Judge Jill Leatherman met with Van Wert City Council Thursday to discuss the possibility of purchasing the former First Financial Bank building for the new home of the Van Wert Municipal Court. (Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)
Judge Jill Leatherman met with Van Wert City Council Thursday to discuss the possibility of purchasing the former First Financial Bank building for the new home of the Van Wert Municipal Court. (Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)

BY LINDSAY MCCOY
Times Bulletin News Writer
lmccoy@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - In a special Thursday evening Van Wert City Council meeting, the finance committee finally agreed upon a solution to the heavily discussed 2014 temporary budget.

A proposal by Council President Gary Corcoran, to accept only a five percent increase or decrease on 2014 line-item budgets from the amount spent in 2013, was accepted by council as the standard for by each department. Departments will now be asked to reevaluate their temporary budgets to meet this newest request by council.

"If departments can't explain exactly what the money is being spent on, then they don't need it," said Corcoran. "They're tying up the money." Departments do have the opportunity to budget above or below the five percent if they can explain exact need for the extra amount.

Auditor Martha Balyeat said she believes that departments have begun to budget based upon the amount of money they have asked for in the past and not on what they truly need. She mentioned she has struggled with the idea of telling the low-funded Parks Department that there is no money to fund them when there is an extra $100,000 tied up in the police and fire departments.

Council will also be looking at a no contingency plan that would allow for no over budgeting by any department. Both Police Chief Joel Hammond and Fire Chief Jim Steele commented that this would leave their funds wanting in time of disaster. Councilmen were quick to note that the departments would not be denied extra money if such an occasion would arise.

Council also met with Judge Jill Leatherman to discuss the possible purchase of the former First Financial Bank building for the new home of the Van Wert Municipal Court. Judge Leatherman reported that Garmann and Miller has inspected the project, and projected costs came in just under $500,000, a number already expected and reported to council.

A draft of purchase and escrow agreements have already been sent from First Financial, who has agreed to the sale at the cost of $1 million. The bank does not want to close on the deal until after the first of the new year, leaving the Municipal Court time to settle upon financial agreements.

The court has two options for receiving the $1.5 million for the purchase and renovation of the building, including a private placement with a local or outside bank or a public agreement. Leatherman believes that a private placement agreement would be a better fit, and while interest rates would be higher, costs would be lower. An additional option would be for the city of Van Wert to invest in the bond agreement and collect on its own interest rates. Balyeat agreed to look further into this option which would benefit the city financially.