The following is the latest installment of Mayor Jim Boroff's monthly updates on city issues.
Civil War Museum. Renovation has been started at the Cornerstone Building for the American Civil War Museum of Ohio. About two years ago, Mark Young, president of the Civil War Museum Board, expressed an interest in purchasing the Cornerstone Building at Main and South Washington streets to house the museum's exhibits.
To make the museum a reality, the city, in partnership with the Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. and the museum board, was able to secure the necessary funding from grants and foundation donations to proceed with the renovation of the building. The bulk of the construction work is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with the facility opening early in 2011.
The Civil War Museum will have a large number of exhibits that will appeal to children and adults. The displays will be devoted to the various aspects of the conflict with an emphasis on Ohio's participation in the war and the impact it had on our state. Many of the displays will be "hands on" to encourage people to touch the artifacts.
It is my understanding that bus tours already have been scheduled from as far away as California by people who want to tour the facility. This project has generated a lot of enthusiasm and should affect a real boost in business for the many restaurants and shops in the neighborhood.
Health insurance. Recently, I have been fielding some questions about how our health insurance is administered. For many years, the city has contracted Corporate One to act as our advisors and to answer questions and help process claims for our employees.
Corporate One works under contract for the city and puts our annual health insurance specifications out for bid directly to a number of health insurers such as Anthem and Medical Mutual. Once they receive proposals from the various insurance companies, Corporate One sends comparisons to my office for consideration. At that point, Corporate One works to negotiate better rates than originally proposed by going to the two or three carriers who submitted the best packages and, working back and forth between these companies, hammers out the best possible policy rate for the city.
This has worked to be quite effective. Two years ago, Corporate One negotiated from an original proposal of a 12-percent increase down to no increase. Last year, the best original proposal was a 36-percent increase, which our adviser pushed back to about 12 percent.
Corporate One receives no commissions from any insurance company. Instead, the city contracts with it for administrative services. This arrangement is much less expensive than hiring an in-house insurance administrator. And, due to ever-changing legislation and requirements, having someone whose business it is to be up to date on insurance rates and regulations is critical to our operations.
Street lighting. This past summer, it was brought to my attention that the technology is available that would allow us to replace our incandescent-type post mounted street lights with LED devices. The advantages are numerous.
These LED lights provide just as much illumination as conventional bulbs but operate using about 80 percent less power. These fixtures can be adjusted somewhat to focus the light in a given direction, if desired. Furthermore, the lights are virtually maintenance free, with an estimated life of more than 10 years of efficient illumination before needing replacement. Now, it is not unusual to have to replace bulbs every couple of years or so.
The downside to upgrading our lighting is the cost. Although switching out lamp modules is fairly easy, each replacement lamp head costs approximately $500 - and we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 post lamps. There are grant programs and utility company rebates available to help offset the cost, if we can find the seed money.
The administration plans to find the funding for a "trial" neighborhood of about a dozen street lamps which can be retrofitted with the LEDs. By doing this, we can judge the benefits, including aesthetics and the effective illumination. If everything works as expected, we would then determine a logical approach to retrofitting our lighting one neighborhood at a time as finances permit.
Ultimately, considering that our present annual expenditure for street lighting is in the neighborhood of $120,000, we would have a much more efficient and maintenance-free street lighting system.