Councilman Morgan thinks blackmail works

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In this article, I will talk about the important items about the TIF that should have been discussed during the April 16th work session, but council did not address.  Then I give a couple kudos on the smart things that were said.  Then we will talk about the contract the city has with the school to make the pilot payment for the deferred property tax.  After all that, I will address Seth’s silly notion that blackmail works. 

First off, I was disappointment with the lack of discussion about the developer’s build out plan and also the lack of a definitive answer to when the county puts the increased assessment on the tax record. 

Listening to the City Attorney’s timeline you might think that these items can wait.  But I think his timeline is extended because there are certain members of council that are still hanging on the idea that the school should pay for these road upgrades.  The city attorney briefed there is a 45 day wait period after the school is notified but this is only because they are trying to do this hybrid TIF where it will start as a non-school TIF, then, if the school agrees to pay for building city streets, it can later turn into a school TIF. 

If I remember correctly, the notification period for a non-school TIF is only 14 days.  So, it is important that council get clarification on the timing of the assessment because there is a possibility there could be 14 houses completed within 45 days.  If this happens and they get counted on the tax rolls, this eliminates 10% of the money available for the TIF.
The other obvious omission was that there already is a natural project for the projected TIF budget.  Mr. Schommer kept harping on the idea that if council decides to go forward with the TIF then they will have to figure out a project to fund.  But the other day he told us the TIF should collect about $3.1 million dollars which would fund about a $1.6 million-dollar project and the finance costs associated with that project.  He also told us that the cost to do from Old Troy pike to the first entrance of Lexington Place was estimated to cost $1.86 million.  Sounds like his work is already done.  All he needed to do was recommend it.   

Mr. Campbell shined again with his comment that the city should TIF now and immediately apply for MVRPC funding.

Mr. Lyons recognition that there was public debate about why the expected legislative items were not acknowledge during the Council meeting was a plus.

Getting into the Pilot Payment discussion, Mr. Hill, Mr. Web, Mrs Bryge and Glenn Otto all had smart things to say about not trying to blackmail the school into paying to build city streets.  I was disappointed that only Mr. Otto and Mr. Hill (corrected from first edit - sorry) stuck to that position when it came to whether legislation should be drafted to withhold the payments. 

Let’s talk about the discussion on whether the City has been making these payments voluntarily or if there is a contractual agreement.  There are two items that really foil the argument that because neither the city or the school can find a written agreement of the terms then the city is at liberty to pass a referendum that stops the payments. 

First the Jan 29, 1996 Joint City Council / School Board work session minutes contains this passage, “Mr. Pierce introduced the issue of the City’s intent to ‘hold harmless’ the City School District regarding property taxes as affected by the City’s acquisition of the Ohio Suburban water and wastewater system.  He indicated that the mechanics of how this is done is not really as important as the commitment that the City has made.” 
Secondly, in the legislation that was passed it contains this statement, “This Agreement may be terminated only by written agreement of the Parties: and only upon such terms and conditions as the Parties may set forth in such termination agreement”

Now let’s do an internet search and ask, “In Ohio do you have to have a written agreement to have a contract?”

There are many that tell us that verbal agreements can be enforceable contracts but the one I quote here comes from the University of Dayton.

“A contract does not have to be written to be enforceable, unless required to be in writing at law.  Nonetheless it is recommended that contracts at UD be written for the purposes of accurately recording the “meeting of the minds’.[1]

Given the minutes and the legislation, I equate this situation to one where you are talking to a salesman and he tells you the roof job he is selling includes new flashing and gutters, when he presents a contract it is two lines that say his company will install a roof for $5,000 and tells you verbally he does not need to put the flashing and gutters  into the contract because they do it for everyone.  Then after the job is done no gutters were installed and the salesman says tough luck it wasn’t in the contract.  But it just so happened that you video taped the promise and take it to the judge.  You’re going to get your gutters. 

It is obvious from the minutes there was a meeting of the minds and the City Manager, and presumably City attorney presented to the school board all that was needed to seal the agreement was for City Council to pass a piece of legislation committing to make the payments.  City council is bound by that legislation to get school board approval before discontinuing those payments.  It’s in writing!

Back to the title of this article:  Seth's contention that blackmail works is silly. The representatives of both the council and the school board have been passing dates back and forth for months, with Council insisting they want to meet on a Wednesday, and the school board suggesting every other day with their preference being Saturday. They had tentative dates in August set up. The follow up, to the follow up, to the follow up, that Seth thinks happened because of the threat of blackmail, likely happened because of the council discussion, but the school board did not all of a sudden make themselves available Wednesday for a joint meeting.  I doubt the school board plans to make a joint meeting next Wednesday either. 

If you have listened to M.V. Truman’s town hall broadcast you may have picked up an interesting fact that I did not know.   There have been two joint School Board / City Council meetings since Seth came to council and he did not make himself available to attend either.

The City Manager started the meeting with the smart course of action concerning this agreement.  Meet with the school board, discuss the expectations and put them in writing.  Clean up the current mess that tells us the city’s commitment but in a non-standard and awkward way.  If the city really needs to get out of that commitment, they need to go to the school board in a professional way and treat this other important public body as an important and vital asset to this community.  Continuing this childish bullying behavior is unbecoming and those responsible should acknowledge their misbehavior and commit to becoming better representatives of our community.  Post Script: There was a statement made a couple meetings ago that made it seem like the Pilot Payments were being made from the general fund. I wish council would ask why these funds are not generated from the water bill payments. Obviously, if the city were paying property tax on the property this would be a legitimate cost of the water department.