2008-01-05 / Front Page

Looking back at some of the top stories in 2007

BUCKEYE LAKE AREA - Here's some of the top stories for 2007.

Voters reject both Lakewoodlevies

HEBRON - Voters dealt a double blow to Lakewood Local Schools by turning down the renewal of an emergnecy levy first approved in 2003 and a bid for a permanent one percent income tax on just earned income. The proposed tax would not have taxed Social Security, retirements, pensions, interest, dividends or capital gains. The emergency levy will be back on the March 2008 ballot.

Landings at Maple Bay

BUCKEYE LAKE - Zoning was approved and construction began on a 176-unit condominium development on the former Bounds Farm in Buckeye Lake. The development will feature an excavated harbor and canal link to Buckeye Lake. A 144-lot single family development is also planned for the 118-acre site.

Hart defeats Acord for Licking Township Trustee

JACKSONTOWN - Former Lakewood School Board member Joe Hart upset Ron Acord's bid for a seventh term as Licking Township Trustee. Earlier in the year, Trustee Joe Cooper announced that he will be moving to Tennessee as soon as his house is sold. Cooper's term runs through 2009.

Former council member flees arrest

BUCKEYE LAKE- Former Buckeye Council member John Cortez fled arrest after being charged with 23 counts of inappropriate sexual contact with a minor, one count of supplying illegal substances to three minors, and one count of illegal gun possession, following a raid November 8 raid of his home.. Cortez was dismissed from council in August for missing eight meetings in 2007, which is grounds for dismissal under the Buckeye Lake Village Charter. As of the end of the year, he was still at-large with a warrant for his arrest from the Licking County Sheriff's Department.

Ironically, Cortez, who was first elected to council in 1999, received the most votes in the 2005 election. It was later discovered he falsified his application for candidacy by failing to acknowledge he was a convicted felon; under Ohio law, felons may not run for public office.

Thornton takes over for Abram

MILLERSPORT - Ron Thornton shed his interim status effective August 1 as the Walnut Township Board of Education approved five-year contract as district superintendent. Thornton was named interim superintendent when Ed Abram retired March 31. Thornton was most recently superintendent of the 3,700 student Teays Valley Local School District in Pickaway County.

Chance Brockway dies

BUCKEYE LAKE - Noted Buckeye Lake historian and photographer Chance Brockway died in June. The 88-year-old live-long Buckeye Lake resident was instrumental in forming a historical society and ultimately constructing a museum.

With the help of his daughter, Sondra Gartner, he produced Images of America: Buckeye Lake in early 2006. His book took the reader on a visual journey from the 1800s through Buckeye Lake Amusement Park's heyday and today.

National Hot Rod Reunion comes to National Trail Raceway

HEBRON - National Trail Raceway lost its Pontiac Excitement Nationals race on the NHRA Champsionship Series, but gained the National Hot Rod Reunion. Thousands turned out June 15-17 for blasts from the past. The event outgrew a facility in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The Hot Rod Reunion will return for Father's Day weekend this year.

Baltimore gets full-time police chief

BALTIMORE - Westerville Police Sergeant and Baltimore area resident Michael Tussey took over as full-time police chief May 28. Tussey is the village's first fulltime chief.

Late last year, the department achieved 24/7 police coverage. The village expects to hire another full-time police officerearly this year.

Pastor Bev leaves Water's Edge

BUCKEYE LAKE - Pastor Bev Myers said goodbye to Water's Edge UM Ministry last June. Bev devoted six years of her life to Buckeye Lake children and their families. She started in a rented store front in the Blue Heron Boardwalk and had to move four times before realizing her dream of having their own permanent home. She spent 40 nights in a tiny tent pitched in a vacant lot along Ohio 79 to raise money for their building. Thanks to her sheer perseverance, Water's Edge has their own home on Ohio 79 at Hilton Street.

Her ministry included prayer, meals, food, recreation, homework help, clothing and household items and church services. One of Bev's disciples, Shirley Kay Sanders, with Pastor Bob Beyer of the Jacksontown United Methodist Church is continuing her ministry.

Zoning issues dominate Liberty Township agenda

BALTIMORE- Seeding and junk dominated the agendas of the Liberty Township Trustees last year as they struggled with an established seeding company, which zoning somehow missed, and a salvage yard, which missed zoning.

Bremen resident Richard Estep, owner of Lancaster's Estep's Auto Service, proposed an automobile "recycling salvage" operation similar to U-Wrench It - a self-service used auto parts store familiar to Columbus residents - for the property. Although the property is zoned for Rural Residential use, Estep said that the property used to be a junkyard, and a salvage operation should be a grandfathered use. Previously, Julia Hilty of the FairfieldCounty Prosecutor's officeagreed with Estep, saying that a salvage yard would be a grandfathered use. Residents who live close to the proposed salvage yard strongly disagreed. They hired attorney Mike Shannon to appeal the prosecutor's conclusion.

Estep has argued that a sal- vage yard is a grandfathered use because the property has continuously operated as a junkyard since before local zoning was established. The township board of zoning appeals disagreed, and ruled in April that Bernard Franks, who opened the original junkyard on the property, never applied for a variance per a zoning ordinance from 1960, so the junkyard was never a legal use from the beginning. Late December, FairfieldCounty Court upheld the BZA's decision. Estep can appeal.

Zoning woes continued for Bob Richardson, owner of Hydromaster Seeding Co. His company is located in a residential zone and his request for a conditional use was denied by the Liberty Township Board of Zoning Appeals March 6. December 2005, the Liberty Township Trustees approved zoning change for the Richardson property at 9550 Heimberger Road from Rural Residential zoning to B2, to bring the company in compliance with zoning. But, residents who opposed the rezoning circulated petitions to place final approval of the zoning in the hands of the voters, who overturned the trustees' decision May 2, 2006.

People who voted to overturn the zoning change believed that the permanent rezoning would allow any commercial business to be developed on the property if the Richardsons ever closed HydroMaster or moved the business elsewhere. Some opponents said that the property would be better served if the Richardsons were granted a conditional use, meaning that the property would return to Rural Residential zoning if HydroMaster ever closes or moves.

With this in mind, Richardson said the trustees placed a change in the township's conditional use provisions - subject to approval by the BZA - to accommodate a landscaping business. Thinking that was all that was necessary, Richardson said he fully expected the BZA to approve his conditional use based on the trustees' action. But, the BZA turned him down. The case goes to FairfieldCounty Court Jan. 9.

Hebron starts EMS billing

HEBRON - The Hebron Fire Department started billing health insurance plans whenever anyone is transported to the hospital. The village joins the Cities of Heath and Newark in the practice.

Residents, including those living in the contracted area of Union Township, won't receive bills. The village will accept whatever the health insurance plan pays. Non-residents, which include Buckeye Lake residents, will be billed directly if their insurance plan doesn't pay the bill or they don't have health insurance. However, no bills will ever be turned over to a collection agency.

Big changes for Thornville's government plus progress on village debt

THORNVILLE- It was a tumultuous, yet successful year for Thornville, whose government managed to solve many issues plaguing it for years. However, Thornville's government almost completely turned over during 2007, with former Village Administrator Josh Eggleston being replaced by resident Ron Koehler, who took over on a part-time basis, and former Mayor Dale Brussee resigned, who was replaced by village council president Beth Patrick. The council had few changes last year. During 2007, council president Jim Royer resigned and was replaced by Mary Renner.

Former zoning inspector Dean Chalfant was replaced by Ryan Marshall, and the village replaced both its solicitor and magistrate. The village's part-time police chief, Duane Moore, resigned Dec. 31, as did his wife, Elaine, who was the department's auxiliary captain. Auxiliary officerMike Schankle will serve as interim chief until a permanent replacement is hired.

In 2005, several of the village's funds-- including the general and police funds--were in debt for a total of $228,738.80. As of Jan. 1, 2008, all of the village's funds will be out of the red. At the beginning of the year, the village will hire a full-time chief without a new levy or dipping into the general fund to balance the police fund. The village can legally pull money from its water and sewer funds toward a full-time police chief because the chief will patrol the village's water and sewer plant. The US Department of Homeland Security is encouraging municipalities to protect their utilities, making it possible for the village to use money from the water and sewer funds toward the police department.

Thornville strikes sewer deal with Perry County

THORNVILLE- The Perry County Commissioners and the Village of Thornville struck a deal in July to provide sewer service to Buckeye Lake's south bank - solving a dilemma dating back to the 1970s. Under its complex terms, the county will pay Thornville $50,000 annually and a monthly volume charge of $2.25 per 1,000 gallons of waste water treated. The county will also pay Thornville $50,000 annually beginning 2008, which will be increased by fivepercent compounded annually.

Thornville will serve homes mainly along Honey Creek Road on Buckeye Lake's south bank. Perry county is currently building the distribution system. Thornville should begin receiving about half the flowcapacity from the county distribution system spring 2008, and full flow in late summer 2008.

The contract expires in 15 years, or when and if the combined flow of the county and village systems reach 80 percent of the Thornville sewer plant's capacity - whichever comes first. If the combined flowreaches 80 percent of the plant's capacity, Thornville may deny new taps onto the county's distribution system.

The dilemma of providing sewer to the portion of Buckeye Lake's south bank in Perry County dates back to the 1970s, when the Ohio EPA offered to install a public system, but county commissioners rejected the offer. After determining that some septic systems in the area were leaking into Buckeye Lake, the Ohio EPA placed a moratorium on additional construction in the area. Frustrated property owners, who haven't been able to build on lakeside lots for years, will be able to begin building when the sewer system is operational.

Millersport, Hebron offer public water to Buckeye Lake

BUCKEYE LAKE- The Village of Buckeye Lake ended the year without a public water contract, despite offers to supply the village from both Hebron and Millersport. As of Dec. 31, the Buckeye Lake was moving closer to an agreement with Millersport, who agressively sought to reach a deal with Buckeye Lake. An agreement with Hebron looks very unlikely. In early June, Hebron agreed to explore the possibility of providing public water to Buckeye Lake, since Hebron had just expanded its water plant to treat 2.2 million gallons per day. It's estimated that Buckeye Lake would require 350,000 per day. But, negotiations moved slowly.

Buckeye Lake officials continued to explore ways to create a village operated water plant. Later in June, Michael Carder, president of GGC Engineering - the firmthat's building a new water plant for Millersport - sent a memo to Buckeye Lake Mayor Frank Foster, asking him to consider using Millersport as a source. Carder said Millersport was willing to alter some conditions which stopped Buckeye Lake from reaching a previous proposed agreement with Millersport.

While some accused the Buckeye Lake Village Council of dragging its feet by not entering into an agreement with Millersport quickly, Foster and members of council said they wouldn't be coerced into making a hasty decision. Council plans to hold a public forum to discuss the Millersport option in January.

Harry & David plans $16 million expansion in Hebron

HEBRON- July was a good month for fans of Moose Munch. Harry & David Holdings, Inc. CEO Bill Williams announced a ground breaking on a new $16 million expansion to its Hebron facility to increase candy, chocolate, and packaging operations. Harry & David will be able to produce an additional 4 million pounds of Moose Munch confection and 3 million pounds of chocolate enrobed fruit annually.

The Hebron facility expansion is expected to add approximately 160 new full-time jobs with an annual payroll of approximately $4 million; construction should be complete by autumn 2008. Ten years ago, Harry & David opened the existing Hebron facility.

Township, village battle over fire/EMS contract

MILLERSPORT - More money sometimes makes matters worse. Walnut township voters approved a new 3 mill permanent levy for fire/MES services in November 2006.

Voters had been promised 24/7 on-station coverage at the Millersport Fire Department. Fire Chief Bill Yates moved quickly to fulfillthat promise, but he and Millersport Village officials quickly ran into problems working out a contract with Walnut Township Trustees. A contract wasn't signed until July. Meanwhile, trustees claimed that the village wasn't providing requested information and withheld the July payment for three months.

Hopes to avoid similar issues in 2008 were dashed last month. Trustees cut Millersport's share of firelevy income nearly eight percent - from 65 percent to 60 percent. After a Dec. 27 meeting, Millersport officials agreed to continue current service levels and trustees asked their attorney to redraft the contract. However, Millersport's income cut won't be restored and trustees won't accept their request for a multiyear contract.

Kirkersville's mayor upset in reelection bid

KIRKERSVILLE - Mayor Bennie Evans lost a reelection bid to former Mayor Terry Ashcraft.

Ashcraft criticized spending, the condition of village streets and the accuracy of a survey concerning providing a public water supply.

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