WEST ELKTON — Village Council discussed open council seats, efforts to deal with blighted and unkempt properties in the village, and voted to submit a request to the county auditor to place a 1.25-mill renewal levy on the ballot during its regular monthly meeting Monday, March 8.
According to Fiscal Officer Venida Thompson, three council seats will go up for vote in November in addition to the three already filled; councilman John Berter also plans to seek re-election. Former council member Charlie Pennington was officially removed in January due to his inability to attend meetings as a result of concerns related to COVID-19.
Candidates must be at least 18 years of age, currently live in the village, and must have resided there for at least one continuous year, according to Thompson.
Council also voted unanimously to submit a request to the Preble County Auditor’s Office to place a five-year, 1.25-mill renewal levy on the ballot to fund village EMS services. West Elkton contracts with the Village of Gratis to provide ambulance and other emergency medical services to its residents.
The levy will appear on the ballot in November, according to Thompson, and if approved, funds would begin being collected in 2022.
Councilman Gary Thompson proposed an ordinance to allow residents to be cited for maintaining properties that create a blight on the village during council’s June 2019 meeting. The measure would allow the village to issue citation letters to residents whose properties are found to be in violation.
Residents would then be given a set period of time to make improvements before fines are imposed. If unpaid, the fines could eventually be assessed against the residents’ property taxes.
The ordinance was voted into law in January, according to Thompson, and letters will likely begin going out in the spring.
“We’ll take a walk around the village and decide which citations we want to start with,” Thompson said, indicating that council would likely vote to issue the first round of letters during its Monday, April 12 meeting.
Council discussed one property in particular during Monday’s meeting, saying it had recently been seized by the county due to unpaid property taxes.
“If we can get them to sell us that for $1, we might want to consider buying it,” Thompson said, indicating that seized properties are typically offered to the municipality if they fail to sell at auction. The county might also choose to forgive unpaid taxes on the property at that point.
“If there’s a bunch of money owed, we wouldn’t want it,” Thompson said.
Structures on the property would likely be demolished if purchased by the village, according to Thompson, estimating the cost to be around $15,000. Berter agreed that leveling the property would likely be in the village’s best interest.
“It’s definitely an eyesore for the community,” Berter said.
West Elkton Intermediate closure
Council briefly discussed possible legal action by the county related to the closure of West Elkton Intermediate School. Preble Shawnee Local School District Board of Education members voted to close the facility during a special meeting held in July of last year, saying it would save the district approximately $460,000 annually.
Council members have spoken out against the closure in the past, saying it would deprive the village of income tax revenue, and could possibly lead to yet another blight on the community if the former school building is abandoned by the district and left to decay. Concerns were also raised about costs associated with the building’s sewer facilities being passed on to residents.
As reported by The Register-Herald in February, Preble County Commissioners went into executive session during a recent meeting with County Engineer Kyle Cross to discuss “imminent litigation” between the County Engineer’s Office and Preble Shawnee regarding sewer costs for West Elkton Intermediate.
Mayor Gevella Wilt predicted that the litigation would likely result in some sort of settlement.
“The people who handle Preble County sewers aren’t going to say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t have to pay,’” Wilt said.
Village Council meetings take place the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the West Elkton Municipal Building, located at 135 N. Main St.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish