It wouldn’t be Buckeye Lake without plenty of drama and 2009 didn’t disappoint. Here’s a recap of some of 2009’s top local news stories, from ending a chapter in one village’s nearly 30-year quest for progress to heralding Lakewood’s softball superstars:
• Jan. 1: Union Township Trustees challenge Hebron EMS billing: The Union Township Trustees wrestled with the Hebron Village Council for exactly a year pursing 60 percent of the Hebron Fire Department’s EMS billing revenue. Eventually, they called upon William Kramer of Kramer and Associates fire department consulting to mediate an agreement the trustees could accept, although Trustee Jack Justice was absent from the final vote.
• Jan. 7: Musical chairs for Kirkersville government: Kirkersville’s government morphed almost completely during 2009, particularly early in the year. Jan. 7, council member and former mayor Bennie Evans, council member Jamie Cloud, and zoning chair and police photographer Mike Cloud tendered their resignations, followed by Zoning Inspector Tom Frederick Jan. 30. Council member Erika Mudd resigned in June and village solicitor Deborah Kenny McBride resigned the following month. Also, the village went through two police chiefs and a village clerk.
Former council member Debi Seymour and resident Sharon Temple replaced Evans and Jamie Cloud, and Ralph McConnell replaced Mike Cloud and Don Copely replaced Frederick. Former council member Carolyn Woods replaced Mudd and attorney Brian Zeta replaced Kenny McBride.
• Jan. 9: Cortez sentenced to 17 years: Former Buckeye Lake Village Council member John Cortez was sentenced to 17 years in prison for inappropriate sexual contact with teenage boys and offering them drugs. It concluded one of 2008’s biggest local scandals.
• April 1: Buckeye Lake sold for $990 million: The Beacon proved there are still plenty of April fools to be had in Central Ohio as its annual prank convinced many that the Macquarie Infrastructure Group (MIG) of Melbourne, Australia purchased Buckeye Lake for $990 million to turn it into the party capitol of the Midwest, under Aussie party boy Corey Delaney’s leadership.
• April 15: Ecolab closes: Ecolab announced April 15 that the Hebron facility would shut down by October, leaving 131 employees without local jobs. Jan. 14, Ecolab, a St. Paul, Minnesota based manufacturer of cleaning, sanitizing, food safety and infection prevention products and services, announced that 1,000 jobs would be cut nation wide in a company restructuring. The Zucker Building Company purchased the building, which State Industrial Supply—a company Zucker owns—now occupies. State Industrial Supply manufactures and distributes sanitation products for the health industry and rehired many former Ecolab employees to its 60 member staff. The facility is currently being retrofitted and production is expected to begin this spring.
• April 22: Thorn Township to build new firehouse: The Thorn Township Trustees chose the WDC Group from Springfield, Ohio to help design and build the Thornville/Thorn Township Fire Department’s new fire station, which is currently under construction.
• April 27: Buckeye Lake receives $5 million stimulus money toward water system: Federal Recovery Act funding helped fuel Buckeye Lake’s nearly 30 year journey toward installing a public water system. The stimulus funding and several grants will help lower customers’ water bills. The stimulus money will take a serious bite out of the $6.5 million loan the Ohio EPA will provide the village to create a public water distribution system for which Millersport will provide bulk water. The village will be responsible for repaying about $2 million in loans when the entire system is considered. The village does not have to repay the $5 million and Buckeye Lake was the highest federally funded organization in the state.
• May 2: Judge determines foundation owns rail property: Licking County Judge Thomas Marcelain ruled the TJ Evans Foundation owns the former Buckeye Scenic Railway property in Licking Township. Foundation members plan to pave the railway bed into a bicycle path, over the objection of the residents who live beside it. But, Marcelain said he didn’t see any reason to deny the Evans Foundation ownership; according to the judgment the foundation purchased the rail bed property in 1984 for $100,000 from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. Marcelain wrote that the Marketable Title Act facilitates “land title transactions by allowing persons to rely on a record chain of title” of 40 years or more. Marcelain said the Foundation has a “root of title” to the property, or a warrantee deed, dating all the way back to Nov. 5, 1915 to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. Jan. 5, the Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled in the foundation's favor.
• May 5: Buckeye Lake threatens to shut off streetlights: Residents didn’t realize an operational levy was meant to fund the village’s streetlights when they voted the levy down 82 in favor to 91 against in May because state law wouldn’t allow the levy’s intent to be displayed on the ballot. Residents eventually approved a levy to maintain the streetlights 345 votes in favor to 299 opposed in November.
• June 6:Lakewood Lady Lancers Division III state champs, again: It's very difficult to win one state championship. It's next to impossible to win two back to back. Yet, that's just what Lakewood's Lady Lancers did in Akron June 6. More than 500 Lakewood fans made the two and a half hour drive to Akron for the June 6 final against Youngstown Ursuline, with Lakewood winning 5-0 and clinching the state title for the second consecutive year. Hundreds turned out at nearly 10 p.m. in the Kroger parking lot to welcome the state champs home. The team got the traditional victory ride through Hebron on a fire truck, but the seniors got a special treat. The five seniors and the championship trophy rode on the village's first fire engine - a Boyer being restored by Hebron firefighter Donald Myers. Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason presented proclamations honoring their achievement to coaches and players.
• June 11: Neighbors file suit to stop C&DD landfill: Neighbors filed suit to stop the development of a construction and demolition debris landfill in Walnut Township. Cherry Lane Development, LLC, which is owned by Ron and Irene DiPaolo, and the DiPaolos individually, filed a complaint June 11, 2009, in Fairfield County Common Pleas Court. Cherry Lane owns property that includes the DiPaolos' home that is adjacent to property owned by Jerry and Barbara Mock.
The complaint names Walnut Township; Walnut Township Zoning Commission; the trustees and other staff members, the Mocks; Walnut C&DD LLC; Micro Construction, LLC and an unknown entity.
The dispute concerns approximately 66 acres on the west side of Ohio 37, just north of the railroad tracks. Opponents contend that the property was not properly zoned for burial of construction and demolition debris.
• June 27: Buckeye Lake installs public water distribution system: Hands down, the biggest local news story this year. The process is progressing smoothly so far. The quest for public water stalled for decades as the village floundered over the best method to achieve it. Several formal studies went nowhere and the village’s discussions about creating a village operated water plant fizzled as well. Things changed in summer 2007, however, when the village entered into discussion with Hebron to provide bulk water to the Village of Buckeye Lake, which would only be responsible for building a distribution system. Within a short time, Michael Carder, president of GGC Engineering--the firm that built a new water plant for Millersport sent a memo to Buckeye Lake Mayor Frank Foster, asking him to consider Millersport as a bulk water source. From there, the stars aligned for Buckeye Lake as government grants, low interest loans, and finally $5 million in federal stimulus money poured into the $7 million project. June 2009, the village had its official groundbreaking celebration as the Stillion Brothers excavation company began the difficult job of installing water lines below Buckeye Lake’s narrow streets. Most of the lines were installed by year’s end, although many village streets remain unpaved until the water lines are pressure tested this spring.
• Aug. 11: Captain Woody’s owners sentenced: The former owners of Capt’n Woody’s Pub & Grub in Avondale were each sentenced to two years in prison and each fined $84,000 for distributing marijuana and filing fraudulent tax forms. General Manager Robert “Pedro” Mar continues to operate the popular club. Former owners Joseph Marasco, 42, of Pataskala, and Robert Fusner, 34, of Grove City each received a sentence of 24 months for their roles in a marijuana distribution conspiracy.
• Nov. 20: Thornport bridge stays: In one of those stories that took on a life of its own, the Perry County Commissioners decided that a low Twp Rd. 79 bridge over a busy Thornport canal would be replaced, not removed as many boaters and canal dwellers requested. The Perry County engineer said the county would receive federal funding to replace it if the county acted quickly, adding there is a possibility the new bridge could be raised a few feet. Boaters, and residents and business owners along the canal said the current bridge is a safety hazard to boaters and makes their docks and businesses inaccessible to some boat traffic. The commissioners and local medics said the bridge is necessary for emergency services access.