MILLERSPORT – Time is running out for the Millersport Pool. It will still open for its 43rd season on May 31, but that will be its last, council members agreed Tuesday night.
Karen Severance, Mayor Dean Severance’s wife, said, “Put it (funding the pool) on the ballot and let people vote on it.” While village officials have never expected the pool to make money, they have lost patience with its continuing operating deficits that have averaged about $15,000 a year for the last four years
“The pool is a money pit,” Council President Chuck Mesko added. Even Mayor’s Assistant Vince Popo, who has been the pool’s strongest champion in recent years, admitted he is weary of its continuing deficits and the yearly battle to find enough funds to keep it limping along.
Council members didn’t formally take action to shut down the pool after this season, but no one objected to the plan to do so. Street Commissioner Gilbert Arnold said the money spent annually to subsidize the pool should be used to develop Veterans Park. Most of the park land is the village’s wellfield around its new water treatment plant.
He suggested creating a walking path and basketball courts. These facilities could be used eight to nine months a year compared to just two and a half for the pool.
“We need a park plan before we just start building stuff,” Popo said. Karen Severance suggesting forming a committee to look at park development.
“We’ve discussed everything from horseshoe pits to ball diamonds out there,” Arnold said.
“There are people in the village that are willing to be on the park board,” Popo added. He said volunteers are already planning to build a ball diamond for the Little Lakers baseball this year. A couple council members questioned why council wasn’t involved with the baseball diamond plans.
Both Mayor Dean Severance and Popo explained that the Board of Public Affairs controls the property as its wellfield and had approved the ballfield plans. It would be built with donations and grants, not village funds.
Again, without a vote, council members agreed to revive the Park Board. Any village residents interested in serving on the volunteer board should call Popo at the village hall (467-2333).
Karen Severance’s suggestion to ask voters to determine the pool’s fate could end up becoming a levy request for parks and recreation.
In other business Tuesday night, Popo announced that the old Sohio station on Lancaster Street will be coming now soon. Gas has been shut off, but the lines haven’t been capped. The demolition contractor doesn’t believe capping is necessary so the long-time eye sore could be gone in a matter of days, rather than weeks.
Popo said the Moving Ohio Forward program has some additional money that must be spent by the end of May. Millersport might be able to get two more structures removed. Council members unanimously approved his request to spend $150 for title searches on houses at 2687 Summit St. and 12076 Seventh Ave.
Popo said both could be challenging – the Summit Street house is in an “IRS bankruptcy” and Seventh Avenue is a HUD property. The village’s expenses would be reimbursed if the houses meet the program’s criteria.
In his report, Police Chief Mark Consolo said, “We’ve had a lot of activity in Feb. We had three felony arrests.”
He singled out Senior Officer Matthew Peddicord and Officer Brad May for “their diligent efforts to keep drugs off the streets of Millersport.” He said officers confiscated a significant quantity of marijuana, a large number of needles used to inject heroin and drug paraphernalia last month. Consolo said the force continues to get closer to 24/7 coverage.
Arnold asked council members to declare a 1994 Chevrolet 3500 dump truck surplus for the purpose of selling it at public auction. The truck has about 24,000 miles on it, but its 20 years of hauling salt to treat the streets has taken its toll on the dump bed and the vehicle’s frame. He asked council for permission to use the truck sale proceeds on upgrading the street department barn. He wants to buy door openers for four of the five doors on the barn. Anything left over would be used for building maintenance. Council members heard the first reading of the resolution.
Arnold wants to get back on track with the annual repaving project and repave Terrace this summer. “It is our worse street.” He will work up the specifications for the bid.
Council members heard the first reading of an ordinance “establishing additional street, highway, alley and sidewalk regulations.” One provision is designed to address the concern raised last month by Fire Chief Robert Price about portable basketball backboards being left at the side of the roadway. The hoops are about windshield-high and are difficult to see. The proposed rule reads, “No person shall encumber any street, highway, alley, or sidewalk or being the owner, occupant or person have care of any building or lot of land bordering on any street, highway, alley or sidewalk, permit the same to be encumbered with barrels, boxes, cans, articles or substances of any kind, so as to interfere with the free and unobstructed use thereof.”
It would also address concerns first raised nearly two years ago about residents who leave their trash cans along or even in the roadway all the time. “Who is going to enforce this?” Popo asked. Since the proposed ordinance references Ohio Revised Code Section 723.01 which regulates the use of streets, highways, alley and sidewalks, Mesko said the police department would have jurisdiction. Violations are minor misdemeanors, but can become third or fourth degree misdemeanors based on the number of previous convictions or guilty pleas.
Council members agreed that the proposed ordinance will be heard three times to give residents two opportunities to comment on it before council members vote on it. That means residents could comment on it at the April 8 and May 13 council meetings. The third reading and vote would come at the May 13 meeting.
Discussion grew heated at the end of the meeting as several council members and Karen Severance debated whether the village had responded in a timely manner to the concerns raised about the safety of pedestrians walking along Lancaster Street in front of the Circle K gas station and at the traffic-light controlled intersection with Refugee Street.
Mayor Dean Severance asked ODOT last summer to study the intersection after students returned to school. His request was prompted by concerns about northbound drivers on Lancaster Street passing vehicles waiting to turn left onto Refugee Road by driving into the marked area for pedestrians in front of the Circle K gas station.
Ohio Department of Transportation traffic engineer Ty Thompson told village council members at their Nov. 12 meeting that the village’s only traffic light – at Lancaster and Refugee streets – doesn’t meet any of the department’s criteria.
But the decision to keep it or remove it is solely the village’s to make. Since it is not a state signal or owned by ODOT, Thompson said, “ It is not an ODOT call.”
Thompson said the study was conducted from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12. The signal is not warranted, he reported, based on ODOT’s criteria for volume of traffic, safety (number of crashes in a 12 month period), or the number of pedestrians or students using a crosswalk at the intersection.
He suggested two alternatives to the light. Convert the intersection to a two-way stop with stop signs on Refugee and at the Circle K or into a four-way stop.
“Two-way will be a more efficient operation,” Thompson said, noting that three times as many vehicles are traveling on Lancaster Street as on Refugee.
“There is not that much traffic out there,” he added. “A two-way stop would be safer overall.”
Karen Severance questioned whether residents have been given an opportunity to comment on the future of the traffic light or ODOT’s recommendations. Council members Gary Matheny and Donna Thogmartin believe residents have now had four opportunities – council meetings in December, January, February and March – to comment, but none have. Karen Severance suggested a special meeting to discuss the intersection, but Mayor Dean Severance and council members opted to designate their April 8 meeting as the final opportunity to comment. They plan to make a decision that evening. Arnold will have a plan and cost estimate for a possible barricade to protect pedestrians in front of Circle K ready for the April meeting.
Council members also set the dates for the annual Spring Clean-up: Friday, April 25, for areas north of the canal and Friday, May 2, for areas south of the canal.
Council’s next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8, at the municipal building.