By: Anna Wozniak
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
The Pioneer Village Council met in regular session when they gathered at 8 a.m. to welcome Ohio State Representative James Hoops to town on the 9th.
Amongst the awards, nominations, and appointments, there was some serious business discussed.
Present were councilors Trevor West, Randy Cochran, Dean Frisbie, Bill Turner, and Ben Fiser, as were Fiscal Officer Gina Gruber, Mayor Ed Kidston, solicitor Tom Thompson, and Village Administrator Al Fiser.
The agenda was amended to remove a motion to enter executive session, and then approved. The minutes of the November 13, 2023 meeting were approved as presented, as was the financial report of November.
The bills were approved for payment, as was a Hometown HDWR invoice for $1,457.22. It was then noted that the fire department has decided not to pursue any of the available offers on a new tanker before details were shared on the offers available for fire trucks.
This culminated in the passing of Ordinance 26-2023, which approved the purchase of a fire truck from Spencer Manufacturing, Inc.
The details of financing this truck were discussed at length, with Mayor Kidston sharing a finance sheet with the village’s end financials and balance history for the last eight years.
There is a question as to whether the citizens of Pioneer are being over-taxed for township fire protection services, and Mayor Kidston shared that he would like to work on addressing this to make up for some of the costs incurred by the purchase of the new truck.
There is a concern that once the townships are asked to pay more for fire protection services to account for this uneven payment distribution, but the mayor assured everyone that the new fire truck could still be purchased if they decided to go elsewhere for fire protection services.
He then delved into two different margin diagrams that displayed the village’s revenue both with and without the successful implementation of the AquaBounty fish project and participation in the solar energy utility system.
He shared that the village stands to increase their utility margin by 10 million dollars if the AQB project successfully takes off, stating that the margin would also exponentially increase with the implementation of solar energy fields.
Mayor Kidston then shared his plan to use this projected increased margin to rebate utility payments for village citizens and use for village purchases.
Kidston also shared that the village has begun accumulating the necessary equipment to build the substation for AquaBounty and the solar field, sharing that there was no rush on completing the project as they are waiting on EPA approval to see if the substation costs can be covered by a grant the village has applied to in order to save the taxpayer’s money, as the substation would be a public utility if the solar station were to require its services.
This nationwide grant is on a first come, first served basis, and Mayor Kidston shared that thanks to the help of Tom Thompson, Al Fiser, and Gina Gruber, their application was the 21st to be submitted.
During the appointments, Councilors Fiser and Cochran raised concerns over the nomination process, detailing that the last three positions have been filled by nomination without their vacancy being listed to the public.
The mayor shared that he is open to holding more conversations on nominations and recommendations of personnel at council’s behest.
An ordinance balancing Fiscal Year 2023 was approved as presented by Gruber, and an ordinance prohibiting marijuana dispensaries, operators, and cultivators from operating in Pioneer passed 4-2.
All ordinances were passed on their first reading after a waiving of the rules and a declaration of an emergency.
A motion was then made and carried to approve Tom Thompson’s contract as village solicitor before Mr. Short of South Maple Street addressed council.
He shared that he had bumped a mailbox at the municipal building, inspected it and saw no damage, and went in to the office to report it.
He was then sent a $160 bill for the repairs of the mailbox, and asked as to why the costs were incurred when he saw no visible damage.
Administrator Fiser shared that it is unfortunate that Mr. Short did not see the damage to the mailbox before reporting the incident, and thanked him for doing so.
Administrator Fiser went on to say that the cost of a new mailbox is near $2,000, and that the $160 was not to replace the mailbox as a whole, but only to account for the repairs made to the mailbox itself.
Short asked as to why he was charged labor fees when there are salaried village employees who do the labor, and Mayor Kidston shared that labor fees are presented to residents when projects, otherwise not necessary if not for the resident, are incurred in order to keep the billing system equal for all other residents.
The Pioneer Village Council then congratulated Anthony Burnett, Rodger Swank, and Joseph Nickloy on their new positions, and thanked everyone for their attendance before adjourning the meeting at 9:19 a.m.