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1st Ward civics lessons

January 13, 2012

Wapakoneta 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier discusses his responsibilities as a councilor with members of Teen Green, a group of high school-aged youth who help plant trees in the city.

A group of Wapakoneta High School students talked with a local legislator to learn more about government from the ground up.

Thirteen members of Teen Green, a group formed by the city Tree Commission for planting trees, gathered Thursday in council chambers of the Wapakoneta City Administration Building to listen to a presentation from 1st Ward Council Jim Neumeier about his responsibilities as a representative of the people.

“I see my job as being a go-between for the people in my ward and the city administration because it is very common for me to receive a phone call from a constituent with a concern and I then relay that to the city administration,” said Neumeier, who served six terms extending from the late 1970s into the 1990s and then was recently re-elected to his third consecutive term in November. “I try to stay on top of the situation until it is resolved.”

As an example, he explained he continues to seek updates on the installation of a stormwater sewer on Glynwood Road to alleviate ponding along the road, which has resulted in what he calls “Lake Glynwood.” City crews worked a few days this week on installing the tile, but wet weather halted additional work.

Wapakoneta City Tree Commission President and Teen Green adviser Scott Risner said the purpose of meeting with Neumeier is part of a first-hand look at government and civics.

“You can learn a lot from your government class, but you can learn so much more from meeting the people who actually are part of the government,” Risner said, noting they already met with Mayor Rodney Metz and Safety-Service Director Bill Rains.

During the meeting, Neumeier also explained a part of his councilor responsibilities is serving on council committees. The two committees he is a member of are the Finance Committee and the Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee. He chairs the Parks and Recreation Committee.

“While some things are discussed at council meetings, the real excitement is at the committee meetings because a lot of the decisions made in this chamber have been hashed out in committee,” Neumeier told the group.

The busiest commit-

tee he said he serves on is Finance Committee, which is tasked with setting the city’s budget. He explained they meet weekly starting in late November until the budget is passed at the end of March. They review and set the budget for 30 to 40 city funds.

“It is a tight budget so the Finance Committee is pretty busy during these few months,” Neumeier said, noting the general fund receives approximately $2 million through a 1 percent income tax. “Once the budget is set then council has to act, or adopt, it and than it becomes the law. We are permitted to spend any money that is not in the budget and if something comes up during the year that needs to be taken care of it requires special action by council to make that happen.”

He noted the enterprise funds — sewer, sanitary, water, electric — must be self-supporting by law. The general fund pays for police, fire, EMS and general administration.

The issue of assessments typically, he said, fuels his decisions on Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks.

“I am adamant in my belief that you cannot assess some people and not others,” Neumeier said, explaining that residents along street projects with state money cannot be assessed for curbs, gutters and sidewalks. “I also don’t believe you should assess people for installing curbs on any project because I believe it is part of the street and the responsibility of the city.”

He noted councilors often voice their appreciation ffor the work Teen Green does planting trees. Last year the group planted approximately 40 trees in the city.

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