WEST ALEXANDRIA — Village Council passed the first reading of a controversial drug ordinance, updated residents on the status of a levy to increase funding for the police department, and addressed complaints against the local fire department during its regular monthly meeting Monday, Feb. 23.
Council last discussed adopting an ordinance to penalize owners of properties repeatedly involved in drug-related offenses during its Jan. 18 meeting. Owners of properties found to be in violation would face warnings and fines, and could even lose the ability to continue renting or residing at a property for a period of time.
Council president Ashley Myers and council members Holly Robbins and Shannon Smith voted against the ordinance in October, while Dan Utsinger, Zach Shafer and Geoff Justice voted to approve. Mayor Jeff Hickey broke the resulting tie with his own no vote.
Council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the latest version of the ordinance on Monday. A motion by councilman Shafer to declare an emergency and waive the customary second and third readings – which will take place during subsequent monthly meetings – was defeated, however, with only Shafer and Utsinger voting to approve.
“I don’t feel it needs to be an emergency,” Robbins said when asked why she’d voted against the motion. “I think we need to give people time to read it and know it.”
“So you think it’s a good ordinance, but you want to wait three more months?” Utsinger asked.
Mayor Hickey moved quickly to quash further debate.
“We had a vote, and the vote’s done,” Hickey said. “We had a point where we had discussion, and we’re not going to argue about it tonight,” Hickey said.
Mayor Hickey updated residents on the status of a four-mill levy to increase funding for the police department, saying the first reading of the measure would take place in March, with a view toward putting the levy on the ballot in November.
Council previously debated placing the levy on the ballot during a special meeting held via teleconference on Tuesday, Jan. 26. The measure was defeated during a second meeting held Thursday, Jan. 28.
Police Chief Tony Gasper addressed council about his department’s proposed 2021 budget during a pair of special meetings held in November, stating that the planned budget reduction from $272,000 to $220,000 would compromise his ability to provide 24/7 police coverage.
Assistant Police Chief Mike McDonald, meanwhile, asked to be moved from part-time to auxiliary status, saying he wished to waive the $18 per hour he currently receives in order to assist with the department’s budgetary concerns. Several council members had reservations about the request, however.
“Tell the Assistant Chief thank you, but we’re going to pay him,” Utsinger said. Robbins and Mayor Hickey expressed similar sentiments.
Fire Department controversy
Hickey also addressed recent complaints against the West Alexandria Fire Department. As previously reported, a letter from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation details a number of alleged safety violations, including employees operating equipment without adequate training and using grinders and cut saws without appropriate eye and hearing protection.
Hickey first pointed out that the alleged violations occurred while Fire Department personnel were working off the clock.
“They were doing work above and beyond, on their own time,” Hickey said.
Hickey admitted, however, that appropriate personal protective equipment had not been provided, and said that Fire Chief John Glander would work to address that oversight going forward.
“That’s true, and we’ll do a better job of providing PPE in the future,” Glander said.
Councilman Shafer asked why all council members hadn’t been provided with copies of the complaint letter, saying that Hickey had only shared the complaint with council president Myers.
“In the past, we never would have received this, and I don’t think we need to receive every single thing the village gets,” Robbins said in response to Shafer’s complaint. “It’s not our job to micro-manage every little thing that happens in this village.”
Hickey spoke more bluntly.
“I didn’t see it as a big deal, and I still don’t,” he said.
Social media concerns
Myers moved to authorize village solicitor Aaron Glasgow to draft an ordinance establishing the Village of West Alexandria’s website and Facebook page as the only public forums officially representing the village.
The ordinance, according to Glasgow, would require individual council members with their own social media accounts to post something “very conspicuous” stating that their views do not represent those of the municipality if they plan to publicly discuss village business.
Mayor Hickey previously expressed concerns about certain council members’ statements on social media near the top of Monday’s meeting, saying he found some of the statements to be “a little misleading.”
“The light it puts the village in is disturbing to me,” Hickey said.
Council ultimately voted to authorize Glasgow to draft the ordinance. Shafer and Utsinger voted against the measure.
West Alexandria Village Council meetings are held the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Fire & EMS Bldg located at 8 Marty Ln.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish