Council Approves Bike Path, Village Administrator Relieved of Position

by Sarah Beechboard   Bluffton Town Hall held its second council meeting of the year on a rainy Monday night. As usual, the meeting was held at 8 p.m. on the fourth Monday of January. After order was called and the pledge was recited, the minutes from the previous meeting as well as the bills were approved without any discussion. There also were four pieces of legislation passed.
   Resolution No. 02-17 was read for the second time. This resolution regarding a bike path through Bluffton was heavily discussed during the last meeting. Many citizens gave public comment, and the conversation leaned toward a debate toward the end of the night. In stark contrast, the resolution passed this time unanimously on emergency. This passing was met with applause from many in attendance. After roll was called, Councilman Joe Sehlhorst thanked the public for coming to the previous meeting, and for presenting their opinions. He stated “their voices were heard.”
   Mayor Augsburger added that she had met with the Ohio Department of Transportation again during the past week to discuss the bicycle route. She wanted to let the people who gave comment last meeting know that their input was much appreciated. Richard Johnson, Roger Warren and Ralph Miller (who voted “no” at the first reading of the Resolution) accredited their changes of heart to the public, as well as to additional information they were able to discover through their research of the topic. Councilman Warren also mentioned that he had walked Main Street and asked people that he saw what they thought about this bike route going through downtown Bluffton. 
   The next piece of legislation “authorized the Village Administrator to enter into an agreement with the Johnny Appleseed Metropolitan Park District for the purpose of making application and accepting funds from the 2017 Cooperative Park Improvement Grant Program.”  Resolution No. 03-17 was passed unanimously on emergency. A meeting was schedule for the Parks and Recreation Department on Monday, Jan. 30, 6 p.m., to discuss its implications.
   The last two Resolutions (No. 04-17 and No. 05-17) were both passed on emergency as well as unanimously. The former accepted bids and authorized the Village Administrator to do business with All Terra Inc., Gary Lugibihl Excavating, and Beaverdam Contracting Inc. for the installation and excavation for water, sewer and storm pipe, manholes, catch basins, service tees and laterals, aggregate and earth back-fills. The latter accepted a bid from the Bluffton Stone Company/Bluffton Paving Inc. for acquiring aggregate and asphalt material, asphalt application and equipment rental. Both of these cover the 2017 Construction Year. James R. Mehaffie, the Village Administrator, stated for the Council that the prices for these bids were similar in cost to the bids made in 2016.
   Mehaffie then gave the Administrator’s Report. He informed Council that there had been three bids made “for grinding the material at the brush dump.” The council accepted Re:Source Recycling’s $7,000 bid for the bush grinding. Next, he wanted to let the public know that potholes, especially on College, would be cold-patched and that leaves in the gutters were being cleaned up with the help of an end loader.  He also mentioned that the village leaf pick-up system was no longer in service at this time of year. He advised those living in town to no longer place leaf piles/bags near the road, so that the streets stay clean.
   The chief of police, Ryan Burkholder, started the Safety Services reports by calling for the passing of an ordinance. It deals with the use of the Ohio Basic Code by the Police Department. Burkholder explained that this was a yearly ordinance, and that there had been “no changes at all” made from the one passed in 2016.  He also announced that his department would be acquiring a new cruiser, camera system, Tasers, policy handbook, and two shotguns to replace old equipment. He mentioned that their old shotguns had been in use for 50 years, and that he was excited for their new handbook that will take 250 hours of effort to fashion. His last announcement was about a $456.50 donation by the police department to the D.A.R.E. program to buy t-shirts for local students during the program.
   Safety Services continued with Jon Kinn, the fire chief, announcing that his department planned on taking Christmas lights down in the near future. He assured the Council that there would be no “Christmas in July” this year. The EMS chief, Jan Basinger, had nothing to report.
   Committee meetings were scheduled for the following times: Board of Zoning and Appeals, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m.; Tree Commission, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m.; Streets and Alleys, Thursday, Feb. 2, 6 p.m.; and Parks and Recreation, Monday, Jan. 30, 6 p.m. All meetings are held at the Town Hall unless otherwise stated.
   Then Mayor Augsburger opened the floor for public comment. Gennifer Akroyd, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, stepped forward to ask Council for $5,000 to use for promoting Bluffton business. There are already a few plans in place, including the installation of signs and maps. Akroyd said that the Chamber wanted to use the money to encourage people, including pilots from the airport or travelers of I-75, to habitually eat and shop in Bluffton by providing them with maps and/or tear-off map pads, along with possibly a billboard on I-75.
The council voted to supply the Chamber of Commerce with this sum. It will come from hotel/motel tax money in the general fund.
   There was also a concern that there would not be enough money left in this fund for the Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs (BCE), who usually receives $5,000 from this fund. Village Fiscal Officer, Nancy Kindle, was not certain of the exact amount in the fund, but felt that there would be enough to cover both the BCE and the Chamber.
   At this point, the Council went into executive session. As a result of this session, village administrator, Jamie Mehaffie was released from his position following a 4-2 vote. No details were given as to what led to this decision.