It looks like voters will get the opportunity to give an up or down vote on the renewal of the city’s Flood Defense levy after all. At the June 13 meeting, Council voted not to bring it forward, leaving the city without funds, come the first of the year, to operate the flood defense system, and possibly leading to the decertification of the city’s floodwall system.
On Monday night, First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson, who was on vacation when the vote was taken, reintroduced the measure, and put it back on the legislation agenda, through the city manager’s conference agenda.
“I would like to reintroduce the flood defense levy for a period of five years,” Johnson said. “I would also like to encourage those who want to replace it to get together and help us create public meetings in order to determine the efficacy of moving on another direction.”
The possibility of replacing the flood defense levy with a storm water fee has been discussed, but no actual proposal made by any member of Council. However, Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows left the subject open with is comments on the issue.
“I’ll vote tonight to send this on back to Council,” Meadows said. “I want to thank Kevin W. Johnson for speaking briefly with me about this earlier before the meeting. I look forward to being able to discuss this further with you in between the time that this is coming back up. I’ve said all along we need flood defense. I’m not going to sit here and say that we don’t. Just because it wouldn’t get to my house doesn’t mean we don’t need it for the city. But I do believe there’s got to be alternatives and more fair ways to do this and we need to come up with those more fair ways to do this.”
Meadows then asked Portsmouth Auditor Trent Williams if he could come up with a list of people who are delinquent on their property taxes. Williams said he would try to get that information.
Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen has told Council if they pass an alternative, he wants to go on record as opposing it because of what he says is forcing entities such as the Portsmouth City Schools, Shawnee State University, area churches and health care facilities to pay the fee. They are currently exempt.
During the course of the discussion, Sixth Ward Councilman Tom Lowe scolded Kevin W. Johnson.
“I recently read an article in the paper where you was basically accusing me and (Fifth Ward Councilman) Gene, Mr. Meadows, because the floodwall defense tax levy failed, and I just want to say, if you would have been sitting in your chair where you was supposed to have been, you could have voted for it and it would have passed,” Lowe said. Lowe was one of two Council members, Meadows being the other, who voted against the measure when it came up at the last Council meeting on June 13.
Third Ward Councilman Kevin E. Johnson said he was concerned with the time frame if the ordinance would complete three readings by the time that it had to be in the hands of the Scioto County Board of Elections for placement on the November ballot. It was determined that the third reading could be on Aug. 8 and it has to be at the Board by Aug. 10. There was some discussion they might suspend the three readings rule at the second meeting in July to give them a cushion assuring that is will be to the Board in time, based on the fact that it has already been given plenty of public exposure.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.