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Sobel presides over final council meeting

BELMONT — Mayor Stan Sobel presided over his last Village Council meeting Thursday and received kind words and a standing ovation from those in attendance after the evening’s business was conducted.

Sobel, who did not run for re-election, expressed his appreciation for those who worked with him during his four years as mayor.

“It’s now time for somebody else,” Sobel said, nodding toward Ron Woods who ran uncontested on the Nov. 5 ballot and will take over the mayor’s office in January. “With Ron it will be a new direction, but hopefully we will keep moving forward. I consider it like a team. It takes everybody you see here working together to make this whole thing work. I’m very proud of them, and this village is going to move forward.”

Belmont resident Don Williams complimented Sobel for his service to the community.

“Four years ago this town made a change that it had not made in many, many a year and I’ll tell ya, I think we’ve been blessed with Stan as mayor. This council and water department and everybody — there’s been no greed whatsoever. Through no fault of anybody in this room we don’t have the school torn down yet, but I mean that was a big agenda and it’s almost done. We have the Christmas tree lighting, Lori (Grobb) and everybody does a good job with the fruit baskets for the veterans. We never had that before in this town. I think an awful lot of people appreciate what you and your council and everybody’s done, and I want to thank you Stan.”

Cathy Caretti, who served on council during a good portion of Sobel’s tenure and has been active at the many community events that have begun during that time, spoke next.

“I appreciate all the committees you’ve made. I love the Christmas events, I love the summer camp for the kids, and there’s just so many things we’ve gotten, and I appreciate that I was able to do that because you got me out of my comfort zone,” she said.

Caretti was then the first to stand and applaud Sobel with the rest of the meeting attendees following suit.

During his campaign for election four years ago, Sobel pledged he would serve only one term so that others could become involved in the future. When he took office, the village fiscal officer — who was the daughter of the former mayor — resigned, as did all of the remaining council members. Working with officials from the nearby village of Bethesda, Sobel managed to fill all of the vacant positions within a matter of weeks so that village business could be conducted.

During the meeting itself Thursday, council held the third and final reading of and adopted an ordinance adjusting water rates for village water and sewer customers, with the new rates beginning in January and appearing first on the bills that will be sent out in February.

According to Fiscal Officer Ricky Burkhead, the adjustment will allow the village to refinance the balance of a U.S. Department of Agriculture sewer construction loan at a significantly lower rate by issuing bonds through WesBanco. Burkhead estimates that by doing so, the village will save $406,000 in finance charges and pay the debt off 14 years sooner.

The ordinance increases the base “debt service” charge on customer’s bill from $20 to $22 while increasing water rates from $7.50 to $9 per 1,000 gallons used and sewer rates from $11.50 to $12.50 per 1,000 gallons used.

Sobel said residents received a letter explaining the adjusted rates with their December billings.

At fire department Lt. Kaye Hall’s request, council voted to give permission to the fire department to begin the process of finding a piece of property on which to locate a new firehouse. Hall acknowledged that it is very early in the process and that department members have a piece of property in mind, but they needed approval to actively negotiate.

When Councilwoman Bev Yoe brought up the need for a local fire district, Hall said there had been preliminary discussions concerning that before pointing out that Belmont is centrally located.

“Someone is going to have to put a new building up,” Hall said.

Village Solicitor T.J. Schultz pointed out that property values almost never go down, so even if there is a change in plans concerning the construction of a firehouse the village wouldn’t lose out by owning property.

Council approved the hiring of Amanda Tucek to be the new village gym attendant on a six-month probationary period and voted to end the probationary period of Water Clerk Clorissa Tanner and set her wage at $12.50 per hour.

Members also passed legislation adjusting the burial rate structure for Belmont Cemetery and designating the footprint of the old Belmont School building and the surrounding area as a “green space” once demolition of the building is completed.

Sobel also announced there will be an open council seat and two openings on the Board of Public Affairs that will need to be filled in January and said that anyone interested in serving should submit a letter of interest.

Meeting attendees also were reminded of several upcoming events, including the Village of Belmont Craft Show and Sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the Belmont Gym. Ray Turner’s Up in Smoke will be selling ribs and chicken on site, and proceeds from the event going to the Park Fund.

In addition, Breakfast with Santa is from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 14 at the gym. Breakfast is free, but canned goods can be brought to place under the tree and later given to Project Manna. The Belmont House Decoration judging will take place this Monday-Friday with trophies awarded to the top three winners at the Tree Lighting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14. The official tree lighter will be Ed Blon, and music will be provided by the Union Local Middle School Choir. Hot chocolate and cookies will be available at the tree’s location on South Bridge Street.