CAMDEN — Village Council discussed active shooter training for local police officers and historic tree preservation during its first bi-monthly meeting Thursday, March 4.
Preble County Assistant Prosecutor Gractia Manning appeared before council near the top of Thursday’s meeting to announce her candidacy for Eaton Municipal Court Judge. Current Municipal Court Judge Paul D. Henry will retire at the end of 2021; local attorney Edmund Khalil will also seek the Republican nomination for Henry’s seat during the primary, which will take place in May.
“To me, it’s an opportunity to better serve the community through accountability,” Manning said of her candidacy. “When I say that, I mean accountability of the court to the citizens, and defendants being accountable for their actions as well.”
Manning stressed the importance of improving the technical aspect of how the court conducts its business.
“That means improving technology, things like electronic filing, and law enforcement being able to file citations electronically,” Manning said. “And pursuing grants to be able to fund those things.”
Adding personnel is also key to improving court operations, according to Manning, who said she would pursue grant funding to hire additional probation officers as well.
“Last year – which was actually a slow year because of COVID – we prosecuted over a thousand misdemeanor criminal cases with one probation officer,” Manning said, pointing out that this allows for little supervision to take place.
“That means there’s very little to hold defendants accountable for their actions,” Manning said. “They don’t have to report, and they’re not really monitored at all.”
Manning, who prosecutes “a large caseload” of misdemeanors and felonies in the Camden and West Alexandria areas, promised to be tough on crime if elected.
“I would reserve the maximum sentence on all serious offenses,” Manning said. “And I would make sure that those sentences are imposed if they fail to abide by the terms of their probation.”
Historic Tree preservation
Greenbush Professional Services, LLC representative Scott Trochelman addressed council about efforts to preserve portions of an historic tree that was recently cut down in the village. Greenbush, an organic lawn care company based in Camden, employs Trochelman to study older trees and examine them for signs of disease and insect devastation.
Trochelman, Eaton’s then-Mayor Gary Wagner, and other Preble County officials took part in a dedication ceremony honoring Ohio’s third-largest Norway Spruce at Mound Hill Union Cemetery in Nov. 2020. That tree, located near the corner of W. Main St. and Camden Rd in the western portion of the cemetery, stands near the graves of numerous local veterans.
Trochelman spoke to council on Thursday about the state’s tenth-oldest Red Maple, thought to be over 100 years old, which was recently cut down in Camden.
“We want to cut a couple of slabs [from the stump], dry them and sand them out, and donate them back to the City of Camden as part of your history,” Trochelman said.
Trochelman stressed the importance of the tree to the region’s history.
“How often does a small place like Camden get placed in a national registry?” Trochelman asked.
Greenbush will host its first annual Arbor Day event at the Preble County Historical Society on May 1, according to Trochelman. Over 500 seedlings will be distributed to local children during the event to encourage them to plant trees, Trochelman said.
Camden Primary School Resource Officer (SRO) Vernon Jeffers addressed council about Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate (ALICE) training that was scheduled to take place at the school on Saturday, March 6. The training would be open to the public, according to Jeffers, and would simulate scenarios in which an active shooter would be present inside the building.
“How are we going to approach that situation?” Jeffers asked. “Where are we going to enter the building, and how are we going to take care of kids who might be injured?”
Officers, students and school personnel already participate in two active shooter drills a month, according to Jeffers, who said that recent drills have demonstrated the ability to get halls cleared and students safely behind locked doors within 15 seconds.
“I think we can get it down to 10,” Jeffers said. When asked by council member Kelly Doran what his goal would be then, Jeffers replied, “Then we would shoot for eight.”
The ALICE training would pair off different sets of officers, according to Jeffers and Police Chief Matt Spurlock, in order to simulate scenarios where one, working as an SRO, would already be on site, while another would have to come in from outside.
“We’re going to mix it up, so that no matter who it is, they’re going to know what the other guy is going to do,” Spurlock said.
Village Council meetings take place the first and third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at Camden Town Hall.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish