WILMINGTON — The wish of the Wilmington mayor’s executive assistant to start charging the county to use the mobile sound stage met with resistance Wednesday at the county commissioners office.
Executive Assistant Marian Miller told commissioners she was looking to financially cover the City of Wilmington’s labor costs involved in transporting, setting up and tearing down the city-owned sound stage at events. The County paid a portion of the stage’s purchase price 15-plus years ago, and the original agreement then was that the County could use the stage three times a calendar year at no rental cost.
But those contract terms expired after 15 years, prompting the discussion Wednesday.
By the end of the meeting, there was support on the County side to contribute toward maintenance and repair of the mobile stage, and there was openness on the part of Miller toward working on an agreement to that effect.
“The idea of having some maintenance contribution softens not being paid for labor, if that would be the agreement we would work toward. So I’m open,” Miller said.
In the interim, there is nothing in writing that controls the fee structure or lack of one. Miller made it clear the City will not charge the County for use of the mobile stage at an Honor Flight send-off event coming up soon.
At the start of the dialogue Wednesday, Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed said he hoped the two parties could agree to extend the no-cost policy for three County events for the remaining life of the stage.
Miller said that last year, with the City finances in a squeeze, the City had to start “reeling in” its past practice when it typically provided the stage for free to many applicants.
“We’re only looking to cover our costs. And there’s a cost associated with this service, and we just can’t keep eating it,” Miller said early in the discussion.
Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods said most of the County’s three annual uses were instances of letting the smaller Villages and communities utilize the stage.
“Those villages and communities cannot afford to pay the [labor] cost of these City workers to utilize that stage,” said Woods.
During the discussion, Miller said, “The City’s not interested though in absorbing the labor cost.”
Later during the meeting, Woods said, “I really can’t believe that we’re sitting here actually arguing about a community service of a portable stage.”
City of Wilmington Director of Public Service and Public Safety Brian Shidaker said his concern is whether the stage is safe or not. He added that maintenance and repair of the stage is probably a larger expense than the labor costs.
Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley said $600 per year, the estimated labor costs for three events, “is not going to bankrupt the County, but on the other hand, it’s very, very important to continue to do in a spirit of cooperation as done in the past.”
Clinton County Fairboard President Scot Gerber said the Clinton County Agricultural Society — which paid a portion of the stage’s original purchase price and has used the stage for free during the annual county fair — said the organization would be willing to support “upkeep and repair” of the stage.
Woods said she thinks everyone agrees with the maintenance and upkeep as an expected contribution. The thing that “kind of blindsided everyone,” she said, was the thought that the County now is going to pay to use it after being one of the original purchasers.
City of Wilmington Maintenance and Repair Superintendent Jerry Runk has sought cost estimates on needed maintenance and repair of the stage: repairing the stage floor; some repair to the extensions; and brightening up fading graphics.
“The [mobile stage’s] hydraulic lines we can repair in-house,” Runk said.
Steed said commissioners will wait for the City to receive the repair quotes, and meanwhile commissioners will talk among themselves and propose a number to the City as the County’s responsibility, and then work on a potentially new agreement.
In other County business conducted Wednesday by commissioners:
• A travel request from Magistrate Mark Miars to attend a magistrates conference in Mason, Ohio was modified after Haley questioned the necessity of including the cost of lodging, given the relative proximity of Mason.
Miars said there are evening meetings at the conference and his lodging request was based on convenience. He readily agreed to make the daily drive to and from the three-day conference and to drop the lodging part of his estimated travel expenses.
• Commissioners proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Alternatives to Violence Center (AVC) will hold its sixth annual “Tea for Tweens, Teens and Queens” concerning Growing Healthy Relationships. It will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 27 at the AVC located at 94 North South Street, third floor, in downtown Wilmington.
The event is open to females ages 11 and up. For more information, please call 937-383-3285.
• The Clinton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office presented a proposal to implement a policy at that office so employees can voluntarily donate sick leave to co-workers. The recipient would have to be someone who has an approved Family and Medical Leave Absence (FMLA) leave.
Upon hearing the proposal, commissioners said they will look into the possibility of making the policy one that would apply to workers in all Clinton County government departments.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.