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Resident asks council members to treat each other with respect

BUCKEYE LAKE – Another contentious Buckeye Lake Village Council meeting Monday night prompted a plea from a relatively new resident.

Cindy Stewart, wife of Zoning Inspector Doug Stewart, said, “These are the most painful, rude meetings I have ever attended.” Stewart is very familiar with public meetings having worked in municipal government for years. She is currently the Administrative Assistant to Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard.

Stewart asked council members to start treating each other with respect. “Please be kind to one another and run respectful meetings.”

Much the hostility starts with council member Arletta Ruton with assistance from council member Bob Masone MD. Ruton has been battling the lease of the village-owned drive-thru building to John and Deb Julian for several meetings. She moved to rescind the lease at the July 9 council meeting, but lost by a 4-3 vote. Rutonhas repeatedly claimed that the Julians were unfairly given preferential treatment when, in fact, they were the only prospective lessees to agree to council members’ insistence on a maximum two-year lease.

Ruton has been demanding for weeks that she be able to review the Julians’ financial information provided to the mayor and Finance Committee chair. Two weeks ago she questioned their financial fitness by bringing up a mechanic’s lien placed on their newly constructed Cranberry Bay home.

During public comments Monday night, Deb Julian responded. She thanked the council members who supported the drive-thru lease. She said they have a pending fraud/negligence case against their home builder. Julian assured council members that they have the financial resources to rent the drive-thru for $1,200 a month. Julian said she has been a banker for 34 years and her husband, John, has been a Columbus firefighter for 20 years.

Julian added that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. She suggested that Ruton worry about her own finances. Ruton angrily interrupted Julian, ultimately claiming, “It is coming from the mayor.” Julian said they were speaking for themselves and that Ruton’s comments about them prompted her response. Council President Kitty Zwissler cut off the rest of Julian’s three minutes.

During unfinished business, Masone said he had made contact with a transcription service in Columbus. While he didn’t get a price estimate, he believes each council meeting’s recording could be turned into a complete transcript for about $100. He believes it is worth $200 a month to have “accurate and complete” minutes to be posted on the village’s website. Council members unanimously asked Wells to get quotes for the service.

During department head reports, new Police Chief Vickie Wardlow said the department’s policies and procedures are “extremely outdated.” She asked council to consider contracting with Lexipol to produce updated policies and procedures that comply with Ohio law. Fire Chief Clifford Mason asked two months ago to use Lexipol to update the fire department’s policies and procedures. Council agreed and much of the cost is being offset by discounts from the village’s liability insurance carrier. Similar discounts might be available for the police department review.

Mason presented a written report, adding that he is also working with the Code Enforcement Officer on some of the village’s hazardous properties. Code Enforcement Officer Rex Atkins earlier reported that he had 10 active cases plus was following up on 22 complaints. He has done a second round of high grass and weed notices.

Zoning Inspector Doug Stewart also presented a written report, adding, “We’re still looking at dangerous properties in the village. Stewart is also checking on some dangerous practices at some local businesses. Council member Doug Poorman DVM thanked Stewart for doing some electrical repairs at the Harbor Community Center. Stewart is a retired union electrician.

Council members unanimously approved two ordinances. The first approves a change in the Hunts Landing Road renovation project by increasing the full depth reclamation from six to 12 inches to provide a stronger and longer lasting roadway. The project came in well below the engineer’s estimate and most of it is being funded by an Ohio Public Works Commission grant.

The second ordinance made adjustments to the village’s pay ordinance.

During the second opportunity for public comments, former Police Officer Jeff Haas said he hasn’t been able to get personal items out of the police department. Wells repeated what she had previously told him. She said new police chief initiated an audit by an outside agency and until that audit is complete nothing can be released. Former police chief Jimmy Hanzey yelled that he too had personal items in the police station.

During council members’ comments, Ruton warned, “I’m the last person you want to threaten or intimidate.” She continued to claim that Wells had her friends intimidate her.

Zwissler reminded everyone that Alex and Lori Fischer have put up a $10,000 challenge grant to benefit the new Harbor Community Center. That means the couple will donate a dollar for every dollar donated up to $10,000. Contributions, payable to Harbor Community Center, should be mailed to PO Box 358, Buckeye Lake, OH 43008. She added that the firefighters association is sponsoring a spaghetti dinner from 4 – 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 4, to benefit the new center. Take-out and delivery will be available.

Two committee meetings are scheduled before the next regular council meeting. Council member John Geiger’s Rules Committee will meet at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 30, to continue the committee’s review of the existing council rules. Ruton’s Public Service Committee will meet at 6 p.m. on Monday, August 6, for an update on the storm water utility and other projects. Council’s next regular session is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, August 13.

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