The public portion of Tuesday’s Bellville Village Council regular meeting was a short 30 minutes, followed by the calling of an executive session to discuss imminent litigation. Topics in the first half of the meeting included a new water fountain, road improvements, several emergency utility ordinances, the election of two council members to a board for an auxiliary police officers’ fund, and the possibility of a Splash Park.
The Village Council Parks, Buildings, and Grounds Committee is in the early stages of research on the viability of constructing the Splash Park, which is a recreational area for water play that features little to no standing water. This type of water attraction eliminates the need for lifeguards at the site. Mayor Darrell Banks alerted council members that he had looked into insurance for such a facility and found those costs to be negligible. When talking to officials elsewhere who already have similar recreational areas, it was found that, in general, operating costs are low. It was noted that some municipalities with Splash Parks are funding free public use of their facility by charging a fee for private parties scheduled outside of public access hours.
In keeping with the theme of liquid refreshment, Banks also told council members of a new water fountain recently supplied by Richland Public Health. This replaces the former drinking fountain by the depot, which was starting to show signs of wear. While the new fountain of course allows individuals to quench their thirst in the traditional way, it also features a fixture that permits a user to place a water bottle directly under a spigot to easily refill the container, instead of needing to tilt it as one would with a regular drinking fountain. Banks commented that the new dispenser was in a good spot, since the fountain was very close to the B & O bike trail. The new fountain will be maintained by the Village.
Three emergency ordinances were approved by Council during the meeting. The first was for resurfacing on the Route 97 highway project; the motion was approved unanimously. Both motions for a natural gas and also an electric emergency ordinance were approved, allowing for the optimization of rates available to residents.
“Last fall the voters of the Village of Bellville were given the opportunity to vote on whether to seek aggregation — to bid out the gas and electric as an entire Village,” explained Mayor Banks on Wednesday. “Lexington did also, and the bidding will hopefully come in with the increase in customers – as we plan to bid as one unit (Bellville/Lexington).” Council had researched the aggregation issue and then took it to the voters last year. The residents of Bellville approved the ordinance, and now Council is putting that plan into action.
“To make it happen, we have to complete a lot of pay work,” commented the Mayor on Wednesday. Banks said that an agreement was signed with Aspen Energy, which is the company organized to bid the gas/electric aggregation. Following that, a certified copy of a newspaper ad for hearings was required. Banks said that two public hearings were then held for both gas and electric. It was after the hearings that the election was held and the certified results were submitted. Following that, a completed PUCO application was required and a plan document was worked out with Aspen Energy. At Tuesday’s Council meeting, the members accepted those plan documents.
In addition to brokering better rate plans for these utilities, the Village is also working to make road improvements in the near future. Council members were notified that $100,000 has been approved for Village street repairs. Roads that have been identified as in the worst conditions will be given first priority, and streets on the list will continue to be repaired until the funds are depleted. Among those targeted are Durbin Avenue and Robert Place. To help defray costs, labor fees for the project will be shared with the township.
Law Director Sarah Mussman suggested that the Council move to elect two members to a newly-forming Peace Officers’ Dependents’ fund board during the meeting, since the body is required to be established by April 23. The function of the board will be to file a claim for funds to help dependents of an auxiliary officer if he or she is disabled or killed in the line of duty. Councilmen Bruce Snyder and Richard Osborn were nominated and unanimously approved.
Because Banks recently won the Republican nomination for this fall’s Richland County Commissioner race, near the end of the public portion of the meeting discussion turned to the fact that he is now a step closer to vacating the mayoral office. If Banks wins the Commissioner seat this fall, in his stead President Pro Tempore David Griffin would preside until residents of the Village vote in November 2017 for a new Bellville mayor, who would take office in 2018.