CAMDEN — Camden Village Council held their first meeting in the newly renovated Town Hall on Thursday, April 6.
All departments have moved into the building, but the official grand opening will be held on Thursday, May 11, at 7 p.m. In the meantime, the Town Hall is the new home to the village and council meetings will now be held there every month.
During the meeting, council member Kelly Doran recognized Kevin Fogt and Bruce Perry for their efforts in renovating the Town Hall.
“Those two made this project happen. If you would have been in here and seen this place before, I can understand why people thought it couldn’t be done. I wondered myself. I just can’t believe what they have managed to pull off and they have done it beautifully,” Doran said.
Phase Two of the project, according to Doran, will be paid for by renting out the upper portion of the Town Hall for events.
Preble Shawnee Superintendent Matt Bishop attended the meeting to speak on the upcoming bond levy. Speaking with him was board member Jeff Wood and Treasurer Mollie Hansel. The levy will be back on the ballot on May 2, after failing to pass during the November election. No changes have been made to the levy.
The estimated local share is $7.29 per month for a $100,000 home in the Preble Shawnee School District. Additionally, there is a .75 percent income tax for permanent improvements that will be used with the bond issue to pay the cost of projects. According to Bishop, these are the same tax rates residents have been paying for years.
Bishop added, “If this is passed in May, we will build two new schools. One in Camden and one on the Somers-Gratis site. For the Camden site, we will actually demolish the Camden building and build a brand new building. While construction is going on, we will have all our students out at the West Elkton site and the high school site. The high school will be placed in a position where we can still attend school while construction is going on.
“Once construction is complete, we would move into both new schools around 2020 to 2021. We would demolish West Elkton or re-purpose it and give it back to the Village of West Elkton. We would have discussions with them, because what we don’t want to do is leave a situation like in Gratis, where there is an old building that is in disrepair. There are dollars in the levy that will take care of demolishing it or giving it over to the Village of West Elkton.”
According to Wood, even after this levy, Preble Shawnee will still have the lowest tax rates of all the schools in Preble County.
Bishop addressed one of the biggest concerns he has heard: that the buildings are new and do not need replaced, but instead should be renovated.
“The State is giving us a 65 percent coupon,” he said. “The State does not want to give you a coupon if you are just going to renovate. When faced with the opportunity to renovate at our dime or build new with State money, you kind of want to go with the State.”
Wood added, “The State will not consider renovating.”
The three added, there will be a levy no matter what. If this one in May does not pass, there will have to be a levy to renovate and West Elkton will still be demolished. In fact, Bishop said, if the levy in May does not pass, West Elkton will be demolished sooner, because the site will not have to house students during construction.
Robert Hoover with Camden Family Lions Club attended the meeting to update council on the recent developments with the club. During the last year, the club has:
•Worked with the Headstart program to vision screen over 100 kids.
•Provided lunches for kids.
•At Christmas, they provided gift certificates to 15 people.
•Provided funds to the Food Pantry at Camden’s United Methodist Church.
•Sponsored two soccer teams.
•Painted and cleaned a park restroom.
•Provided funds for the Ohio Blind Band, so they could go to Chicago and play.
•Provided funds for the West Virginia flood victims.
•Are preparing to give a $1,000 scholarship to a Preble Shawnee senior.
•Will be providing the water for the Color Run at the Elementary School.
The Lion’s Club gets its funds from volunteering. Hoover added, they only have 10 members but they try to help the community however they can.
He requested council’s help to plan a movie night in the park. They want to provide popcorn and have a fun family night. Council member Ernest Crabtree offered his support.
Gary Rust spoke during public participation, about numerous concerns he had. First, he stated the police department has a levy that will not be on the May ballot and he asked why. Council member Kelly Doran answered: the paperwork was not filed in time and it will be on the August ballot.
Rust asked, “That’s kind of shooting yourself in the foot, isn’t it?”
He added, “Nobody has any clue what is going on in this town because they hear nothing from council.”
“It’s their responsibility to get their little fannies in these seats,” Doran answered.
Rust asked if Orchard Hills Cemetery belongs to the village or township and council noted, they do not know and are trying to find that out themselves. The title was left in the name of the church which formerly owned it, but that church no longer exists. However, the village cannot get a title when it is still technically in the hands of the defunct church.
Doran added, the upkeep of the cemetery is a joint effort between the village and the township.
Rust then asked, “Do we have any rulings on who can miss how many meetings?”
Council has had attendance issues for the last several meetings. Mary Reed has attended the last several meetings to propose being the village’s grant writer, but council has not had a majority of its members in attendance and could not vote on the suggestion. Council members Todd Angell and Melissa Shull were absent.
There was a majority at the meeting on April 6, with only Shull absent, but Reed did not attend the meeting. This decision has been tabled three times.
Rust added, “When you take a seat, do you not plan to attend council meetings?”
Doran clarified that this is not a new issue. He says council has always had an issue with attendance.
“We tried to do something about these issues, but the State dictates it,” he said. “Someone that is duly elected, you can’t just decide their out.”
Rust countered, “No, but you can have some kind of process — warnings, or whatever. Anybody can be sick and miss a meeting, I’m not saying that. But when it goes to the extreme end of it? When you take a swearing in you supposedly vow to attend the meetings. If not, why put your name in? Why take up space if you’re not going to do anything about it?”
There is a rule about attendance in the handbook, but according to Doran it is not enforceable.
“If you’re not a person of your word, what are you doing in that seat?” Rust asked.
A referendum petition filed to halt the nuisance ordinance approved by council in the fall was also discussed at the meeting. The petition required council put the ordinance onto the ballot and let the village residents vote. Council discussed the petition at a previous meeting and resolved to look into the matter more, but did not want to pay to put the ordinance onto the ballot. They were ready to let the ordinance be repealed and try to implement it at a later date.
However, the referendum petition was not filed correctly, according to officials. Village council is waiting for a response from their attorney and the matter is being reviewed, but the referendum petition has been denied.
In other news council renewed a land use agreement with Steve Back, for another five years.
The next Camden Village Council meeting will be on Thursday, April 20, in the Town Hall Council Room, at 7 p.m.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH