CIRCLEVILLE — A larger-than-usual crowd turned out for Circleville City Council Tuesday night with several in the audience addressing city council ahead of several passed pieces of legislation.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Walter Karschner was first to speak. His concerns were regarding the property at 114 Watt Street, the building that has since been demolished that used to be occupied by Wagner’s Flowers, asking if there was any permitting done on the demolition, if any fines were levied and if any asbestos remediation was taken.
Karschner also spoke about Tim Reeves, director of operations for Elite Construction.
“I would like to know if the mayor is aware that Mr. Reeves was put in violation by the Ohio EPA, if the citizens and local business owners were told about a potential asbestos hazard for the building being torn down overnight, I’d like some answers to these questions,” Karschner said.
Council President Barry Keller suggested Karschner set a time to meet with Mayor Don McIlroy to answer those questions, as Keller was unaware of the answers to Karschner’s questions.
Karschner also asked about some removed fuel tanks that he said had an unknown liquid in there.
“[Former Service Director Terry Frazier] stated Mr. Reeves had stated the tanks were filled with sand and were inert…but I have video of the tanks while I was walking on the sidewalk and there was no sand in them; they were open with liquid coming out of them,” Karschner said.
“I think any reasonable person would see this is a habit of Mr. Reeves to work in the dark and behind barriers, immediately hauling the evidence away. I think this is absolutely ridiculous because if I have to build a garage, I have to get the permits, but to my knowledge, nothing has been done.”
Following Karschner’s comments, Patricia Hamilton spoke against electric consolidation after going through the process herself.
The matter to put electric aggregation on the ballot was defeated due to not having enough votes to place it on the ballot in time for the May Primary.
Keller previously stated council had no current plans to bring it back up following that vote.
“I found out there wasn’t that much of a benefit,” she said.
“Any of you council members can go to Sam’s Club, consolidate with Just Energy and find out it is not as good of a deal as what AEP and Columbia Gas can give you.
“I even got a $50 early termination fee because they failed to tell me I had to sign up for three years. I had to call them and tell me there was nothing in the contract, so they waived it. The people of the City of Circleville don’t need that headache at all.”
Council Member Todd Brady was then questioned by Hamilton, who ultimately accused him of tax fraud or election fraud based on the fact that he has a property in Hocking County she said was listed as owner/resident.
“I would like to ask Mr. Brady why you are on city council if you are have an owner-occupied property in Hocking County and you own a property in Circleville, and you can sit on city council where you are now.”
After and during some heated back and forth between Brady and Hamilton, Brady said he has a vacation home that he’s “working on in a consistent basis” and that he has an apartment that he stays at in town.
Keller told Hamilton that he’s “sure the board of elections validates candidates” and to that, Hamilton told him she’d be checking in with them.
Another speaker was Beth Mason, a member of the city’s park and recreation board, who asked council where they could go for information or advice, stating she had no idea about Sunshine Laws or what to do following what she called harassment of the board both during meetings and on their own time.
“We had some issues last week; they’ve already been resolved, but we’re going to work and do what we’ve got to do for the kids in this community,” she said.
“There’s a virtual training class on the Ohio Attorney General’s Office website about Sunshine Laws and I’m going to take it and encourage other board members to take it.”
McIlroy, in addition to a couple council members, said if Mason or other board members had questions, they could advise them as best as they would or could.
“I can give you advice,” McIlroy said. “The service director also can give you advice.”
Fellow board member Tyler Cruz also spoke on the subject of the harassment.
“I want to thank the mayor; we definitely take your apology for the confusion and we thank every single one of you for listening to us today,” he said.
Cruz said he wanted to do what’s best for the community and his future children.
“I want to make sure my future child has the access and feels the safety and desire for growth,” he said.
“I want to make sure I assure city council and the mayor that we’re working to make sure our kids have something to do as our community as a whole. People my age are looking for communities outside Columbus and the part I’ll say we’re lacking is strong parks and rec.”
Following Cruz and Mason, Jeff Carithers said he had spent part of his career investigating harassment and recommended to Circleville City Council to immediately enact a policy for sexual harassment for volunteer boards if it’s not already in place.
“We shouldn’t rely on volunteers to know what to do, and it should be handed out who they report to and it should be in the city ordinances,” he said.
Keller suggested that Carithers speak directly with the city’s HR director to ensure the policy is added, if not already.
During the meeting, McIlroy announced the new Public Safety Director Tomi Dorris, who started Monday and announced the code enforcement officer, Hannah Wynne, who is to start later this month
“[Wynne] has worked as an intern for us and part time in the service department,” McIlroy said. “She’s spent a great deal of time with the new zoning code, helping us write it and I think she’s going to be a good asset.”
Council approved several ordinances, including assessing various properties taxes for abatement of nuisances on those properties, implementing a mandate for the new water meter installation, contracting with ODOT to purchase road salt for next winter, allowing the service director to enter into a contract to repair some city sewer lines, and another piece of legislation to enter into a sponsor agreement with Appalachia Ohio Alliance, which in turn will lower the interest on the money borrowed for the new water treatment plant that is currently in the construction process.