The April 10 West Unity Village Council meeting opened with Mayor Peggy Bernath recognizing and thanking Matt Axford for his ten years of service to the Village’s maintenance department. Council also approved the second reading of Resolution 3-2014-2, a resolution showing council’s support for the Millcreek-West Unity School District levy that will be appearing on the May 6 ballot.
Several areas of concern were brought up at the meeting during the Councilor’s report. During his report, Donavon Leu began by suggesting that the Village take bids to see if would be less costly to have a private entity mow Village property than for the Village to maintain the property themselves. This idea was favorably viewed by all in attendance.
Leu also mentioned that he and Councilor Kevin Gray had heard of the possibility of using unpaid volunteers within the city. This idea was quickly answered to by Village Solicitor Ryan Thompson, who brought up concerns related to liability and insurance.
Leu also suggested that Council consider the discontinuation of committees and having all issues brought before the full Council. His concern, which revolved around the compliance with Ohio Sunshine Laws, was also shared by Councilor Dave Short, who questioned whether or not Sunshine Laws were being violated if two council members happened to run into each other in town and were then questioned by a resident about Village affairs. Thompson also addressed this issue, noting that all committee meetings are advertised as required by the Sunshine Laws and assuring that Council that they could answer the public’s questions without being in violation of such laws. The laws only stipulate that councilors cannot conduct business for the Village outside of an advertised public meeting. Answering concerns or questions brought forth by members of the public are not in violation of the laws.
Leu also voiced his objection to Village Administrator Ric Beals applying for a $23,000 CBDG (Community Block Development Grant) grant that would be used to replace the floor at the Kissell Community Building. Leu noted that he would have rather have seen such funds go towards the much needed replacement of the water lines within the Village. Beals explained that he had previously applied for the CBDG grant to replace the water lines but that grant had not gone through as the grant favors projects directly related to the community. He also expressed his belief that had he filed for the grant for the same purpose again this year that it would have again failed.
Part of Leu’s objection was that he was not previously aware of the grant application and was concerned with how he could answer the public’s questions when he did not have the proper information. Both Mayor Peg Bernath and Village Solicitor Ryan Thompson replied to Leu’s concerns, indicating that Beals had acted within his power in applying for the grant to be used for improvements to the Kissell Building. Bernath also noted that the application for the grant had been brought up in several earlier meetings. Thompson also responded that the Council’s position is legislative in nature whereas the Village Administrator’s is executive and that councilors should feel free to direct questions coming from the public to Beals if the question is one that falls outside of the legislative realm.
During earlier reports given in the meeting, Mayor Bernath also suggested that Council consider moving to having only one regular meeting per month as they do not frequently address legislation. She also would like to remind the public that, if someone knocks on their door, they should ask to see their permit to solicit within the Village. If a permit cannot be produced or if the person knocking has no knowledge of what permit is being asked for, people should feel free to shut the door and contact the Police Department as it is illegal to solicit within the Village limits without a permit. Fines may be imposed.
During his report, Village Administrator Ric Beals also informed Council that Kamco Industries was asking for Council’s support to begin raising funds to install a splash park at Memorial Park. Council expressed their full support for the endeavor.
Beals also reported that West Unity has once again received recognition as a Tree City USA village. This marks the 28th consecutive year the Village of West Unity has received the recognition, making it the longest recognized village within Williams County. It was also noted that West Unity will be hosting the Tree City USA program event in 2016.
Also included in Beals’s report was that the Village did receive a 12 percent discount from Toledo Edison on street lighting. Beals also noted that he contracted with Toledo Edison for three years at a slight increase for power for property owned by the Village. The contract will avoid the significant cost increases for electricity that are expected over the next several years.
Other items included in Beals’s report were that:
• The Code Red Alert system he had previously checked into has gained interest by the Williams County Commissioners, making the way for a possible county-wide system.
• A service crew from CCNO has recently cleaned alleys damaged by snow plowing.
• The Village’s 2002 Ford Taurus has been traded in for a 2011 Jeep Liberty.
• The projected costs of coating the inside of the old water tower and the projected cost of demolishing the tower are both approximately $25,000. Council discussed, without coming to final decision, which option would be best for the Village.
The next meeting of the West Unity Village Council will be held on April 24 at 7:30 pm in Council Chambers.