve Wills, Councilor Craig Hoffman and Councilor Delores Stienecker voted against the measure, while Councilor Don Kuck, Councilor Dennis Burnell and Councilor John Schwartz voted for it. Pape voted to continue with the second reading but noted there are questions that need to be answered about the program before the next reading.
The vote followed an extensive discussion questioning the use of the 3-1-1 program versus utilizing the village’s Facebook page for similar announcements — such as water main breaks.
Kuck noted he prefers the 3-1-1 program instead of Facebook because of the use of text messaging, noting not everyone checks Facebook every day if they happen to have it, but they could be active on checking their e-mail or their phone.
“I like the system, there’s been some discussion about Facebook doing the same thing,” Pape said.
“My opinion on that is I don’t believe that ... I don’t think anybody is going to put down a true gripe, put their name down in front of the public, bringing up some issue on Facebook.”
He added the software also features a way to record citizens’ input — such as if something is wrong on their property or their leaves were missed during pickup.
Kuck noted if someone e-mails a concern through the program, the computer tracks the concern and then the resident is given a response when their request has been filled.
Burnell questioned if a citizen would receive a response if they would call in to the system, as well. Pape noted he would ask about Burnell’s concern.
“That’s what this whole concept is that they wanted more communication from the village,” Kuck said.
The program would initially cost approximately $11,000 — a price that a few councilors did not think was cost-effective.
“I think that 3-1-1 is not cost-effective for the complaints and issues we have in our village,” Wills said.
“I think we have plenty of communication skills — I think a quick phone call to any one of us to activate them to the issue, if it’s a community issue, it’s going to be on television— I just don’t think spending this amount of money to deal with five to 15 calls, I don’t see that as cost-effective for our village.”
If the village decided to use the Facebook page, Fiscal Officer Diane Gast noted she would have to learn how to utilize the site for that purpose.
In the beginning of Tuesday night’s meeting, after electing Kuck as president of council, approving the minutes, December 2011 finance report and both Pape and Village Administrator Wayne York’s reports, councilors entered into executive session at 6:55 p.m. to discuss personnel.
When they reconvened into regular session at 7:10 p.m., councilors passed, as an emergency, an ordinance to amend the payroll ordinance and hire Ben Krieg as the public works superintendent effective Monday.
In other business, councilors:
• Passed, as an emergency, an ordinance approving the operating budget and appropriations for 2012.
• Passed, as an emergency, a resolution approving the engineering fees for the canal trail enhancement for Poggemeyer and Associates. During the vote to pass the resolution as an emergency, Councilor Hoffman and Councilor Stienecker voted against the emergency. All councilors approved the resolution.
• Passed the third reading of a resolution to renew the income tax collection contract with the city of St. Marys.
• Passed the third reading of a resolution to renew the solicitor contract with Stephen Smith.
• Passed the third reading of a resolution to renew the magistrate contract with Robert W. Kehoe.
• Passed the first reading of a resolution approving the entrance into the emergency management cooperative.
• Passed the first reading of a resolution to authorize York to enter into a contract for payment of the AMP stranded costs relating to the terminated Meigs County plant over a period of 15 years.
The village’s share would be approximately $965,000, which could change depending on the outcomes of various legislative suits. The payment could be associated with increased electric rate costs, which will be looked at during the village’s scheduled rate study.
Smith noted the village’s current rates are possibly the lowest in the county.
The next meeting of the New Bremen Village Council will be at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at the municipal center.