ROSSFORD — A presentation on an update to the delayed 2018 Rossford Master Plan was repeatedly derailed because of technical difficulties at a recent council meeting.
The plan presentation at the Nov. 9 meeting, by contracted firm O’Brien Architects, became a study in the many ways a virtual meeting can go wrong. Council members concluded that they wanted the next meeting to be face to face.
“I know the O’Brian Group was trying, but that was painful. The Zoom meeting thing doesn’t work,” said Councilman Jerry Staczek.
As the computer systems crashed several times, council member Bob Densic proposed moving ahead with the agenda, while the tech people tried to rescue the situation. In addition to the disjointed presentation, the sound had feedback and dropouts.
“With all the technical difficulties, you’re not getting the flavor of the whole thing. I would like to see them here. We should be calling for a committee of the whole. If we do have a Zoom meeting again, I think we should have the presentation material and the slides emailed to us and printed off, ready for us,” Staczek said.
Councilwoman Caroline Eckel agreed with Staczek.
“I can’t do another Zoom meeting. That was terrible. You lose track of what they are saying. I caught bits and pieces of the good stuff they had to say, but… it was really bad,” Eckel said.
The presentation was meant to be an update on a plan that had been delayed several times, primarily because of advances, like the new Amazon Fulfillment Center. When the city contracted with O’Brien in 2017, the center was not yet even in negotiations.
The delays from the report became an issue at the Sept. 14 meeting, when council said it would not “pay another penny” for the Master Plan project until there was an update. In April of 2018 the council approved paying an initial $300,000 of a $500,000 total fee.
The plan is based on a concept of anchoring the downtown area of the city around the marina, and the casino as an entertainment district. The group is suggesting that a “Greater Rossford” be a walkable community that is also served by public transit, along with a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area.
“I think all council is aware that we intend to establish a DORA in the downtown area. I think that has been on our agenda before and we have discussed it,” Allyson Murray, city administrator, said.
Another point stressed by the presenters was a “healthier family income than the surrounding area,” and was compared to similar small towns that O’Brien had worked with, like Garland, Texas, which built “character zones.”
In those zones light industrial sections would have facades added to improve the aesthetics, along with other lighting, signage and zoning modifications, for branding continuity. Now with pandemic restrictions on the minds of the public, presenters also believe that open air gathering places will also be sought after.
As for future meetings, Rossford has been progressive in adapting to pandemic safety measures.
While the city could not increase the size of the council room for social distancing, they have created plexiglass cubicles for each official. Large screen monitors are also hung high for the display of graphics, PowerPoint presentations and video. Audience seating has also been reduced, to help with social distancing.
Because of the increasing rate of COVID-19 cases in Wood County, the regular Monday 7 p.m. council meeting will be virtual.
In other business, council adopted a motion authorizing the city administrator to request statements of qualifications for engineering services for transportation, storm water and environmental related capital improvements projects for 2020-23.
Council also had a first reading of an ordinance to submit a letter of intent to Palmer Energy for the purpose of securing opportunities to purchase solar generated energy together with other communities participating in the Northwest Ohio Aggregation Coalition. Council requested that Palmer send more information on the project.