Council back to City Building for meetings starting today

By Mike Crowley

Meadville Tribune

After more than a year of meeting online and in the spacious conference room of the former city hall, Meadville City Council will return to the City Building, 894 Diamond Park, for its meeting today at 6 p.m.

While the location will be different, one key topic of discussion will carry over: the future of Meadville Police Department’s dispatch staff.

Council hosted a town hall on the topic at the old city hall last week after already having spent significant portions of previous council meetings on it over the past few months. During those discussions, a majority of council members expressed opposition to ending the city police dispatch and allowing Crawford County Public Safety to take over the service. A crowd of more than 50 community members at last week’s town hall appeared unanimous in its support for continuing city dispatch.

Interim City Manager Gary Johnson on Tuesday said that if discussion tonight indicates a majority opposes ending city dispatch, council could vote to make an official record of that opposition.

In the unlikely event that a majority of council expresses support for ending city dispatch, council could also vote to put a resolution ending city dispatch on the agenda for the next meeting on July 7. In the absence of a consensus of council for such a resolution, none has yet been prepared, according to Johnson.

The large crowd that turned out for the dispatch town hall at 984 Water St. could not have been accommodated in the current City Building, where council chambers are significantly smaller than the auditorium-style seating for about 100 at the former city hall. Council's last meeting in the conference room was March 4, 2020, just before the onset of the pandemic led to stay-at-home orders and brought a temporary halt to the in-person municipal meetings for the city and numerous other government bodies. After the next meeting was canceled, subsequent meetings have been held online or at the former city hall.  

While the conference room in the current City Building is smaller, it offers the advantage of being located in the same building as the city’s administrative staff.

Johnson said that no social distancing requirements will be in place for the meeting. Non-vaccinated people who attend the meeting are required to wear masks in keeping with state COVID-19 mitigation rules that remain in place.

Also up for discussion tonight is the proposed three-year capital plan. The $6.9 million proposal considered at council’s previous meeting included $4.6 million in new borrowing. Tonight’s discussion will focus on projected police and fire department expenses. Among the items on what Johnson has repeatedly characterized as a “need list” rather than a “wish list” are a $1 million fire truck to take the place of two aging vehicles in the department’s fleet, a squad truck, and four new police SUVs.

Council will also hear presentations on the activities of the city’s Beautification Committee and a proposed modernization project for Huidekoper Park.

Residents who wish to address council should arrive a few minutes before the 6 p.m. meeting and add their names to the sign-in sheet available near the conference room entrance. 

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

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