Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cheers and jeers to Toledo City Council

Cheers to Toledo City Council for taking the first step to reign in personnel costs by voting in favor of an ordinance to limit 'pick ups' of employee pensions. Jeers to them for spending capital improvement monies to do a design and engineering study for a solar field and for funding CareNet.

Let's start with the cheers:

The ordinance before them last night would prohibit the city from negotiating or implementing a pick-up of the employee portion of the state-mandated pension contribution under the Ohio Public Employees Retirements System (PERS). This does not apply to the unionized workforce - only to exempt employees hired after Dec. 31, 2008. Under this new law, the city cannot offer and/or provide the funds to pay the employee portion in lieu of wages or other compensation.

This is a good move and positions the city well for asking for similar concessions from the unions.

For the jeers:

While $65,000 is less than the originally proposed $200,000 for a design/engineering study, it's still money the city doesn't have to waste - and certainly not on a project that the private sector should be doing. When this was first suggested, I had a conversation with an engineer who specializes in solar fields. He was shocked to hear the $200,000 figure and said that most studies for the size being considering by Toledo (5 acres) should cost only about $50,000. But that's beside the point.

There is no reason for the city to spend this money - and no reason for the city to build a solar field - at least, not for the purposes stated of 'building the city's reputation in the solar industry.' How many businesses do you think are going to decide to move to Toledo because we spend $5 million or so building a solar field? None...not when our tax structure makes other areas more attractive for making a profit.

And then there is the lack of designation of a site for the solar field. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has suggested it could go near the water treatment plant, but there wouldn't be enough space in that location, unless the city takes over the golf course.

According to proponents of the idea, it would take about 15 years to recoup the investment through savings achieved. That's 15 years to see a return on our investment. But as the solar engineer told me, the technology in the solar area is changing rapidly and technology that today is state of the art will be outdated and obsolete in a few years, much less in 15.

If this is such a good idea, let the private sector do the study and build the field. If no one in the private sector is interested in putting forth their own money for it, that means it isn't worth the cost and the city shouldn't 'invest' our tax dollars either.

Jeers also go to council for funding CareNet. They voted 10-0 (Michael Ashford was not at the meeting and Frank Szollosi did not arrive until after the vote) to allocate $32,500 for the program. What most people do not realize is that the funding does not cover any services for clients. It helps cover the administrative functions of running the program, keeping track of doctors who volunteer their services and making sure they don't get referrals that exceed their agreed-upon numbers.

Last year, District 5 Councilman Tom Waniewski raised the money for this from all private sources. He demonstrated that there was no need for the city to provide this money since the money was available from the private sector. However, it appears that the administration and council don't want to work that hard and just decided that our tax dollars should be used instead.

I wonder how much our city council members have contributed to this cause? If it's worthy of spending other people's money, isn't it worthy of spending your own? Inquiring minds....

2 comments:

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

I just look at the $65,000 as a donation towards the mayor's legacy shrine and nothing more.

If a solar field at 41 degrees North Latitude were a viable project, private money would have come flooding into the project.

The lack of private money speaks volumes to the inappropriateness of the project.

Tim Higgins said...

HT,

This is one time when we might differ. I see this as potential candidate for mayor from City Council making sure that they, and not another candidate, can claim credit for the push. Now why anyone would want the credit for this one is another question, one whose answer is beyond me.

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