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Finance Committee chair warns of possible financial crisis

BUCKEYE LAKE _ The Village of Buckeye Lake could be in a state of “financial crisis” in 2018 if the budget isn’t handled properly, Buckeye Lake Village Council member Tom Wolfe told council members Monday night.

“We’re going to have about $100,000 less funds (in the budget) than we’ve had in the last couple of years,” he said. “We’ve talked about niceties like a community center,” but the village is more in need of police cruisers, roadwork, and EMS equipment.

“In 2017 we have no room for errors or 2018 is a crisis,” Wolfe said, adding 2017 budget would need close scrutiny. “Without an income tax, no levy, and no grant writer, we’ll have to look at outsourcing and cuts.” He said members of the finance committee and the council would have some very difficult decisions to make as they review the village’s budget in upcoming meetings and prepare to approve a 2017 budget. Wolfe distributed budgetary information booklets to council members. “Please, please review your book,” he said. “We have a financial crisis coming up with $100,000 less to work with. Take it seriously.”

Wolfe said the process of creating a budget required plenty of public input as well. “Please, please, give us your comments,” he said.

Council member Doug Poorman said funding to operate the former LEADS building near Ohio 79 and W. 1st Street as a community building would be raised independently of the village’s budget. The TJ Evans Foundation is leasing the building to the village for a dollar a year but the village is responsible for utilities, maintenance and repairs.

Poorman hopes to find some grant money, “So we can still accept the building.” He’d also welcome contributions from local businesses and organizations, as well as private donations, “So it’s not a burden on the village.”

Poorman said Wednesday he met with the lease project’s steering committee and believes there is private revenue available to go through with the lease. “I feel comfortable we could at least get through the first year,” he said. Poorman said he’s looking at several sources for additional funding and the first year would give him and the committee time to continue the search. Also, he said, the proposed community center may generate its own income and tourism, which would help sustain it far into the future.

In other village news:

• Council members agreed unanimously (council member Peggy Wells was absent) to allow GGC Engineers to the village create a “right of way” use agreement. “This will give the administration some control of utility companies coming in to do work in our right of ways and also generate some revenue to offset the costs of maintaining those right of ways,” said Mayor Clay Carroll.

The agreement is a cost reimbursement program that requires the village to be reimbursed by utilities for its costs to maintain village-owned right of ways used by utility companies. Previously, Carroll said the Village of Lithopolis is doing so and collected roughly $37,000 in revenue last year. He thought Buckeye Lake might potentially collect more.

Monday night, some council members expressed concern over GGC’s $15,000 fee to administrate the program. GGC community development representative Eric Sandine, former mayor of Lithopolis, assured council members the money collected through the program would easily cover the $15,000 fee. “Absolutely, it’s recoverable,” he said.

“When would you expect a check for $15,000,” asked Wolfe.

“It’s not a check for $15,000,” Sandine replied. He said the fee is split up while GGC collects utility revenue. “You’re not going to get a bill for $15,000,” Sandine said. He said both GGC and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio would notify the local utilities that Buckeye Lake entered into the agreement.

Sandine said the utilities could not simply raise rates to cover the right of way costs because they would have to raise rates for everyone they serve, not just Buckeye Lake. “They’re not allowed to just pick on you and raise rates,” San- dine said.

Council clerk Valerie Hans said the money collected through the agreement would help Buckeye Lake Village raise enough money to take advantage of grants requiring matching funds., Hans said currently the village never has money available to apply to a matching grant and loses out on thousands of dollars.

Both Wolfe and council member Tim Ryan said they were reluctant to approve spending $15,000 for the service, but it sounded like a viable agreement so they both voted “yes” along with the rest of council.

• Buckeye Lake Fire Chief Pete Leindecker said the fire association’s Oct. 22 car show was one of its most successful with roughly 188 cars. “We had more people come to that show to look around than we’ve ever had,” he said. Leindecker said car show revenue helps the fire department purchase equipment. “We appreciate the sponsors,” he said, adding the sponsors were Buckeye Lake McDonalds, A-1 Auto Parts, Darrell Riggs Storage, Tim Ryan, Newark Auto Electric, Mike’s Auto Service, Lake Drive-Thru, Mathews Ford, Newark Auto Zone, The Pizza Cottage, and Kleen A Car.

• Licking County Domestic Relations Court Magistrate Tracy Van Winkle attended Monday night’s meeting to tell council members she would like to become Buckeye Lake’s new mayor’s court magistrate. Former Magistrate John Berryhill agreed to resign following complaints of his using profanity in court and acting unprofessionally.

Van Winkle said she handles the county’s “4-D Docket,” or all the cases that come through the child support enforcement agency. “Even though it’s a domestic relations court, it bears a close resemblance to criminal cases because frequently people are being held in contempt of court on that docket,” she said.

Van Winkle said spent more than seven years in the Licking County Prosecutor’s Office felony division. She said she would charge the village a $150 flat rate per session and would not charge for travel expenses to and from the session. “Part of being here is getting here,” Van Winkle said.

• Council president Kitty Zwissler said she’s looking for volunteers to drive people to the polls on Election Day, or to the Licking County Board of Elections in Newark for early voting. Voters needing rides should call (740) 928-4039.

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