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February 28, 2020  

OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE

Here are the top three things you need to know from this past week:

  • The Ohio EPA has issued a request for proposals (RFP) from local governments to apply for grants that cover community water quality projects by reducing the sources of impairments. The money is provided by the Clean Water Act and is projected to total approximately $2.5 million. The deadline for applications is March 16, and you can find out more HERE .

  • The Division of Forestry of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has announced over $410,000 in grants from the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) grant program. The monies will be awarded to rural fire departments within the ODNR Forestry wildfire protection area that serve communities with populations of under 10,000 people. You can learn more about the grants HERE.

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that despite adding 225,000 jobs last month, the national unemployment rate rose from 3.5% to 3.6% in January.





BILL CREATING EMERGENCY WATER AND SEWER GRANTS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS RECEIVES SPONSOR TESTIMONY

A first hearing was given to a bill aimed at ensuring emergency funds are available to local governments for water and sewer repairs.

HB 343, sponsored by Rep. Patterson (D - Jefferson) and Rep. Manning (R - N. Ridgeville), would make an appropriation related to emergency water and sewer system funding. (Link: https://bit.ly/3afaeVT

During its first hearing before the House State and Local Government Committee, Rep. Patterson explained that the bill creates an emergency fund of $10 million for grants to be allocated for the support of local water and sewer projects. He explained that since July 1 of last year, there are no more revenues for new emergency allocations from the Ohio Public Works Commission emergency fund, preventing such allocations from being made until the next budget cycle. 

Rep. Patterson explained the impetus behind his introduction of the bill, stating that in his district, Lake Erie levels have just recently surpassed the previous record by 5 inches. He also reported that the U.S. Corps. Of Engineers has projected that water levels will continue to break monthly records in the coming months. As an illustration, he explained that the City of Conneaut had spent $300,000 to strengthen and build up the break wall in front of the pump station of the city's treatment facility to ensure the city's clean water was not jeopardized. 

He likened the grants to an "insurance policy", with unused revenues to be returned to the General Revenue Fund. The bill's other sponsor, Rep. Manning, stated that the bill is intended to ensure there are funds to address water and sewer issues that local governments "can't afford to have." 

The bill was amended to give the Ohio Public Works Commission until FY 2023 to reserve the funds appropriated by the bill and to clarify that the allocation of those funds is not under the authority of Controlling Board approval. 

The League thanks both Rep. Patterson and Rep. Manning for the work they are doing to ensure municipalities can afford critical and time-sensitive improvements to their water and sewer systems. We are hopeful the legislature acts quickly on this important piece of legislation. We will continue to report on this bill as it moves through the legislative process.





OML'S NEWLY ELECTED COUNCIL TRAINING SESSIONS START THIS WEEKEND

This Saturday kicks off the first of the League's Newly Elected Council Training Programs at the Marriott Northeast in Mason.

The next two sessions are on Saturday, March 21 at the Columbus/Worthington Doubletree; and Saturday, April 4 at the Embassy Suites in Independence.

The seminars will focus on topics such as home rule and local control, city and village financing procedures, council powers and procedures, public records and liability for municipalities and municipal officers. The seminar will also feature an overview of the unique opportunities municipal leaders have access to through the League's service corp. 
In addition to local leaders starting their first terms in office, these seminars are a great opportunity for current municipal leaders as well. To find out more information and to register, click HERE





MESSAGE FROM THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE ON CHARITABLE LAW SECTION

The Ohio Attorney General's Charitable Law Section regulates the charitable sector that operates in Ohio. We have a range of responsibilities in this area and have broad authority to investigate and take enforcement action against organizations involved with violations of fiduciary duties or fraud. Unfortunately, we have had to investigate organizations that receive public funds. In an effort to reduce these incidents, I wanted to reach out with some suggestions for local government that contract with or grant funds to charitable organizations in our state.
 
1. All Ohio organizations and those soliciting Ohioans, except for exclusively religious organizations, must register with our office and make annual filings. The Research Charities function on our web page can be used to ensure that an organization you may be considering funding is in compliance with state law. After typing in the name or EIN of a charity, a box will pop up with information about the charity. If no information pops up, it's possible the group is not registered as required. If a box does appear with information about a charity, there will be a specific question that indicates whether that group is in compliance with its filing duties. If the information about the group indicates it is not in compliance or the organization doesn't appear when you do a search, please contact me and we will work with the organization in an attempt to satisfy these requirements.
 
2. Complaints by the public and any public enforcement actions we take are available to the public. We would be happy to review any list of potential grantees you may be considering for public funds in order to let you know what complaints or enforcement actions exist connected with specific charities. Feel free to email me if you would like to receive this information.
 
3. The root cause of many of the investigations we undertake is attached to poor board governance practices by charitable board members. We would be happy to provide live training to your grantees and other local charities. The training provides an overview of the legal obligations board members have and is aimed at providing tips and suggestions for board members to protect their organizations. We also have many resources on our web page that are valuable. The most popular publications are Guide for Charity Board Members and Avoiding Theft in Your Nonprofit.

We would be happy to provide copies of these publications for distribution to your charitable partners.






"GORAIL" OFFERS TIPS ON RAIL SAFETY FOR LOCAL LEADERS 

Michael Gaynor, the Assistant Vice President of Field Operations at GoRail, has written the following article on "6 Things You Didn't Know About Rail Safety." GoRail is a national non-profit promoting the benefits of freight railroads. You can read the article below:

With the third largest freight rail infrastructure in the nation, Ohio's forty-one railroads play a key role in connecting farmers, manufacturers, miners, and shippers with both domestic and foreign customers. For railroads, safety is an all-year, round-the-clock priority. Here are six things you may not have realized about rail safety.

1. There's an app for first responders.

More than 25,000 first responders across the U.S. have signed up for an innovative mobile app called AskRail. Launched in 2014 and updated in 2018 with new features, the app is designed to prepare responders for a rail emergency in real-time by providing immediate access to accurate, timely data about what type of hazardous materials a railcar is carrying. 

Updates include full integration of all North American Class I railroads and a map feature that provides isolation zones and points of interest. AskRail is included as part of standard emergency responder training from Class I railroads and can only be downloaded by qualified emergency responders who have completed rail emergency training. Railroads can also offer the app to known emergency responders along their routes. 

2. Not your grandfather's railroad.

Trains have come a long way since the days of the Iron Horse. State-of-the-art technologies like big data, drones, and ultrasound technology are just a few of the innovations railroads use to advance safety. For example, while today's inspection technology currently makes it possible for railroads to identify 90 percent of track defects before they lead to an incident, multidimensional ultrasonic technology aims to identify the remaining 10 percent of track imperfections.

Big data is also helping to identify problems before they happen. Every day, railroads receive and store vast amounts of data gathered from the wayside detectors and other monitors along the rail network. This data - hundreds of trillions of bytes - is then used to identify critical risk factors. For instance, this data has led to a new industry standard for wheel safety and integrity.

3. North American railroads partner to run the world's leading rail research facility.

In Pueblo, Colo., railroads jointly support the Transportation Technology Center, Inc., or TTCI, the world's leading rail research and testing facility. Many of rail's new technologies - like the world's first laser-based rail inspection system, or on-board computer systems that analyze track geometry - are developed and tested at TTCI. 

Also housed at TTCI, the Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC), trains thousands of first responders every year. SERTC is a collaboration between railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), where responders get hands-on experience with simulated hazmat incidents. The center also offers free, web-based training for those who cannot attend in person.

4. Positive Train Control is now in operation across the majority of required route miles.

Positive train control (PTC) is the largest and most complex safety system in the history of the railroading. Being deployed across some 60,000 miles of the rail network, PTC systems are technologies designed to automatically stop a train before certain accidents related to human error occur.

Full implementation requires the deployment of hundreds of thousands of technology pieces, the precise geo-mapping of tens of thousands of miles of railroad right-of-way, as well as extensive training and testing to ensure systems are interoperable. As of the end of2019, PTC is in operation on the vast majority-98.5%-of required route miles and each of the Class I railroads are on track to have it fully operable by the end of 2020. 

5. Private investments correlate with increased safety.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)'s 2018 safety statistics show that recent years have been the safest on record for freight rail. The track-caused accident rate is at an all-time low, down 26 percent since 2009. The train accident rate and employee injury rate are similarly down by double digits in the last decade. These gains are not anomalies, but examples of how rail's steady private spending pays safety dividends. U.S. freight railroads, which are privately owned, have collectively spent $25 billion annually on their networks and operations in the last several years.

6. States are developing a permanent solution to grade crossing conflicts.

Conflicts created at an occupied rail grade crossing can impact emergency response, economic development and quality of life within communities.  With a projected 35% increase in freight volumes over the next twenty years, conflicts at Ohio's 5,737 grade crossings will only get worse. The real and permanent solution is to eliminate the conflict altogether.  Indiana took a major step forward in that direction with the establishment of a "LocalTrax" program to fund local grade separations. Michigan is also considering a similar grant program to support local separation projects. 

  


REGISTRATION OPEN FOR 2020 DISPUTE RESOLUTION CONFERENCE

Public officials, magistrates, mediators, attorneys and other dispute resolution professionals are invited to attend the 2020 Dispute Resolution Conference at The Ohio State University on March 10. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from national speakers who are experts in the field, as well as hold discussions and learn best practices in breakout sessions. 

The conference is described as an opportunity for those who "share the common goal of improving the public's experience with the legal system and the quality of services offered to disputing individuals." Attendees can also obtain up to 6.0 CLE hours. To learn more and to register, click HERE .





REGISTRATION OPEN FOR "ED NOW!" ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE 

Municipal leaders in southern and eastern Ohio are invited to a one-day economic development program that is specifically designed to help local elected and appointed officials, as well as community and business leaders, ensure their communities' economic development futures are bright.

ED NOW! is a one-day conference that will help support local leaders in their economic development efforts. Attendees will learn best practices from local presenters and hear real case studies that address strategies, resources, programs, funding and other opportunities specific to communities in southern and eastern Ohio.

ED NOW! will help local leaders understand:
  • How communities in Southern and Eastern Ohio can be competitive for new business investment,
  • How communities can tap into funding and resources to support economic development, and 
  • What communities can do to take advantage of current and emerging industries and opportunities and overcome obstacles.

Conference details are below:

When : March 26, 2020
Where : Zane State College (EPIC Center), 9900 Brick Church Rd., Cambridge, OH
Time : 8:30-1:30 p.m.
Registration & Networking : 8:30-9 a.m. (Light breakfast will be available during this time.) 
Program Begins: 9 a.m. 
Lunch: Noon
Program Concludes: 1:30 p.m. 

This event is open to all local elected officials, candidates, board members, volunteers and local development professionals.  The program is proudly offered by the Ohio Municipal League, Ohio SE Economic Development (formerly APEG), Ohio Economic Development Association, Bricker & Eckler and JobsOhio. The conference has also partnered with several local and regional organizations including Buckeye Hills Regional Council, Ohio Mid-Eastern Government Association, and Ohio Valley Regional Development Council and Ohio University Voinovich School of Public Affairs & Leadership

Registration is $25 and closes on March 23. Seating is limited so don't delay. You can learn more about the conference HERE and register HERE





NEW BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST

Here is a bill introduced this week that would impact municipalities if passed:

  • SB 286 - FIREFIGHTER TAX CREDIT. Sponsored by Sen. Schaffer (R - Lancaster), would authorize an income tax credit for volunteer firefighters who purchase firefighting-related safety or protective items.




COMMITTEE UPDATE: BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST

Here are the bills impacting municipalities that received committee hearings this week:

  • SB 212 - PROPERTY TAXATION. Sponsored by Sen. Schuring (R - Canton), would authorize townships and municipal corporations to designate areas within which new homes and improvements to existing homes are wholly or partially exempted from property taxation. During its sixth hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the bill was amended to require at least three hearings on Neighborhood Development Area (NDA) proposals and to require that all impacted taxing entities be notified. The amendment also added affordable to the bill's definition of "public purpose." The Ohio Reals Estate Investors Association offered opponent testimony due to rental properties being denied the ability to participate in NDAs. The County Commissioners Association of Ohio, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio School Boards Association offered written interested party testimony. The bill was reported out of committee 10-1. The League is supportive of this legislation. 

  • SB 204 - AIRPORT DISTRICTS. Sponsored by Sen. Schuring (R - Canton) and Sen. Sykes (D - Akron), would authorize the creation of an airport development district for the purpose of funding public infrastructure improvements and attracting airlines and additional flights to a qualifying airport. During its third hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, a subbill was accepted that included the need for the consent of not only property owners, but business owners as well to approve the creation of an Airport Development District. The League is supportive of this legislation.

  • HB 425 - CONCEALED WEAPONS. Sponsored by Rep. Wiggam (R - Wooster), would modify the requirement that a concealed handgun licensee must notify a law enforcement officer that the licensee is authorized to carry a concealed handgun and is carrying a concealed handgun when stopped. During its fourth hearing before the House Federalism Committee, an amendment was proposed that would do away with the requirement for notification altogether. The committee is still weighing that amendment and has not accepted it as of this hearing. The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association offered interested party testimony while the Fraternal Order of Police offered opponent testimony. The League is neutral on this legislation.

  • HB 421 - LOCAL GOVERNMENT IMMUNITY. Sponsored by Rep. Smith (R - Germantown) and Rep. Blair (D - Weathersfield), would provide a municipal corporation or county immunity from civil and criminal liability in any action that arises from a hospital police officer acting directly in the discharge of the person's duties as a police officer and that occurs on the premises of the hospital or its affiliates or subsidiaries or elsewhere in the municipal corporation or county. During its third hearing before the House Civil Justice Committee, no testimony was given on this bill. The League is neutral on this legislation.



Ohio Municipal League Meetings & Trainings

Newly Elected Council Training Programs

Saturday March 21, Columbus Area
Saturday April 4, Independence Area


OML/OMAA Webinar
March 12, 2020 11:00 am ~ 12:00 pm
"Hot Topics in Municipal Economic Development "

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