Council considers new group with economic advisory role
- Published: September 17, 2009
At their Sept. 8 meeting, members of Village Council continued an earlier discussion regarding how the Village should best approach economic development.
At issue was a motion by Council President Judith Hempfling that Council establish an economic sustainability committee. Such a group, intended as representing diverse segments of the community, would serve in an advisory capacity to Council as well as offer a venue for villagers to brainstorm development ideas and gather support, according to Hempfling.
“This would help educate the community, and put everyone at the table in a regular way,” she said.
Council did not take action at the meeting due to concerns from Council members Kathryn Van der Heiden and Karen Wintrow that Council’s new economic sustainability staff person, who has not yet been hired, should be on the job before an advisory group is established. Van der Heiden also questioned the need for the committee, which she has repeatedly said might usurp responsibilities currently being handled by Community Resources. Hempfling agreed to table the motion until a later time, but said she did not want the issue to “languish.”
Council has considered economic development issues at several previous meetings, with Council members initially divided over whether to hire a staff person. Council eventually voted 4–1 to do so on a part-time basis, with Hempfling, Wintrow, Van der Heiden and John Booth voting for the position and Askeland voting against. Askeland had stated that she opposes tying up a significant amount of the Village’s economic development money with the hiring of a single person.
Council had earmarked $50,000 a year for economic development in the five-year 2006 property tax levy, and currently has available three years of unspent funds, or $150,000. Hiring the part-time employee will cost from $27,000 to $35,000 a year, depending on the hourly pay level, Village Manager Mark Cundiff has said.
After the Village advertised for the economic sustainability position, it received about 20 applications, Cundiff said, and he has narrowed that number to seven finalists. Cundiff said he hoped to further narrow the field and then interview five finalists.
At the meeting Van der Heiden also repeated her concern that an economic sustainability group would perform a role that is more appropriate for Community Resources. That group, in existence since 1999, spearheaded the development of the Center for Business and Education, or CBE, on the western edge of the village, including the new building for Antioch University McGregor.
However, many villagers felt shut out of the process that led to the decision to build McGregor, Hempfling said. When Van der Heiden stated that the process had been a public one, Hempfling stated that the public meetings aimed to sell ideas already chosen rather than to consider community input.
While Community Resources addresses issues of economic development, it is not at this time the designated community improvement corporation, or CIC, for Yellow Springs. To gain that status, the group would need to follow designated CIC guidelines that include having more of its meetings open to the public.
Hempfling and John Booth emphasized the need to heal issues of distrust between some villagers and Community Resources. Community Resources President Lisa Abel agreed that such a discussion is needed.
“I for one want to figure out how to talk about these issues and move forward,” she said.
Abel said she would submit a proposal to Council for a meeting between Council and Community Resources to address the concerns. Current Community Resources members are Abel of YSI Incorporated, Megan Quinn Bachman of Community Solutions, David Boyer of Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Jerry Sutton, retired civilian from WPAFB, Mark Crockett of Rita Caz, Tim Rogers of Town Drug, Karl Zalar of Friends Care Community and Michael Fishbein, president of Antioch University McGregor.
There is room in local economic development conversations for both Community Resources and a Village economic sustainability committee, Hempfling said, stating that Community Resources has its hands full already moving ahead on the CBE, which began in 2004 and is scheduled for completion in 2011.
“There are a lot of other economic development activities, a new college coming back and entrepreneurial things going on. I don’t see how Community Resources can do it all,” Hempfling said.
Cundiff said he hoped the new economic sustainability coordinator would be hired by mid-October, and Council will take up the issue of forming an economic sustainability group again at that time.
In other Council business:
• Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein addressed Council on current efforts to apply for a Safe Routes to School grant. Such a grant could be used to improve village sidewalks in order to make biking and walking to school safer for children, he said.
“There’s been a dramatic increase in the bike traffic and children walking this year,” Amrhein said, as a result of the school system eliminating some bus routes due to cost concerns.
Safe Routes to School is a federally funded program with a dual purpose of combating childhood obesity and providing safe routes for biking and walking to school, Amrhein said, with funding administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation, or ODOT. To apply for a grant, which has a Nov. 2 deadline, the Village first has to have a School Travel Plan approved by ODOT. The Village has already submitted a letter of interest to ODOT, Amrhein said, and the next steps include finishing the local STP and then receiving ODOT-approved engineering help.
Council encouraged Amrhein to move ahead as quickly as possible to secure the grant. The project will be one of his priorities, Amrhein said, along with moving ahead with the Center for Business and Education.
• Villager Vickie Hennessy presented a proposal from the Environmental Commission recommending that Council sponsor a forum on the use of fluoridation in local water, using experts both for and against the practice. Currently, the Village does fluoridate its water supply. Paul Connett, a retired chemistry professor who is an activist opposed to fluoridation, has indicated an interest in coming to Yellow Springs for no cost other than transportation, which could be shared with the city of Athens, where he will also give a program, Hennessy said. Speaking in favor of fluoridation would be Greene County Health Commisioner Mark McDonnell.
While fluoridation of drinking water has been common practice since the 1950s due to a belief that it prevents tooth decay, more recently fluoridation has become controversial due to concerns about its effects on overall health. According to Hennessy, Springfield and Xenia have chosen not to fluoridate their water supply, and most European countries do not do so.
Council expressed its interest in moving ahead with the presentation on fluoridation.
• Council unanimously approved the final reading of an ordinance that prohibits animals from attending the Street Fairs.
• Council unanimously approved the final reading of an ordinance that authorizes Cundiff to enter into an agreement to participate in the EcoSmart Choice program sponsored by AMP, formerly AMP Ohio, the village’s provider of electricity. The EcoSmart program allows electric customers to purchase their electricity from renewable energy sources at an additional rate of $13 per megawatt hour.
• Council unanimously approved a resolution to hire the local company Arbor Care of Ohio to trim Village trees around electric lines, at a cost of $54,000.
• Council agreed to hire an additional person for the Village electrical crew, in response to a request from Cundiff. The position, which had been dropped several years ago during a budget crunch, was not intended to remain empty but has been empty because filling it was “lost in the shuffle,” Cundiff said. The lack of this position on the crew can lead to unsafe working conditions, he said.
• Cundiff presented an update for a local public art project, “Flock of Hands.” The artist, Olga Ziemska of Cleveland, wants to move the project site from outside the Bryan Community Center to a location in front of the Train Station at Hilda Rahn Park. This location will require that a crabapple tree be cut down, although doing so will provide an improved view of the train station from the road, Cundiff said.
• Council members will meet next on Monday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers at Bryan Community Center.