2012-03-17 / News

Forced annexation is off the table

By Charles Prince

Millersport Mayor Dean Severance, left, administers the oath of office to new Millersport Fire Chief Matt Bergum who has served as acting fire chief since January 1. Beacon photo by Charles Prince. Millersport Mayor Dean Severance, left, administers the oath of office to new Millersport Fire Chief Matt Bergum who has served as acting fire chief since January 1. Beacon photo by Charles Prince. MILLERSPORT - The threat of forced annexation into Millersport is dead or never existed, Mayor Dean Severance and council members said Tuesday night.

The issue arose last month as council members were discussing how to fix a looming crisis in the village’s general revenue fund. Council member Kenny Munday suggested looking at annexation, specifically the 700-800 homes outside the village that have Millersport water service. Munday said forced annexation has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Ohio (Bakke v. Perrysburg). The comments sparked an immediate negative reaction from West Bank, Lieb’s Island and South Bank residents, including calls to council members and Letters to the Editor in The Beacon.

Tuesday night the issue came up when South Bank residents Ron and Trudy Craig asked about it. “I’m not for forced annexation,” Council President Dave Levacy quickly told them. He did express some frustration with Millersport providing services to township residents without receiving anything in return. “We (Millersport Police) get called frequently for mutual aid and we get nothing for it,” Levacy explained. He added that the majority of the swimmers at the village pool are from outside the village.

“We see no advantages for annexation,” Ron Craig said, noting that they already pay taxes for fire and EMS services.

“We don’t need bailed out,” Levacy said. “We’re not looking for the golden egg,” Severance added. Levacy said if it turns out the village can’t afford the police department, it will have to be disbanded. Craig indicated that township residents might be interested in paying something for Millersport police protection, mentioning $100 a home. Levacy said it would have to be much higher than that.

“I’m not for forcing anything,” council member Donna Thogmartin added.

“We aren’t going to do this unless we have a majority,” council member Gary Methany said. He mentioned that last summer some township residents came to a council meeting asking about being annexed into the village. Police protection was their primary concern.

Council member Charles Mesko said he isn’t interested in forced annexation. He also noted quite a bit of interest in Millersport police protection. “None of us are in favor of forced annexation,” he said.

Council member Jim Wright was absent and Severance announced that Munday had resigned for health and personal reasons. Any village resident interested in filling his vacancy should send a letter of interest/resume to Severance by Wednesday, March 28. Applicants must also be a registered voter.

In other business Tuesday night, the village pool received at least a short reprieve. Mayor’s assistant Vince Popo said American Leak Detection quoted a fee of $675 to check for leaks in the pool’s plumbing with an accuracy of six inches or less. However, the equipment won’t be able to detect structural leaks. Popo believes it is a plumbing leak somewhere in the skimmers since the water level doesn’t drop once it is below the skimmers. Levacy, owner of Buckeye Lake Marina, said his company will pay for American Leak’s services. He warned, “If the leaks are extensive, forget it.”

Popo said his letter in The Beacon requesting volunteers to help save the pool brought some response, but more volunteers are needed. Tena Singleton of the Millersport Fire Association volunteered to do a chicken dinner fundraiser for the pool. She believes it could raise $2,000. If the pool doesn’t open, the money would go to the fire association. Popo said elementary school students will do a Pennies for the Pool campaign with the winning classroom receiving a pizza party.

He also suggested increasing the incentive to buy a pool membership before the pool opens. Memberships would continue at $200 per family, but increase to $250 if bought after May 31. The $20 fee to add another family member to a family membership might be increased to $30. A total of 42 family memberships were sold last year. Popo plans to ask the Apostolic Camp to increase their payment for use of the pool.

Council’s Finance Committee will continue their discussion on thepool’sfutureata7p.m.meeting on Monday, March 26.

Millersport now has a permanent fire chief. Council members unanimously approved a resolution naming Matt Bergum fire chief. He had been serving as acting chief since January 1. Severance said two candidates applied for the job and he interviewed both. Bergum will serve a one-year probationary period and will be paid the same $7,500 per year that his predecessor, Bill Yates received. The vacancy was created when Bill Yates resigned when he took office as a Walnut Township Trustee.

Bergum also presented the department’s recommendation for a new squad. After considerable deliberation, the committee decided to go again with a Horton squad body. It will be the same size as the last squad, but will be on a Ford F-550 body. The new squad will be based at the Fairfield Beach station and will be the department’s first four-wheel drive squad. The cost, off the state bid list, is $179,349. The department has a pending application for a zero percent loan to purchase the squad, but Bergum has a backup five-year lease at 3.5 interest. The annual payment would be $38,712. It would be an appropriation lease as is the lease for the village’s two new police cruisers. That means if the village could no longer afford the lease, they could simply turn over the equipment to the leasing company and not owe anything else.

Bergum asked for approval to purchase the squad since it has an eight to ten month leadtime. The decision on how to finance the purchase will be delayed until a decision is received on the zero percent loan application. Council members unanimously approved the purchase.

Street Superintendent Gilbert Arnold is still waiting for the plans to rebuild Laker Drive. The project has been approved for Ohio Public Works Commission funding assistance. Arnold said he is planning the brush pickup for the last two weeks of April. Brush will have to be set as close to the road as possible as village workers will not go onto private property to pick it up.

Renewal letters for the villageowned boat docks along the canal are out. The rates are the same as last year - $300 for residents and $400 for non-residents.

Water and sewer customers will be paying more effective April 1. Council members unanimously approved the new rates after three readings. No one commented when the increase ordinance was presented at the January, February and March council meetings.

The village’s two-year exclusive contract for residential and commercial solid waste disposal with Big O Refuse Inc. expires at the end of March. The contract includes a renegotiation/renewal clause. “Big O has approached us with new rates,” Severance told council members. The company proposed small increases for a new two-year contract. The new rates are:

• Residential service: Resident furnishes container - $12.75 per month and $11.75 per month for senior citizens; Company furnishes container - $14.25 per month and $13.25 per month for senior citizens;

• Businesses and institutional service: $3.95 per cubic yard.

The renewed contract also continues the 50 percent discount for Walnut Township Local School District and the free service for village properties including the police, street, water and waste water treatment departments, the pool, both fire stations and the village office.

“I think this is a good deal,” Mesko said, noting that fuel prices are increasing significantly. The new prices are guaranteed for the next two years. “I haven’t heard any complaints (about Big O service),” Severance added. Council members waived the three reading rule and unanimously approved the two-year renewal.

Severance set a meeting for 7 p.m. on Monday, April 2, to review the update to the village’s zoning code and regulations. Council’s next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10.

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