2008-06-14 / News

Thornville Council approves countywide mutual aid

By Scott Rawdon

THORNVILLE - Thornville Mayor Beth Patrick decided there's strength in numbers, as far as the village's police force is concerned. Her vote broke a tie between council members Monday night to approve an ordinance for countywide mutual aid for the Thornville Police Department.

All council members agreed mutual aid is necessary for Thornville's limited department, but some council members disagreed with the ordinance language. The approved ordinance provides for mutual aid to and from all of Perry County and various other departments surrounding Buckeye Lake, including the Village of Buckeye Lake, Millersport, Hebron, and Buckeye Lake State Park officers.

Council members Lynne Snider, Mary Renner, and Charlie Hale voted in favor of the mutual aid ordinance as presented; council members Terry Lynn, Dick Krumlauf, and Ron Dittoe would not approve the ordinance as presented. Patrick cast the deciding vote.

"I want everything to go through the Perry County Sheriff's Department," said Dittoe. He wanted mutual aid calls to be received through the county dispatcher as opposed to the village receiving mutual aid calls from every municipality and police department in Perry County. He was clear he was in favor of mutual aid, but wanted to enter into it more slowly than suddenly opening the village to the entire county. "We wanted to start out small," said Dittoe.

He added that he just received some of the information about the ordinance that evening and didn't have a chance to review everything thoroughly. "If Corning calls and we need someone up here, where does that leave us?" he asked.

Police Chief Nick Garver said in his seven years experience as a Thornville officer-as chief and a patrolman-Thornville police only left the village for a significant period once, when there was a crisis south of Thornville. "It's not that we want to run down to New Straitsville," he said. Garver added that police chiefs from other communities and Thornville Solicitor Michael Crites agree countywide mutual aid is a good thing.

Council members questioned liability issues should a Thornville officerbecome injured in another community or should a mutual aid officer become injured in Thornville.

Resident Willis McNabb bristled. "What liability is so great?" he said. "Why wouldn't you vote for this (ordinance)? I don't see the liability." McNabb thought rejecting the countywide mutual aid ordinance would be a disservice to the community.

Patrick said Tuesday the village was providing mutual aid without an ordinance, which may hold the village-including individual council memberspersonally libel for damages or injuries during some mutual aid runs. "We've been doing it at our own risk," she said. The ordinance protects the village from being sued.

Both Lynn and Krumlauf were clear they, like Dittoe, were not against mutual aid. They only questioned the language of the countywide ordinance.

Krumlauf said he thought places like the City of Logan could better serve southern Perry County.

Garver said Perry County's population is relatively small and its police departments need to work together. He's concerned that only calling the sheriff for mutual aid from Perry County is too limiting. "You call the sheriff, you get only the sheriff," he said. He wants all Perry County mutual aid options open.

"It's absolutely a moral issue," said Patrick Tuesday. "Is someone's life worth a tank of gas? I'm not going to deny protection for someone because gas is too high." She said she supported the countywide ordinance because she couldn't bear the thought of not providing safety assistance to someone who needs it, no matter where they are. "It's saving lives," said Patrick. "It's not just about us. There's strength in numbers."

In other council news:

• Hale submitted his resignation from council Monday night, effective June 30. In his letter of resignation, he said he no longer had sufficienttime to devote to the council position, and it's time to step down. He has served on council for six and a half years.

"We owe you a great debt of service," Patrick said to Hale.

Snider will temporarily take over Hale's position as council representative on village zoning until a permanent replacement is found. The village will advertise for the council position.

• Village Administrator Ron Koehler said Fifth/Third Bank is foreclosing upon Phase II of Thorn Hill. Developer Nathan Glick is back-suing Fifth/Third Bank, said Koehler.

• Village zoning is developing an ordinance to convince owners of vacant lots to keep the lawns mowed. There's still a question of how high grass will be permitted to grow before the village contacts the landowner.

• Council members were clear the 50 mph zoning on SR 13 is a state requirement, not a Thornville speed trap. ODOT requires state routes to be limited to 50 mph within municipal boundaries; that section of SR 13 passes through the Thornville corporation limits. Members were also clear that the stretch of CR 30 (SR 188) between Thornville and Thornport is 35 mph, even though signs are missing.

• An abandoned hardware store in downtown Thornville may be up for government auction soon. Council members were unsure if the auction would be affected by the building being condemned. Koehler said that anyone purchasing the building would need to have a plan for major renovations.

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