The following is the latest installment of Mayor Jim Boroff's monthly updates on city issues.
Grass clippings and yard waste. The city requires that residents mow their lawns when the grass exceeds six inches in height. The abundant rainfall and warmer weather has accelerated the growth of grass and weeds which, for many of us, results in more frequent mowing. We are asked fairly often about how residents can dispose of grass clippings.
The city maintains a brush pile for bush and tree trimmings. This is located at the Water Pollution Control Center on North Water Street and is open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. seven days a week. We do not accept grass and weeds. This means citizens must either mulch or compost the clippings.
Although it might not seem like a huge problem, grass and weeds that are blown into the street find their way into the catch basins and collect on the grates, preventing water from draining into the storm sewer. Even worse, the clippings work their way into the sewer lines and cause major blockages, which can cause the storm water to back up into people's basements.
We ask that when you are mowing next to a street, please direct the clippings away from the curb. You'll be doing the city street crews a big favor and possibly prevent major water problems for yourself and your neighbors.
City finances. Although the city's financial condition still is constrained, I do see many positive signals locally - business expansion, employee call-backs, stronger retail sales - that indicate we are on the upswing. Our major source of city revenue, income tax collections, continues to improve over last year, and, unless something catastrophic occurs, I do not see any further cuts in city services.
If you have any questions about any issues facing the city, please feel free to write to me in care of 51 E. Market St., Tiffin, or at email@example.com. I am happy to speak with anyone who has concerns, suggestions or questions about the city. You may call my office at (419) 448-5401 or stop by without an appointment. To ensure I am available, please call ahead.
Our ability to maintain the quality of our city services would not have been possible without the dedication and sacrifices made by our employees. For more than a year now, hourly and salaried workers have been subject to a 7-percent cut in pay. The police and fire unions also have made concessions, and department heads have been diligent in minimizing expenses and overtime. I owe a great debt of gratitude to all of those who are working with me to make the best of a bad situation. I am extremely proud of their professionalism and understanding.
"Ballooning" employment. Much has been written recently about ballooning employment in the government sectors. I have even heard some comment to that effect about our city's government. Recently, I did a head count of city employees, comparing current employment versus 2002. Here are the results:
The police department is down five officers and one dispatcher from authorized strength. Likewise, the fire department is down four firefighters and a deputy fire chief. Public works is down two full-time employees and one part-time employee, and the park department no longer has an assistant groundskeeper and the equivalent of two full-time seasonal groundskeepers. The finance department, prosecutor's office and the general administration each are down by a part-time employee.
All told, we have 18 fewer people than eight years ago. Some of these positions obviously need to be restored as soon as possible - especially in the safety-service areas. But anyone who thinks we rapidly have expanded our workforce needs to take another look at the facts.
Property maintenance issues. We owe it to our citizens to devote a lot of time to keep our neighborhood properties in good condition. Most of our property owners take pride in their neighborhoods and expect others to do the same. Our special projects administrator and the engineer's office staff spend a considerable amount of time on property maintenance complaints that we receive from neighbors. Our policy is to work with the offending property owners in resolving the problems. Most of those people who are contacted are quite compliant.
However, we do have a handful of habitual offenders who, quite frankly, flaunt the law. We are looking for more effective ways in dealing with those who have little or no regard for their neighbors. One such method under consideration would be the publishing of the names of those offenders who continually ignore the orders and refuse to clean up their property.
Once a citation is issued, it becomes a matter of public record. Perhaps the stigma of being associated with an eyesore might get some action. I would appreciate your comments and suggestions as to how we can get better compliance on these maintenance issues.