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Trustee discovers body

UNION TOWNSHIP – Union Township Trustee Rick Black made a grisly discovery June 9 while farming property in Buckeye Lake Village.

“There was this guy, lying there,” he said. “Fortunately, you don’t see things like that too often.” Black said he noticed the person, who was lying on the ground along a fence line, wasn’t breathing and Black called 9-1-1 immediately.

The person was later identified as David Sturgeon, 74, of Buckeye Lake. Buckeye Lake Police Captain James Hanzey said he believed Sturgeon was walking along the field to pick up a truck he’d just had refurbished and collapsed from the heat. Hanzey said Sturgeon had some medical issues and Hanzey figured Sturgeon had been lying in the field for several hours following his death.

Hanzey said Tuesday that he hadn’t received an official cause of death report yet, but he was relatively certain that Sturgeon died from natural causes.

In other township news:

• Monday night, trustees unanimously approved a preannexation agreement for a property at the corner of Ridgley Tract Rd. and Ohio 79 where the Coughlin Auto Group intends to build a Toyota dealership adjacent to Coughlin’s existing Hyundai dealership.

Previously, Heath Division of Building and Zoning Chief John Groff said the Coughlin Group plans to build a Toyota dealership with a 22,000 square feet building on the 5.6-acre site of the “old ODOT lot” at Ohio 79 and Ridgley Tract Road, next to the Hyundai dealership. “That’s in Heath,” said Groff of the Hyundai lot. But, in order for the new Toyota dealership to receive Heath utilities and services, it must be annexed from Union Township into Heath.

Groff estimates construction of the Toyota dealership should begin late August.

Trustee President John Slater said the trustees “made a few tweaks” to the annexation agreement, mainly focusing on maintenance of the road along the lot.

• Slater said JBA Architects’ plans for the Union Township Complex’ interior are ready and trustees are gathering names of potential contractors.

“We don’t have to bid, there’s not that much money involved,” said Black.

“We want to keep this project moving forward,” said Slater.

“We’re not going to do too much,” said JBA Architects Vice President Greg Cotterman previously. He said plans are to use the right side of the building for the Union Township Police Department, which will require two secure doors and a “pass through” window to keep the one- officer department separat- ed from the public. Trustees also want to create a small evidence room. So, Cotterman said total plans call for three doors, the window, and the evidence room.

Slater said he hopes to know which contractors are interested in completing the work by the next trustees meeting, which is at a special time- 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 7. It was pushed back a few days because it was originally scheduled for July 4. Slater said the trustees would have an idea of how much the improvements will cost once they see a few estimates. “We’ll know what kind of a ballpark we’re working in,” he said.

• Slater asked township residents to be patient as the township catches up on grass mowing projects. He said the township fell behind when a side arm mowing unit experienced electrical problems. The unit has been repaired, but it’ll be a while before crews mow some areas of tall grass. “We’re certainly out of our norm,” said Slater. “We’re not nearly caught up.”

• The township has yet to take over an old church and cemetery property, and trustees are in no hurry to do so. Previously, Larry Swain, executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Ohio offered the trustees the abandoned church and possibly the active cemetery at the corner of Canyon and Beaver Run roads. Black said the church and the cemetery are on the same parcel of property, and according to the Ohio Revised Code, a cemetery owner can abandon maintenance responsibility to the township if the owner is no longer able to maintain it. In other words, the township may have no legal choice but to take responsibility for the old church and the cemetery. Since the church has gravesites on its property, then the township would also be required to maintain the old church building.

The American Baptist Churches of Ohio used to own the now Union Township Complex, which was formerly a newer version of the Licking Baptist Church that the township purchased at a foreclosure auction.

“They would like the township to take it over,” said Slater, but so far no one from the American Baptist Churches of Ohio has contacted him to move the process along. “They need to make the decision,” he said. Slater said trustees want the property to be well maintained, but the township doesn’t need the added responsibility.

• Slater said most lake area farmers were able to plant for the season, despite a particularly soggy spring. “We’re certainly fortunate in this area of Ohio. Eighty percent of the crops were planted at the end of May.” He believes he and other farmers will have a decent season following a late planting provided there is not an early frost this season.

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