MACEDONIA -- After dropping a proposed $3 monthly residential fee to support the city's leaf pickup program, City Council is now planning to use money collected from an annual residential fee intended for water line repairs and other projects to pay for a new leaf pick-up machine.
Each resident pays $20.80 a year, with the money going into a water maintenance and expansion fund, according to Finance Director Rhonda Hall, while businesses receive a bill depending on the pipe size they have.
The city collected about $133,000 into the fund last year, she said, and had about a $400,000 fund balance at the end of 2016.
City Council can decide how the money should be spent, Hall said.
Councilor Kevin Bilkie asked if the money had to be spent a leaf pick-up machine "or can it be something else?"
Mayor Joe Migliorini answered, "It has to be spent on something that is related to stormwater."
Council voted, 4-1, Jan. 26 to approve the legislation that would provide a leaf pick-up truck, with Councilor Sylvia Hanneken voting no.
"This money was originally to maintain our water system, and the maintenance has been passed to the city of Cleveland," she said. "This was originally for maintaining the system. I think we should have a very specific reason why we should direct it to something else."
Council President Nick Molnar, responding that the money can only be diverted in certain ways, said the mayor and service director agree the city needs a leaf machine.
"I got a call last week where leaves blocked a grate and caused a river in a woman's driveway and front yard," Molnar said. "If any of you sat in your front yard, you'd be screaming just as loud as she was."
Councilor Jan Tulley said 50 percent of the money in the fund "will be used for leaf and branch pick-up and related expenses."
Migliorini said the fund is "not a new fee."
"This water fund has been around for a lot of years," he said. "That fund is growing because we are not having to put as much money toward the water lines. The city of Cleveland, per our agreement, has taken over control of those lines."
Hall said the city of Cleveland also charges Macedonia to maintain its fire hydrants. She said Macedonia pays about $30,000 to $35,000 a year to Cleveland.
At its Jan. 26 meeting, Council permanently tabled a proposed $3 monthly fee that would have raised about $162,000 for the leaf program because "Council didn't support it," according to Councilor David Engle, who made the motion to kill the plan.
Service Director John Hnottavange said a new leaf pick-up truck would cost the city about $75,000.
"Leaf pick-up is vital to your stormwater program," Molnar said. "One year, we had a person who put bricks in his leaf pile which destroyed our machine. Legally, we found a way where we could divert that money to stay in the stormwater realm to help solve this problem."
Migliorini said the rest of the money in the fund, after the purchase of the leaf pick-up truck, "will be used elsewhere in the city that will help stormwater and related issues."
Tulley added, "The money may also be used in payment of debt incurred in the construction and acquisition of the water system."
Hall said the Cleveland Water Department is not involved in the fund.
Mike Lesko: 330-541-9432