Three things you should know about the latest Coshocton City Council meeting

COSHOCTON − Here are three key topics discussed during the latest session of Coshocton City Council:

Fire department training facility proposed

Council heard the first reading of an ordinance to secure a building for Coshocton Fire Department training purposes. The ordinance is set to have three full readings before a vote.

It will be on land the city owns at 637 and 641 Poplar Street, near the fire station. Structures on the properties were razed last year via funding from the Ohio Department of Development to the Coshocton Land Bank.

The facility will include approximately 3,500- to 4,000-square-feet of training space with training props and details to be listed in the bid specifications. Fire Chief Rusty Dreher said he’s working with the city engineer to draw up bid specifications.

Dreher and firefighter Brandon Elson gave a presentation on the need for the training facility at a previous meeting. Dreher said they are pursuing grant funding for the project. Firefighters could get training they need without having to go elsewhere and other fire companies in the county, or even adjoining counties, could use the facility for training as well.

Gaming fees could be waived

Coshocton City Council in fall of 2022 approved amendments to legislation regarding gaming machines at local clubs and other establishments. The fee went from $250 to $300 per machine. The state allows 10 machines per establishment. The $1,500 per year licensing fee was omitted.

Council President Tom Hilgenberg said he was contacted by several establishments about the fees, which are due the first of the year. Hilgenberg spoke to the clubs’ representative on what they do for the community along with fees they pay to the state. For example, the Eagles Lodge pays a bit more than $12,000 a year to the state to have the machines; the Elks Lodge pays $4,800 a year; and the Moose Lodge, $13,200.

Hilgenberg said he would like to rescind any city fees for nonprofit organizations based on what they do donate to the community. For-profit establishments would still owe the city fees. For 2023, 59 machines were registered with the city for a total of $17,700. Hilgenberg said some nearby cities, like Newark, doesn’t charge for the machines.

“They give locally, a lot locally, to the schools,” Hilgenberg said of the non-profit organizations. “I realize the money is coming to the city, it’s a revenue service, but I’d rather have all the local things they’re doing…All the people who go in there and play those machines, they’re really donating to the city because of all the donations (the organizations) give out.”

Auditor Sherry Kirkpatrick mentioned how facilities with machines can often get reimbursements for fees from the company’s that own and provide the devices. Councilman Chad Johnson said that should be researched more before any changes.

Law Director Bob Skelton said since the machines aren’t owned by the non-profit organizations, but other businesses, it would be hard to legislate. He said if council wants to do anything, it should be eliminating the fees altogether as the simplest thing.

“My problem is the business is for-profit, they’re just sticking machines in nonprofit 501c3 organizations, but the real business is a for-profit business,” Skelton said.

However, Mayor Mark Mills was against decreasing a revenue stream when council has been so keen on city finances and keeping revenue up, particularly in relation to wage increases for some officials approved at the end of last year. Additionally, it’s hard to have a law that isn’t even across the board. Mills said some private organizations might find ways around it.

“Once you take away revenue, you’re never going to get that revenue back,” Mills said. “It’s hard to have a law that says this person has to do it and this person doesn’t have to do it.”

Multi-purpose path proposal discussed

Councilwoman Michelle Turner Ganz, chair of the parks and recreation committee, said she’s been talking to representatives from the Rails to Trails project and Ohio Erie Canal Railway System about a bicycle trail through the city that would connect to multi-use paths at Skip’s Landing, Lake Park and elsewhere. Turner Ganz said with the momentum of other multi-use paths in creation made this a good time to look at the project.

Talks were held in the summer of 2021 about establishing a path along the bed of the abandoned Nickle Plate Railroad running through the eastern part of the city.

Turner Ganz said because of the size of the project and money involved, which she wasn’t specific on, the focus should be on making Coshocton more bike-centric as a phase one step to help draw grants and donations. This includes improving crosswalks, for example, which something Mills said is on his radar to do. He said the first hurdle is to figure out what land is needed, where at and how to acquire it.

“I think we need a multi-faceted approach to do something like this. It would involve policies, education, infrastructure and, mostly, community engagement. I think there are a lot of people that would be on board for something like this,” Turner Ganz said.

The next meeting of Coshocton City Council will be at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at Coshocton City Hall. The committees meeting is prior at 5:45 p.m. Mills will deliver his annual State of the City address at the Feb. 12 meeting.

Leonard Hayhurst is a community content coordinator and general news reporter for the Coshocton Tribune with more than 15 years of local journalism experience and multiple awards from the Ohio Associated Press. He can be reached at 740-295-3417 or Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @llhayhurst.

This article originally appeared on Coshocton Tribune: Three key topics from latest Coshocton City Council meeting

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