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Village to insist that Canal Drive remain open during festival

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT – The village’s brand new park on Lancaster Street will have its first organized event on Saturday, September 22. Jeff Dupler with the Millersport Community Theatre asked council members Tuesday night for permission for the group to put on a free concert from 6 – 7 p.m. His request was quickly approved.

David Pierce with Weldon’s Ice Cream made a strong appeal to keep Canal Drive open during the Sweet Corn Festival. He said “home rule” means the village gets to make the decisions about closing roads, not the Lions Club or its security contractor, the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office. “The issue is to get these people (festival visitors) on the grounds and emptying their pockets,” Pierce added. “I suggest we exercise our ‘home rule.” We need to say you aren’t closing our street.”

Mayor Gary Matheny said the village needs a working relationship with the sheriff’s office since “we can’t run it with our officers.” He confirmed that the Lions Club has always paid for the special-duty deputies. Pierce and council member Jim McKittrick, who has a Lancaster Street business, said festival traffic on Wednesday evening last year was backed up all the way to Ohio 37 and possibly I-70.

Millersport Police Chief Mark Consolo said problems with the contractors parking cars on the festival lot caused that backup. He said he personally pitched in and parked hundreds of cars. Pierce said the Lions need more than two entrances into their large parking lot and should reopen some entrances that haven’t been used for a few years.

After some more discussion, Matheny said, “I’ll just tell them we have to have Canal open on Wednesday.” He said he got it reopened last year when it was closed on Friday.

In other business Tuesday night, Bill Collinson and Jeff Ritter of Bike Buckeye Lake gave a preview of the group’s Tour de Buckeye Lake on Saturday, August 25, and its long-term plans for a safe bike trail around Buckeye Lake. Last year’s inaugural tour drew 224 riders; they hope to have 400 to 500 this year. Three courses (12, 25 or 38 miles), all starting and ending at the Buckeye Lake Winery, are available. Pre-registration is $35 per rider via www.bikebuckeyelake.org.

Collinson said Tour proceeds will be used to help fund bike trails around the lake and to buy bicycles for needy children at Christmas. Last year, 176 children around the lake received a new bike, lock and helmet. He called the soon-to-be-completed 4.1-mile multi-purpose roadway being built on the new dam a unique attraction in Ohio. He expects it will attract biking families from all over central Ohio.

Council members had an extended discussion about when to dedicate the new Lancaster Street park. Village administrator Vince Popo suggested a 2 p.m. ceremony on Sunday, September 9.

In his brief report, Consolo said he will be meeting with the multi-county Major Crimes Unit Commander Dennis Lowe about several issues in the village. Last March, Lowe told village officials, “If Millersport needs us, we will be here.” The unit swept the Millersport area in February seeking 14 drug traffickers. A man wanted by the State of California on a murder charge was removed from the Lynn Avenue apartments during that sweep.

The Veterans Memorial, that used to be just west of the village complex, has been moved to the now village-owned Millersport Cemetery. Matheny said he has received a number of comments about how good it looks there.

Council members unanimously suspended the three-reading rule and adopted an ordinance designating village council as the appeals board for the property maintenance code.

Zoning inspector Bill Simpson, who is also serving as the volunteer general contractor for the village’s spec home going up on Broad Street, reported that the siding, drywall and electrical work have been completed. He is expecting a paint bid yet this week. Simpson interviewed several prospective realtors late last month about listing the property. He said they all advised waiting until it is almost finished before listing it.

Richard Waugh, with the village’s engineering firm ADR & Associates, said a decision is expected any day now on the village’s application for a $450,000 Neighborhood Revitalization Grant. Waugh said the village has four big prospective projects. At the top of the list is a water tower. Issues to be considered are one tank versus two, size of the tank(s) and how to fund it. He said the purchase of a backup iron filter for the water treatment plant has been pushed back. Though the original iron filter in the new plant failed prematurely, he said the new one is only a couple of years old, giving them more time to confirm the costs and funding alternatives. The third project is an equalization basin for the wastewater treatment plant that allows it to hold storm surges so the plant isn’t overwhelmed. The next steps are to study size options and to seek a grant for lateral replacements. Paving, is the fourth project, which will be held until after the November election to see if voters approve a five year, five-mill street levy.

Council members also heard the first reading of a resolution establishing fire inspection fees for commercial properties. The proposed fees range from $50 to $150 for plan reviews/permits, final inspections, group home inspections, commercial kitchen hoods, fuel stations, sprinkler inspections and above ground storage tank inspections. There will no fees for annual fire inspections.

A Tower Alley resident asked about plans to reverse the direction of the one-way roadway currently running north to south. Resident Charles Nagle, speaking for five other homeowners at the July 24 council meeting, said the change in direction would increase current safety concerns. With the current direction, at least students walking home in the afternoon would be facing traffic. Council members agreed to suspend the three-reading rule on July 24 and then rejected the resolution by a 5-1 vote. Council member John Hitchcock was the only “yes” vote. When the resident learned council had rejected the change in direction, he thanked them and left.

Council’s next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 28, at the village complex.

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