“WE WILL BE PRAYING”… Montpelier Mayor Steve Yagelski stated during the June 13, 2022 Council meeting that he “knew this day would come,” when someone would say they shouldn’t be praying in their government meeting. “Until the federal law and Ohio Revised Code says ‘no’, we are going to pray as long as I am sitting here.” Seated beside him are Attorney Chris Walker and Village Clerk Jessica Apple. (PHOTO BY REBECCA MILLER, STAFF)
By: Rebecca Miller
As government officials and audience members entered the council chamber at the Montpelier Police Station minutes before the June 13, 2022 meeting was to begin, a discussion was in process between Police Chief Dan McGee and citizen Eli Utley.
Mr. Utley had been present at the meeting in May and was told the proper way to address issues would be to get on the agenda to speak during council meeting. He did so, and was listed as #10 for the evening.
After his arrival, Village attorney Chris Walker had explained the types of things that are appropriate to bring to village council for help.
He read from the Montpelier Council rules as well as the Ohio Revised Code, stating that only items which have to do with the running of the village such as trash issues or electric or streets and such can be brought before council for assistance. Chief McGee stayed for the meeting.
Also present in the audience with Mr. Utley were the press and Pastors Adam Fox, Ben Harris, Eric Howell and Paul Gruedder. Council began as usual with roll call, opening prayer by Pastor Paul Gruedder, the Pledge of Allegiance and approval of agenda, previous meeting minutes and financial reports.
Council President Chris Kannel reported that “Mission Montpelier” was a success, with twenty showing up to volunteer their time to “make some significant progress on the trail” and work on some yard improvements within the village.
He thanked the village crews for all their help. Council member Melissa Ewers stated her pleasure at how well the parks are coming along and asked if the concrete will be poured soon at Storrer Park. Kannel said that it was supposed to come in during the present week.
Mayor Steve Yagelski addressed Paul Gruedder saying that he will be missed as he is moving, and thanked him for his great contribution as a part of the community during his time there.
Yagelski asked Mr. Walker to reiterate the rules about addressing council. Walker said that topics that are between individuals and organizations that are not village business are not topics that we should have in our council meeting. Yagelski said that possibly these rules should be shared periodically.
Reaching #10 on the agenda, he asked Mr. Utley if he would like to address council about any topics that are appropriate to council.
Utley began, “I noticed that we prayed to Jesus Christ again, so obviously this is a Christian government and not a representative government.”
He began to talk about his beliefs as far as the Bible is concerned, saying that he felt free to do that because they had prayed in Jesus’ name and the Bible is about him.
After a few minutes of sharing his frustrations, Walker reminded him that he needed to confine his comments to things applicable to council, about which they have the authority to make decisions.
As he continued, he stated about himself that he is a scientist, and feels that prayer has no place in this meeting.
Eventually, Mayor Yagelski broke in and said, “Mr. Utley, we discussed this at the last meeting and like Mr. Walker said, what comes from the audience to this council has to do in regards to the management and movement of what product the village of Montpelier produces…that product is a service of utilities, so if you have something you want to talk about that this council can act on through legislation, that is what you can talk about.
When you go outside of what our responsibility is, what you are talking about, the federal law allows us to do this, the Ohio Revised Code allows us to do this. That’s what we follow, the Ohio Revised Code.”
Utley said it did not seem right to him that they could pray in Jesus name, but he could not talk about him. At that point, Mayor Yagelski stated, “We will be praying at these meetings. I am going to tell you a story.”
“I knew this day would come when someone would approach this council and want to argue not to do it. Eight to ten years ago I had lunch with a local pastor on what is going on in town.”
“We were talking about improving our community, and I reach out to the faith base because they hear more than we do. He asked me this one question, ‘What are you going to do if someone comes to your meeting and wants to tell you that you are not allowed to pray?”
“I answered him, Until the federal law and Ohio Revised Code says ‘no’, we are going to pray as long as I am sitting here.” He also mentioned that the military sacrificed so that we are free to do this.
He then asked Utley if he had anything to say that could be taken care of by the council. Utley spoke for a few minutes more about truth in his viewpoint and then moved on to share his concern that as things get worse economically there will be an increase in violence and crime.
He basically said if the lights go out and the food goes away, and people don’t have a place to stay, there is going to be trouble and he is frustrated that council is concerned about parks instead of housing.
“I’m homeless at the moment and I know about thirty other people that are homeless at the moment and if they run out of a place to stay you will see tents popping up but you’ve got that illegal.
People will have to go to CCNO. I’ve asked the police to take me to CCNO but they said they couldn’t do that.”
He spoke a little further about his concerns ending with, “We should not be building parks. We should be building somewhere for these people to go to get on their feet.
Yagelski explained that the village is not involved in the business of managing housing. That is what investors do and he is hoping an investor will do that in Montpelier.
“We can’t do that. We take the money and put it into streets and infrastructure.” Ewers added that they can make the village look more pleasing with parks.
Utley said he feels that the village can either invest in a homeless shelter or they can invest in the police. When Mayor Yagelski asked if there was anything else he wanted to talk about, Utley said that they have pretty much shut him down.
Mayor Yagelski turned to the next point in the agenda and asked for Village Administrator Jason Rockey to explain the resolutions. Ms. Said she would like to say something and the mayor said that he had already moved on to Mr. Rockey.
Rockey spoke shortly about two resolutions and council voted to suspend the rules and approve:
Resolution 1349 Approve tax rates and amounts for county auditor
Resolution 1350 Accept and award bid to Bryan Excavating, LLC in the amount of $2,600,542.20 for Phase VII of the Sewer Separation Project.
In her Income Tax Report, Village Fiscal Officer Nikki Uribes reported that the taxes collected for May of 2022 was $414,805.05, making the accumulated amount stand at $1,257,287.31.
In his manager’s report, Rockey explained why the Village of Montpelier had a power outage on Monday, June 6, 2022. He explained that the major event in Edgerton that took out that whole village, also hit part of Montpelier.
How long it took Montpelier to get back on was affected by a planned Toledo Edison outage at the St. Rt. 15 site in Holiday City.
That crew cut their work off for a while to enable Montpelier to get back up and running. He explained a few other details of how the Montpelier crew got the village back in power.
Sewer meters are all back up and working, and the pump station is running fine again as well.
The Land Bank meeting was held on the morning of June 13, 2022 and he did not get any news on the building demolition and site reapplication.
They have applied to demo two buildings on West Main. He said it appears the committee that takes care of those is overwhelmed so the village is “still in the holding pattern.”
Yagelski asked about a house on Randolph St. and Walker said the paperwork is in process to transfer it to the Land Bank. Rockey said it is in the legal part now and it might be the fall before it comes down.
Rockey added that the turn lane project at the school is almost completed. Kannel said that as this was a major activity of cooperation between county, village and the school, it should be a great event. The work on Airport Highway in front of the Moose Lodge is close to complete as well.
Ms. Ewers pointed out that the School Resource Officer had a lot of issues during May and she did a great job handling them all.
Chief McGee said that as it was close to the end of the year, the kids did get pretty active.
With no further business the meeting adjourned at 6:40.
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