BUCKEYE LAKE – How can the village help residents who fall victim to accidents during dam construction, residents Jeff and Lisa Keyes asked Buckeye Lake Village Council members Monday night.
“There was a lot of damage to our home, especially,” Lisa Keyes said. She said her Rosebraugh Circle home had a particularly thick coating of concrete dust after a silo on the nearby concrete bulk plant was overfilled, sending a large cloud of Portland cement over the neighborhood around 5 a.m. Saturday. OSHA considers Portland cement hazardous due to its skin corrosion/irritation, eye damage, skin sensitization and carcinogenicity/inhalation effects.
Keyes asked council members what they believe the village’s responsibility is when accidents happen during dam construction and residents’ health is placed at risk. “It’s our understanding that proper procedures weren’t followed,” Keyes said. She said many people were not notified or considered after the concrete accident. “We have hardened cement on almost every surface,” Keyes said. “Right now there is a construction site in the middle of a neighborhood 30 feet from residential people with carcinogen material flying into the air.” What happens, she asked, if there’s a bigger emergency?
“Construction workers are wearing respiratory masks and we’re being told we’re safe. What is the relationship between the state and Buckeye Lake Village?” Keyes asked. She said many people are suffering respiratory issues. Keyes said she can’t trust information from dam project spokesperson Ian Nickey. “He’s a PR guy who’s going to tell you everything you want to hear,” she said. “He has double-talked to me and multiple other neighbors in contradictory terms.”
Council President Kitty Zwissler said she would soon meet with construction contractor representatives. “I agree with you,” Zwissler said. “We should have some information.”
Council member Tim Ryan said the issue should not be handled in a public relations setting with ODNR and contractor representatives. He said when the dam project “fiasco” began, residents were told failure of the dam was imminent, and there was a mock evacuation training session and other activities. “”Where’s the training and where’s the help for people when the subcontractor spoils properties? Nothing! This is a mess,” Ryan said.
Keyes said she believes ODNR knew months in advance there would be a cement plant built for the dam project, but never informed residents or advised them what they should do in case of an emergency. “How can they get away with that,” Keyes said. She said the company hired to clean up the concrete dust was ill equipped for the size of the job and workers are literally falling asleep on the job, which led to the concrete dust accident. “How do we protect the citizens,” Keyes said.
“The contamination in this village is unconscionable,” Jeff Keyes said.
“This is a health hazard,” Lisa Keyes said.
“We’ve been told and treated just like you have,” said council member Robert Masone. No one contacts the mayor or village. And, when the village asks questions, the PR representative is the only contact. “I believe it’s mistreatment of the whole village,” he said.
“I have zero trust in anyone with ODNR,” Keyes said.
Zwissler said she sympathizes with the Keyes and all residents the construction is affecting.
Council member Peggy Wells said the village should contact the state directly or Gov. John Kasich and demand more information regarding the project.
“The state has treated the village, council, and mayor like the proverbial mushroom,” Masone said. “They’ve kept us in the dark and fed us crap. They’ve told us nothing and I don’t see that changing.” He said some people associated with the village have given up trying to receive information from ODNR. “They stonewall you trying to get factual information,” Masone said. “I went to many of those meetings at the (Buckeye Lake Winery) to hear nothing truthful. They caused this; Buckeye Lake Village didn’t cause this. They tell us nothing! There’s no way for us to have a plan because you can’t plan for stuff they won’t tell you about.”
The issue will be further discussed during a public safety committee meeting May 13, 6:15 p.m. at the village offices. It is a public meeting.
In other council news:
• Council members declared their desire to rescind approval of a treasurer’s report which included a $5,818.39 phone bill resulting from an alleged ‘hacking’ incident of the village phone system, involving international phone calls placed November 4, 2015. “I personally want to take back my approval of last month’s treasurer’s report,” Wells said. “I really don’t plan on approving any future treasurer’s reports until more clarification is given. It’s not a condemnation of the fiscal officer at all,” Wells said. It’s a concern for my personal liability because we each have a fidiciary responsibility in approving the payment of our expenses. Wells said she wasn’t aware that the treasurer’s report included payment for a fraudulent phone bill.
“I would do the same,” Wolfe said agreeing with Wells. He said he would like to see a check register included with the treasurer’s report.
At the April 25 council meeting, Mayor Clay Carroll reported someone hacked into the village’s telephone system and ran up a $16,000 bill for international calls. He said he negotiated the bill down and the FBI is investigating the circumstances. He said the April payment of $5,818.39 was necessary to keep Time Warner from shutting down phone and internet service.
Ryan said he wouldn’t have approved the treasurer’s report either had he known about the phone issue. He wondered why the village didn’t contact the solicitor before paying the $5,300. “I would not have voted to approve it had I known the facts of the telephone situation,” Ryan said. “I would have wanted to know where the money came from and why the solicitor wasn’t consulted.” He said he wouldn’t approve the existing treasurer’s report either.
Zwissler agreed. “I feel we weren’t given enough information and the information we got was contradictory to the facts,” she said, adding she would rescind her approval of the previous treasurer’s report if she could. A motion to approve the current treasurer’s report failed 0 – 6. Council Member Arletta Ruton and Mayor Clay Carroll were absent.
• There will be a kick-off celebration for the Community Garden Workshop presented by the Licking County Master Gardeners at Ryan-Braden Park Saturday, May 14, noon to 2 p.m. The Buckeye Lake Fire Department will be represented during the event, which may also feature a visit from a Lifeflight helicopter.