By: Rebecca Miller
Samantha Taylor began working as Deputy Clerk at the West Unity Village office on May 14, 2020. That evening at the Regular Council meeting everyone spoke kind welcoming words for her, with Administrator Josh Fritsch saying that she had jumped right, in been very helpful on her very first day. She replaces Katie Baltosser, whose last day of work was May 8, 2020.
Mayor Don Leu pointed out that without a quorum they would be unable to pass the resolutions needed, so council agreed to have a special meeting May 15 at 7 p.m. to approve those. \
They also scheduled a Safety Committee meeting to be held before the council meeting on June 11 from 6:30 to 7, with council at 7:30. A Park Committee Meeting will be held at the new shelter house at the park, as well as on zoom, on May 28th at 6:30.
The Resolutions which will be addressed and voted upon at the special meeting include:
- Resolution 1-2020-11- a Resolution initiating an amendment to the official Zoning Map of the Village of West Unity, Ohio, to zone certain land annexed to the Village of West Unity in 2008 and 2011
- Resolution 1-2020-12R – a Resolution establishing the rates within the specified ranges of pay of certain officers and employees of the Village of West Unity, Ohio for the Calendar year 2020 and declaring it an emergency. (Chief of Police, J.R. Jones: an annual salary of $59,000.00, Full- Time Police Department Lieutenant, Phil Fry: an annual salary of $42,300.00., Full-Time Police Department Sergeant, Homer Chapa, Jr.: an annual salary of $40,200.00, Full-Time Police Department Patrolman, Jacob Dye: an annual salary of $35,200.00, Full-Time Police Department Patrolman, Tom Ehman: an annual salary of $35,200.00, Maintenance Supervisor, Jim Eisel: $23.66 per hour, Water/Wastewater Supervisor, Randy Mahlman: $24.86 per hour, Village Maintenance Person, Matt Axford: $19.59 per hour, Village Maintenance Person, Kaedin Gigax: $16.00 per hour, Village Fiscal Officer, Sarah Higdon: an annual salary of $40,000.00, Village Administrator, Joshua Fritsch: an annual salary of $57,000.00, Deputy Clerk, Samantha Taylor: $15.50 per hour. All prior Ordinances and/or Resolutions inconsistent herewith are immediately repealed.”
- Resolution 1-2020-13 – a Resolution authorizing the then and now purchase order issued 5/11/20 and declaring such an emergency (for a Fire Hydrant for Unity Methodist Church at the cost of $3,396.80 as the previous one was hit by a vehicle)
- Resolution 1-2020-14 – a Resolution authorizing the transfer of $2,250 from general fund account 1000-760-391 Other to general fund account 1000-715-391 Dues and Fees, and declaring an emergency (??? I forget what this was for????)
Council voted to approved minutes for 4/6 street committee meeting as well as minutes for the last regular meeting, to pay bills, and approve agenda for May 14, 2020 meeting. Also approved was the Committee list as presented by the mayor.
Village Administrator, Josh Fritsch, shared in his report, that Maguire Iron is dropping off materials and will get started on the water tower soon. ODOT may pay to have the safety study done that would make it possible for the village to apply for a grant to cover some helpful additions, such as new stoplights, a new crosswalk out by Kamco, possibly some new street lights and sidewalk from Elm Street to Kamco.
All of the trees that needed to be cut down have been cut and the stumps have been ground out and filled. Aqualine came to find a possible break on Sycamore Street, and did find one. The village crew has fixed it, but have found it was not the break that is affecting Willard Miller’s house. Since then it was discovered that there is a broken field tile under his house and the family is going to get it fixed. The village has switched over to RiTA (Regional Income Tax Agency) to do income taxes from now on.
A miscellaneous water project, which will take out some four inch water lines and put eight inch in, was approved by the EPA. A (CDBG) Community Development Block Grant will pay for the majority of it and (OPWC) Ohio Public Works Commission is paying for the rest. Fritsch said it is totally paid for by grant money, which really helps the village.
On June 4, 2020 he will be in Defiance at Maumee Valley Planning Association to participate in a Zoom meeting along with Poggemeyer Design Group. Pog will make the recommendation to the commissioners, who will be on Zoom, and the village, represented by Fritsch, to approve the bid.
BIG TRASH PICK-UP has been scheduled for two separate weekends in June. For the south end of town, the village dumpsters will be available on Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20. For the north end of town, whose turn it is for pick up, the truck will be going by to gather curbside items on Thursday and Friday, June 25 and 26. For more information on what can be dumped or put out, contact the village office at 419-924-2215.
Police Chief JR Jones reported that Officer Ryan Axel has resigned and part time Officer, Jacob Dye, will be stepping into the full time position. Both School Resource Officer and the Chief were able to take some special training and receive $500 grants to cover it for each of them.
Mayor Don Leu informed council that in conversation with the man who is doing the fresh signs for the village, he was told about some materials which would make the signs last longer and keep their bright colors longer. The aluminum will be placed on both sides of the 4×8 piece of plywood, which the council had already agreed upon. Council agreed to have him add the aluminum, even though it will cost slightly more.
The mayor also wanted to remind West Unity residents that ONLY leaves and grass go to the town compost pile. Leaves can also be picked up by the road but they have to be bagged.
Sticks and branches still get picked up once a week, usually on Mondays or Tuesdays. In answer to a council question it was agreed that items such as pine cones or nuts can also be put out in bags, so the village crew can dispose of them separate from the grass and leaves.
In the Clerk’s Report, Sarah Higdon informed council that $2250 has been transferred to RITA, as a one time fee to get started with them. The village received a check form BWC for the Covid relief porgram. Workers comp is going to increase, but getting that check will help with that.
She said that people behind on water payments, that normally would have been disconnected, have not been and the total delinquent amount owed to the village is $3,65.78, “which is not as bad as we thought it would be.”
In the next billing cycle they will be putting a note that people need to call to set up a payment schedule so they do not get their water shut off. The village will work with them but they need to get the bill paid.
Village Soliciter Katie Rakes asked council for advice concerning a resident’s desire to split a lot within the village limits. She explained that the county has already approved it, but the village has to as well. It was agreed that she should refer it to Zoning Committee and then it will come back to council for approval.
Council member Dave Short raised a number of questions for a legal viewpoint from Rakes:
- Is having the Zoom meetings ok with sunshine laws? Rakes answered that as the Attorney General said virtual meetings are fine as long as they are available to the public, and the village is making the meetings available to the public, the Village is safe.
- Would she check into what he views as an egregious overreach of the Executive Branch, specifically so the council can have a greater understanding in the future of what the state can and cannot tell the village to do? “They are saying that an elected body can’t meet.” Rakes responded that this is a good question and she will check into it for them. Her thoughts on it at the time were, “If a people come together and meet in a public place, I would be hesitant to think that the state government could stop that.”
- What would be the legal repercussions if in the future we chose to say no to their ruling? Rakes said she would check into that as well.
Short explained to council and Rakes that he is frustrated for the local businesses, as well, and feels, “This (COVID-19) is wrapping up hopefully, but I feel for the future that as far as what the state executive branch is doing, we have a responsibility as elected officials. We have businesses in our town that are being hurt and they don’t have the means to stand up to the government.”
“I feel they have a leg to stand on and the problem is that they will lose anyways even if they win in court, because of all the money it would cost them. I feel that we as a legislative body need to take a stand for them and for our village as a whole, because the people don’t have the power. We as a council should make a stand ourselves, but I would like to know your legal opinion on these matters. I am going to push really hard for this kind of mindset in the future.”
Chief Jones mentioned that as it was a Pandemic, that made it a Health Department issue, and even though he agrees with Mr. Short he does not want to get caught up in the law enforcement side of it. Short said that he felt that was a great point to be made.
In Council reports, each one of the members welcomed Samantha and spoke highly of the police department and the way they have stepped up in many ways during this time. Some specifics were “the professionalism,” and “how they have helped the elderly and gone to their homes to check on them and chat with them outside.” Jones said that the idea of making sure the older residents were all fine came from the mayor.
Short asked how the council and administration would feel about allowing some of the small businesses, who are very limited as the restrictions are lifted, such as barbers, Knead for Therapy and beauticians, to have some designated parking spots.
This would allow their customers who have to wait to go it, to be close to the business, making it easier on the Proprieter to step out and motion that it is their turn to come in to the building. “Maybe we could specify what hours,” Short said, adding,”I don’t want to open another can of worms, but it might help them as they are all alone and trying to adjust.”
Mayor Leu said he thought it was a “good can of worms” and that he had spoken with the owners of Wyse Guys and they are fine with the other businesses doing that, as Wyse Guys customers can park just about anywhere and still get service from them. Council members all agreed that it is a good idea and asked Fritsch to coordinate with the businesses for signage and which spots they can mark.
Short also said that after the Street Committee meeting was held he was wondering if they could get a bigger map of the town “so we can know where the pipes are all over town.”
Fritsch said they already have a water map and can get other kinds as well. It was agreed that it might be helpful to have the whole big map on the wall in one of the rooms at the village hall for committee meetings.
In case of, in Short’s words, “a real pandemic, do we want to consider stocking up on things for the future?” was his next question. There was some discussion and it was agreed that in the future after things calm down and supplies are restocked by the companies, the prices will come back down and it might be a good idea to stock as a village.
Council member Terri Lebowsky encouraged everyone to keep going to the local restaurants as the “big chains will be fine, but we need to help our local businesses survive. Do your part to keep the town alive.”
Rebecca can be reached at email@example.com