BUCKEYE LAKE – Monday night, Buckeye Lake Village Council members unanimously agreed to enter into a lease agreement with the T.J. Evans Foundation to take over operation of the former LEADS building, near Hebron Road and W. 1st Street.
The lease payment is very nominal but the village will be responsible for all maintenance and operating expenses. Several council members emphasized several times that the village could break the lease at anytime if the building becomes a financial liability. The plan is to use the building as community center.
Before council voted to approve the lease, council member Arletta Ruton asked if anyone looked into maintenance costs for the structure. “I think it’s a good idea,” she said, but there are expenses involved.
“There are concerns,” said council President Kitty Zwissler, but there are also options. She said the village could rent out a couple of the rooms to help cover utility costs.
Council member Doug Poorman said the estimated monthly utility costs averaged $500 for the building. He said earlier in the meeting that replacing a partial roof and improving its façade would cost roughly $25,000.
Mayor Clay Carroll said the village fiscal officer is also concerned about the building’s expenses, but Carroll said the village could break the lease at any time. “It’s definitely something we want to keep an eye on,” he said.
Council member Tim Ryan said he agreed with Ruton. “I’ve questioned what we’re going to do with it all along,” he said. “I love the idea of having a community center, but how do we pay for it in the meantime?” Ryan said the village may want to have a definite plan for the building before entering into a lease. He wondered if the village was rushed to enter into the lease.
“Who pays the taxes?” Ruton asked. “I truly believe we need a community center of some type, but we have to be realistic with the budget.”
There are no property taxes assessed on the building since it is owned by a non-profit foundation.
Zwissler said the village has had many meetings on the subject and the village has an obligation to provide “some source of enjoyment” for its residents, especially juveniles and seniors. “I think we can enter into the lease with our eyes wide open knowing that if we can’t manage it, we can get it revoked,” she said. Zwissler said the danger of not signing the lease is some entrepreneur would acquire the building. “It’s safer for us to get the building,” she said.
Poorman said others are interested in the building. He said the Evans Foundation has been patient for several months and council members need to decide now or expect the opportunity would be lost.
Zwissler said other organizations want to help the village create a community center.
Ruton said the village needs a community center, but she doesn’t want the village to “get into a bind” and scramble to pay the building’s expenses.
“I’m asking for a positive vote on it knowing we have an out,” Zwissler said. “We’ve dragged our feet for too long and I’m afraid we’ll lose it.”
Carroll said if the lease is approved, the village would need to move quickly to do something productive with the building.
Council member Peggy Wells said there may be some “wiggle room” in the budget to cover some expenses. She said Poorman worked very hard to negotiate a lease agreement. “I think it’s an opportunity we don’t want to pass up,” Wells said.
Poorman said the Buckeye Lake Civic Association is the organization most likely to help with the village with a community center. He said he spoke to Licking County YMCA about using the building as a satellite facility.
Poorman said YMCA representatives are more concerned with the number of people who would actually use that facility than financing it. He said Father Bill (Hritsko) of Our Lady of Mount Carmel suggested a fine arts center for crafts.
Council members voted unanimously to enter into the lease.
In other village news:
Wells asked Carroll if council members could receive a report from the zoning inspector more often than once per month. “Is it possible to do that,” she said.
Carroll didn’t think so. He said it would be a lot of extra work for zoning inspector Bob Jordan. “I don’t see the purpose it serves,” Carroll said. He said all other village departments submit a report once per month.
Ryan asked Wells if she meant the reports showing who applies for a permit and sends in a permit fee check.
“Point of order,” Ruton said. “One of the things council needs to start doing is following the council rules. There’s not to be any public bashing.”
“Who’s bashing? I’m asking a question and the mayor’s getting ready to answer it,” Ryan said.
“I think that’s something that should be done in a different type of situation-in a private meeting, not in public,” Ruton said.
“I don’t know what you’re grousing about,” Ryan said.
“I’m not grousing, Tim,” Ruton replied.
“My question was about turning in the checks,” Ryan said. “We brought it up last week.”
“It’s a question of policy, not of condemnation,” Zwissler said.
“Oh, yes it is,” Ruton said.
“I suppose the question of the permits and the checks is unfinished business,” Carroll said, adding that checks are held until permits are approved. “The question was about a check that was held for months and months,” he said. Carroll said one project couldn’t be approved until new legislation was approved regarding garage construction, which took months, and the check sat.
He said the village would try to contact permit applicants and return checks under that circumstance, but applicants tell the village just to hold onto the check. Carroll told Wells she could submit a public records request to see permit applications more often, but he still doesn’t see a reason to ask Jordan to submit a report more often that once per month.
Wells said she wasn’t trying to single out Jordan, she only wants council members to be more informed about village business. She would like to receive more reports from other departments as well, so she can stay informed. “I honestly think we’re the worst informed council around,” Wells said. She said she’s not made aware when new businesses come to town.
Poorman said the village’s planning commission only deals with variances, so its members don’t know who’s coming into town, either.
Later in the meeting, Ruton said regardless of the check and permit situation, council members should not criticize village employees in public, period. “We’re getting away from council rules,” she said. “We’re here to set an example.” Ruton said. She said people tell her when they read about Buckeye Lake Village Council meetings in local media, they say, “You provide entertainment for us,” which Ruton finds shameful.
Council member Robert Masone said despite any bickering or criticism during council meetings, he considers the last six or eight months to have been extremely productive. “We are functioning very efficiently and doing a lot for the people, and I’m proud of it.”
Wells said she supports Ohio’s Sunshine Laws and conducting meetings in public, not in closed sessions. She said the village has a long history of “killing the messenger;” local media does a lot of good for the community and people should support it.
Wells asked Carroll if the village is applying for a Ohio Public Works Commission grant to help fund a storm sewer project in the Neel Addition which they hoped to address a few years ago through a neighborhood revitalization program. She said the village was not approved for a CDBG (Community Development Block Grant), but funding may be available through public works funding but the village must submit an application by Oct. 7. Wells said she believed the village had paid for an engineer’s estimate of project costs.
Wells said Licking County Grant Administrator Sue Spiker was helping others scurry to get their applications in so she may be willing to help the village.
Zwissler said the village could submit for the public works funding with the same information it used for the CDBG.
Council clerk Valerie Hans said public works funding requires 50 percent matching funds. Carroll said they hadn’t planned to apply for grant. “This is the first it’s come up,” he said. “We’ll look into it.”
Carroll said a new crosswalk crossing Ohio 37 near the post office is under construction and nearing completion. It’s waiting for the “finishing touches,” he said.
Buckeye Lake Village Clean-Up Days are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 4 through 8. Dumpsters for trash will be available at the street department behind the Village Office. Dumpers should be prepared to provide proof of residency. Tires will only be accepted for a fee.
Carroll said the restrooms at Ryan/Braden Park may be experiencing a unique form of vandalism since they were unlocked during daylight hours.
“The water usage has been quite a surprise,” he said. Carroll said particularly between 5 and 7 p.m., hundreds of gallons of water are flowing.
He said a definite pattern has yet to be established, but police are monitoring the restrooms closely to see if anyone is intentionally running extra water or causing an overflow.
Wells said she supports the village hiring a part-time development director. She said the village is losing money because it doesn’t have enough personnel to meet grant deadlines. “It’s just too big of a job” for existing staff to be able to devote the necessary time, she said, adding that a part-time development director could be very beneficial to the village.