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Village may raze Leatherman house

THORNVILLE – After 28 years, it’s time to make a decision.

Thornville council members debated the fate of a home willed to the village in 1980 by the late Mary Leatherman, who asked that the home, next door to the Thornville Post Office, be used as a community recreation center, a doctor’s office, or be destroyed if neither use was possible. Most of council agreed that neither use was possible.

Village Administrator Ron Koehler said it could cost up to $280,000 to bring the old house up to the necessary specifications to become a recreation center or a doctor’s office, and the village doesn’t have that much to spend. Council member Ron Dittoe said he understood that the house could no longer be insured and poses a liability threat to the village.

Council member Terry Lynn, formerly Thornville’s mayor, said the situation is complicated because the village has both accepted and denied the Leatherman property on various occasions since 1980.

Current Mayor Beth Patrick suggested inviting village solicitor Michael Crites before council to discuss options.

“We can beat this thing to death,” said Council President Dick Krumlauf. Basically, the options are acknowledging the will and leveling the house, or defying the will and letting it stand. He made a motion to rescind (or cancel) the ordinance to accept the Leatherman property. Patrick broke a tie council vote by voting no. “I don’t know enough about it yet,” she said.

Lynn made a motion to honor the will. Since the village can’t meet the requirements set forth in the will-convert the house to a recreation center or doctor’s office-he suggested tearing down the house and dividing any money left over from the sale of the property between executors of the estate.

Council member Mary Renner suggested having the public facility and safety committee review the situation before a decision is made.

“I don’t know how much more talk there is,” said Krumlauf.

Dittoe said the house can’t be used for its intended purpose and it may not be insurable. In short, he said it’s a liability to the village.

Renner said no one has looked for grant money to improve the house. “How many more older houses are we going to tear down?” she asked, adding that she was speaking for the people who want to retain Thornville’s heritage.

Resident Gene Raab said parking at the Leatherman house would be a major issue. “It’s a great old house,” he said, but realistically it’s in disrepair.

Resident Terry Anderson agreed. “Look at the liabilities,” he said. “Something’s got to be done.” Leatherman’s wish was to raze the house if it couldn’t be used otherwise, and that’s what should be done, said Anderson.

Renner was concerned Thornville’s history will be lost if the village destroys old homes rather than find ways to restore them. She wanted to spend more time looking for means to save the Leatherman house.

Referring to Leatherman’s plans for the house, Krumlauf said, “It’s a wonderful thing, but it’s a pipe dream.”

All council members, except Renner, voted to create an ordinance to honor Leatherman’s wishes, which would lead to tearing down the house. It’s important to note, however, that council’s action Monday night does not give permission to level the house immediately. The vote only gives permission for the ordinance to be created. Council will vote on the ordinance during a future meeting.

In a related issue, resident Cyndi Neal sent a letter to the village asking officials to explore ways of saving the old Hardware store building in downtown Thornville. The building is officially condemned and may be sold at sheriff’s auction soon. “Thornville needs to be proud and protective of our rich historic heritage,” she said. Neal wondered if the Ohio Historical Society could render any assistance.

In other council news:

• There was surprisingly little discussion among council members about returning a proposed countywide police mutual aid contract to the public facility and safety committee for further review. Everyone agreed that mutual aid is necessary and important, but some council members had questions about the proposed contract’s language.

Koehler said the questions center around a provision within the proposed contract stating that Thornville officers can travel out of the village to provide mutual aid without a request from another community. If officers believe there’s a problem elsewhere in Perry County, they are free to go there. Also, Thornville officers have total jurisdiction to write tickets and make arrests in the contracted area.

Patrick said discussions will not change the language of the resolution passed in the previous council meeting that defined the need for mutual aid, and, she said, Thornville Police Chief Nick Garver “didn’t have a problem” with the review of the proposed contract.

• Patrick said she spoke with Thorn Township Trustee Tim Phipps about the township contracting with the village for police protection in addition to the Perry County Sheriff’s Department. Patrick stressed that discussions are in a very preliminary stage and there have been no formal talks or agreements. If it were to happen, she said, there would be no change in Thornville Police Department personnel.

Resident and former council member Jim Royer warned council to be careful of a township contract. Discussions of which have caused tension between the township and village in the past.

• Monday was council member Charley Hale’s final meeting; he announced his resignation during the previous meeting. He served on council for six and a half years. Council is advertising to fill the vacant position. Letters of interest/resumes are due by Thursday, July 31.

• Line-up for the Thornville Fourth of July parade is 9:30 a.m. at the Thornville Elementary School, and the parade begins at 11 a.m.

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