WEST ALEXANDRIA — West Alexandria Village Council members voted to repeal a controversial tax levy, and also discussed plans to relocate the village police station, during their monthly meeting July 15.
As previously reported in The Register-Herald, village council voted to approve an income tax levy to raise funds for construction of a new fire and EMS facility in March of 2016. The levy was projected to raise approximately $55,000 a year, a portion of which has already been used to develop plans for the building’s construction. Council voted to suspend plans for the new facility during an emergency meeting Feb. 5, however, citing their intention to try and purchase and renovate an already existing property instead.
Councilman Jeff Hickey reported during Monday night’s meeting, however, that it would cost “upwards of $1 million” to acquire the building in question.
“I don’t see any way to move forward with that,” Hickey said.
Councilman Shannon Smith agreed.
“That’s not feasible for us,” Smith said.
As a result, Councilman Dan Utsinger made a motion to repeal the levy. The measure passed unanimously; funds will stop being collected under the levy in January 2020. Utsinger also raised questions about what to do with the $140-$150,000 already collected and being held in escrow, but Smith stated there was no way to return that money to the taxpayers, saying that the measure was technically a general operating levy to be used for fire and EMS-related purposes.
Councilman Hickey said he had warned village residents not to vote for the levy when it was originally proposed.
“I believe my words were, ‘You’d be a fool to vote for this,’” Hickey said. “The way this was done was not the proper way to build a firehouse, and that’s why we are where we are today.”
Councilwoman Karen Mays, who was sworn in following a motion by council member Ashley Myers Monday night to fill the seat vacated by the recent passing of councilman Doug Crouse, said the village’s attorney at the time had expressed similar sentiments.
“What was on here was not what people thought they were voting for,” Mays said.
Council also discussed plans to move the village police department to a new facility, hopefully by Aug. 1. The police station is currently housed in a property located at 73 N. Main St. in West Alexandria. That building is owned by former village council member Ray Waldeck. Waldeck resigned from the council in June, shortly after acquiring the property, to avoid a conflict of interest.
According to Waldeck, council and police chief Anthony Gasper have yet to provide him a set of keys to the building, citing security concerns. The village was also late paying rent on the property for June and July, Waldeck said, claiming they routinely paid a month or more behind under their agreement with the previous owner.
“They said he let them pay late whenever they needed to,” Waldeck said. “But I don’t work that way.”
As for the keys, Chief Gasper told the council he was unable to hand them over to Mr. Waldeck.
“I can’t do it,” Gasper said. “And all the people we’ve rented through before have understood that.”
As far as rent is concerned, Village Treasurer Wendy Chesney says the village’s agreement with the previous landlord holds until Waldeck presents them with a written lease, which he has yet to do.
Council also hired and swore in new part-time police officer Matt Taylor; heard a presentation from Miami Valley Lighting representative Bob Stallman concerning the purchase of new LED street light fixtures; and voted to adopt the 2018 Preble County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan, a measure created by the Preble County Emergency Management Agency to protect local communities from the effects of disasters. The plan includes strategies for dealing with issues including earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hazardous material spills.