City of St. Clairsville

August 3, 2020 Council Minutes

Posted on August 18th, 2020 by

Once approved, a link to the official council minutes will be at the bottom.


August 3, 2020 Meeting

[Teleconference format in compliance with temporary changes to Ohio’s Open Meetings Act]

Jim Velas, Council President                                             Kathryn Thalman, Mayor

Perry Basile, Council, 1st Ward                                        Open, Public Service/Safety Director

Mark Bukmir, Council, 3rd Ward                                     Annette Williams, Finance Director

Terra Butler, Council, 4th Ward                                        Elizabeth Glick, Law Director

Linda Jordan, Council-At-Large                                       Don Smithberger, Super. of General Services

Beth Oprisch, Council-At-Large                                       Tom Murphy, Planning & Zoning Administrator

Frank Sabatino, Council 2nd Ward

Mike Smith, Council-At-Large

The meeting was called to order by Council President Jim Velas at 7:31pm. President Velas led Council in the Pledge of Allegiance and thanked those residents listening to the meeting.


Basile              HERE                                     Oprisch           HERE

Bukmir            HERE                                     Sabatino          HERE

Butler              HERE                                     Smith               HERE

Jordan             HERE                     Seven (7) Present                        Zero (0) Absent

MINUTES: President Velas confirmed all councilmembers received the minutes from the July 20, 2020 meeting and July 29, 2020 special meeting. Councilwoman Oprisch asked and confirmed the changes requested. Councilman Bukmir wanted the audio verified for wording. Council Clerk made the changes prior to the meeting.

Councilwoman Butler made a motion to approve the minutes from the July 20, 2020 Council meeting; motion seconded by Councilman Basile.


Basile              YES                                        Oprisch            YES

Bukmir            YES                                        Sabatino          YES

Butler              YES                                        Smith               YES

Jordan             YES

Roll Call Vote:            Seven (7) YES                        Zero (0) NO                                 Minutes Approved

Councilman Bukmir stated while the July 29, 2020 minutes are accurate, he did not request an Executive Session on July 20 as Councilman Basile had stated. He clarified that he thought more discussion should take place. Councilwoman Oprisch requested the minutes be amended; Councilman Basile requested the audio be reviewed. Councilman Smith asked that members be clear about their intentions in the future. Council Clerk verified the minutes are a true and accurate account of the meeting.

Councilman Sabatino made a motion to approve the minutes from the July 29, 2020 Special Council meeting; motion seconded by Councilwoman Butler.


Basile          ABSTAIN                                  Oprisch            YES

Bukmir        ABSTAIN                                  Sabatino          YES

Butler              YES                                        Smith               YES

Jordan             YES

Roll Call Vote:      Five (5) YES       Zero (0) NO     Two (2) ABSTAIN        Minutes Approved

Councilwoman Oprisch asked the significance of abstaining from a vote. Law Director Glick clarified it is neither a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote for whatever reason.

NEW BUSINESS: Mr. Vince Findley of American Electric Power (AEP) wholesale and Mr. Peter Protopappas of AEP OnSite Partners presented before Council about the possibility of solar generation for the City. See attached presentation.

Councilman Sabatino inquired how this would affect the City’s relationship with AMP Ohio and if the City is legally able to enter into this agreement. Mr. Findley said AMP Ohio provides through contracts three different resources – none of which are behind the customers’ meters. Whatever their contribution to the City is, AEP will continue to supply the remainder. AEP would continue to work with AMP Ohio. He added AEP manages most of the City’s power supply and entering into a solar agreement would be allowed.

Councilman Bukmir asked what risks to the City could become of this project. Mr. Findley stated the risk is taken by AEP investing in the solar panels and technology, for example, if the panels do not perform as expected. Power generation will fluctuate over the years as well. Entering a contract for 30 years would also be a risk since laws change frequently. Mr. Protopappas added that the citizens’ response to solar in their community could also be a risk, especially those who would live closest to the array. AEP would not commence this project without full support of Council and the City’s constituents.

Councilman Basile, verifying the array would provide 5.5% of the City’s electric needs, asked if the tax incentives offset the power generated. Mr. Findley clarified the tax benefits helps AEP lower the price of every Megawatt hour. There would be no change to the amount of energy produced by the project. The City could entertain a larger solar project, lowering the economies of scale, and lowering the Power Purchase Agreement price, but a larger project would require more land. Councilman Basile asked what savings the average homeowner would see. Mr. Findley said it would ultimately be up to the City to decide what savings may be passed to customers, keeping in mind any upgrades that may need to take place. Rate structures would be left to the City. Electricity is already one of the least costly parts of the bill itself. Councilman Basile asked if the savings would ever be negligible. Mr. Findley said that is not expected.

Councilwoman Oprisch asked why St. Clairsville is being considered for the project. Mr. Findley said he has built relationships around the State of Ohio, partnering with the company’s wholesale purchaser base. The City ranks as a customer that may see the most benefit from such a project with the way its contracts are structured. With other issues happening in the City last year, AEP waited until now to present this project. Councilwoman Oprisch asked about potential locations. Mr. Findley said the site in the presentation is just a suggestion and was used as a model for how a project would appear in the City. It is currently privately owned. He and Mr. Protopappas discussed the importance of geography for solar panels. Placing near the City’s distribution would be best. Multiple locations could be used, but to be competitive, one location would be desired. Councilwoman Oprisch asked about the lifespan of solar panels. Mr. Protopappas said the solar arrays typically have warranties that last 30 years. Inverters may need replaced, but not the panels themselves. It would be AEP’s obligation to ensure these are running properly.

Councilman Smith asked about other cities in the state utilizing solar power. Mr. Protopappas clarified the City would be responsible for providing a site for the solar panels either through land already owned, land purchased, or land leased. An easement would be created to allow the arrays. Councilman Smith asked if this would result in lower energy costs. Mr. Findley confirmed that it would, stating the goal is to create a long-term hedge against rising energy costs and a means for the City to generate their own power. Councilman Smith asked about changing technology in the solar industry. Mr. Protopappas said panels typically degrade only 0.5%-1% per year. Innovations in the industry that may happen in the future could be done if the cost benefit is there, but over the last 10 years, significant developments have not happened. Battery storage may be upgraded. Councilman Smith asked about solar panels being installed on residents’ houses and their ability to sell power back to the City. Mr. Findley said panels could be installed on homes, but could not speak as to what the City allows.

Council President Velas asked about acreage for the site. Mr. Protopappas said a location in the range of 3.5-6 acres is desirable. Mr. Murphy let the representatives from AEP know that zoning ordinances would apply when the project gets closer to being underway. All Councilmembers thanked the representatives for their presentation. Mr. Smithberger said he is hopeful that things may work out for AEP and the City, discussing elements to consider.

Superintendent of General Services Don Smithberger reported a few water breaks have happened. Patching streets is underway.

Councilman Sabatino said he would be in touch with Mr. Smithberger about streets to patch.

CORRESPONDENCE: Law Director Glick addressed a letter from citizens dated July 31 received by Mayor Thalman on August 3 via email. The letter requested a public response regarding comments made on private Facebook accounts by Councilman Basile and Mr. Behl. Council and media received the letter as well. The mayor does not have the authority to sanction elected public officials. Due to the issues involved and potential litigation involving the City, a letter is being drafted to the Ohio Ethics Commission requesting an official opinion. Once a response is received, Ms. Glick will update Council. Threats that have been received by Mayor Thalman, Councilman Basile and his family, and Mr. Behl and are being reported to proper legal authorities. President Velas said no further discussion on these matters will take place until a response from the Ohio Ethics Commission has been received.

REPORTS: Mayor Thalman expressed her gratitude to Chief Arbenz and his department for yet another drug bust. Mrs. Austin, owner of the local Chick-fil-A, provided a gratis lunch to the Police Department for their work. The mayor acknowledged and thanked various members of the City for their work and dedication. Water audit training is underway; RCAP is providing free audit software to pinpoint breaks. Information will be relayed to RCAP in 30 days. Mayor Thalman expressed her disappointment in the recent political atmosphere in the City. She lastly recommended Brad Breisch as the newest member of the Board of Architectural Review. Mr. Murphy said he is a property owner in the Historic District, project manager for Breisch & Crowley, and part-owner of Three Labs Salvage. He is very familiar with construction, having studied architecture.

Councilwoman Oprisch made a motion to approve the mayoral appointment of Mr. Breisch to the Board of Architectural Review; motion seconded by Councilwoman Jordan.


Basile              YES                                        Oprisch            YES

Bukmir            YES                                        Sabatino          YES

Butler              YES                                        Smith               YES

Jordan             YES

Roll Call Vote:            Seven (7) YES                        Zero (0) NO                                   Motion Approved

Councilwoman Jordan asked when Council can meet in person again. Law Director Glick said we are still under the governor’s restrictions on social gatherings. Conducting meetings at the Recreation Center would not be conducive due to its acoustics. Councilwoman Butler said she received communication from Daniel Grady of the Health Department that Council meetings could resume in person if the City is able to enforce social distancing and follow all other mandates from the governor’s office. Further guidance will be sought.

Police Chief Matt Arbenz reported results from a drug investigation that resulted in two arrests last year came back positive for 55 grams of fentanyl. A press release was made informing the public of the dangers of this drug. Those suffering with drug addiction issues can stop at the Police Department anytime for assistance. Another drug raid was performed recently. There were 254 calls for service in July. Council expressed their gratitude to Chief Arbenz and the force.

Finance Director Annette Williams has been working to secure COVID-19 grant money for the City. No specific amount is known for the reimbursement. Water collection and RITA collection reports to be forthcoming.

Planning & Zoning Administrator Tom Murphy reported the Board of Zoning Appeals approved the conditional use requested by Campbell Oil/Bellstores. Construction is slated to begin mid-2021, investing over $4 million in the project. Enumerators have commenced training for the Census. He reported the current self-response rate is 71.7%.


Finance Chair Mike Smith said financials will be discussed at the next meeting. He would like the committee to meet before the next Council meeting. Councilman Sabatino requested he be updated and involved in financial discussions.

Utilities Chair Beth Oprisch said 18 utility payment plans are in place totaling $12,995.46. She also thanked Anita and her staff for their work. Ms. Robinson said all payment plans are set to be paid off by the end of the year. Seven utility disconnections continue in the City: six vacant properties and one likely vacant. She also advertised the City’s use of CodeRED to alert residents of various emergency situations including: boil orders, power outages, weather alerts, etc. Residents are encouraged to sign up by contacting the utilities office.

Councilwoman Butler discussed the credit card surcharge when paying utility bills online.

Police Chair Mark Bukmir said he spoke with Chief Arbenz and decided a meeting was not necessary at this time; one will be held in the near future. Members will be contacted.

Streets – North Side Chair Terra Butler asked Mr. Smithberger to address issues on North Sugar Street.

Streets – South Side Chair Beth Oprisch: No report

Safety Chair Terra Butler: No report

Building and Grounds Chair Perry Basile asked if committee members would be open to meeting next week to discuss issues.

Planning Commission Chair Frank Sabatino: No report

Fire Chair Frank Sabatino reported the Fire Board met on Wednesday, July 22. Two part-time employees were removed. One full-time and one part-time employee were hired. An $11,000 grant was received for a simulator and a $3,000 grant was received to replace equipment. Next meeting will be held Wednesday, August 26 at 3pm at the ECOESC building.

Recreation Chair Linda Jordan reported the last of the Tuesday evening concert series will be tomorrow. Wednesday evening will be the fishing tournament. Registration is open for flag football, but subject to restrictions. Next meeting will be Monday, August 17. Councilwoman Oprisch confirmed social distancing has been followed at the concerts.

Park District Chair Linda Jordan said the next meeting will be Monday, August 10 at the park.


Law Director Elizabeth Glick announced the three pieces of legislation before Council. Ordinance No. 2020-22 is on its third reading. Ordinance No. 2020-26 and Resolution No. 2020-27 are both on their second reading. The original date of ‘July 20, 2020’ on Resolution No. 2020-27 has been omitted from the legislation and will be replaced by the candidate’s start date.

Councilman Sabatino discussed the salary and vacation time listed in Resolution No. 2020-27. He noted Mayor Thalman’s remark that the Service/Safety Director candidate set the salary himself. He stated that this is in violation of the City Charter under salaries and bonds. Regarding vacation time, he compared the credited discrepancy between Ms. Williams’ past public service and the candidate’s private service. Councilman Sabatino also stated he received much feedback from constituents concerned about this Resolution.

Law Director Glick advised these matters be discussed in Executive Session. Councilman Sabatino recommended the legislation be tabled, allowing the Finance Committee to meet and recommend a figure. President Velas confirmed any changes made to the legislation will result in the issuance of a new resolution.

EXECUTIVE SESSION was requested per ORC §121.22(G)(1) to discuss personnel matters. A motion was made by Councilman Sabatino to enter Executive Session; seconded by Councilwoman Oprisch.


Basile              NO                                         Oprisch           YES

Bukmir            YES                                        Sabatino          YES

Butler              YES                                        Smith               YES

Jordan             YES

Roll Call Vote:            Six (6) YES           One (1) NO             Executive Session entered 9:54pm

Councilman Sabatino made the motion to exit Executive Session and resume open Regular Session; seconded by Councilwoman Butler. Regular Session resumed at 10:58pm.

A motion was made by Councilman Basile to approve Ordinance No. 2020-22; seconded by Councilwoman Oprisch.



Basile                          YES                                        Oprisch           YES

Bukmir                        YES                                        Sabatino          YES

Butler                          YES                                        Smith               YES

Jordan                         YES

Roll Call Vote:            Seven (7) YES                          Zero (0) NO                                     Motion Carried

Ordinance No. 2020-26 was read for its second reading.


A motion was made by Councilman Basile that the rules requiring three separate readings be suspended on Resolution No. 2020-27 and that the resolution be passed on an emergency basis; seconded by Councilwoman Butler.



Basile              YES                                        Oprisch           YES

Bukmir             NO                                         Sabatino           NO

Butler              YES                                        Smith               YES

Jordan              NO

Roll Call Vote:            Four (4) YES              Three (3) NO                    Emergency passage failed

Councilwoman Oprisch requested a special meeting be called to read Resolution No. 2020-27 for its third reading. President Velas said three members of Council must give written request to conduct a special meeting.

OLD BUSINESS: No old business

ADJOURNMENT: With no further action to take and there being no further business to come before Council, Councilman Basile made a motion to adjourn. Meeting adjourned at 11:07pm.

Next meeting will be Monday, August 17, 2020 at 7:30pm via teleconference.

St. Clairsville OH Council Solar Presentation_080320.pptx

August 3, 2020 Council Minutes_including AEP presentation