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Village Council — New economic sustainability group considered

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At their Jan. 4 meeting, Village Council members continued an extended discussion on how the Village should best address economic development by considering a proposal for an economic sustainability commission from Council President Judith Hempfling. The commission would provide Council a valuable diversity of perspectives regarding economic development, Hempfling said.

When the conversation began last spring, then-Council member Kathryn Van der Heiden urged Council to use Community Resources as its advisory group. Hempfling at that point discussed the need for a more broad-based and transparent advisory group in order to ensure an openness to many economic development ideas. The Jan. 4 meeting was the first time Hempfling had submitted a written proposal for the commission.

Council agreed to vote on the proposal at its Jan. 19 meeting. In the intervening time, Council will have had a Jan. 13 public discussion with Community Resources leaders regarding that group’s role in Village development issues.

The economic sustainability group’s charge, according to the proposal, would be to “advise Council regarding creation of an economic sustainability plan which will guide Village government work. It will provide a transparent venue for incubating ideas and developing cooperative networking between economic development groups, businesses, entrepreneurs and workforce development resources, as well as promote an increased understanding of a sustainable economy. It will also help identify resources and develop strategies to meet the goal of increased economic sustainability including but not limited to identifying funding opportunities in the Stimulus Plan.”

The group would focus on village strengths, including the arts, education, health and wellness and green building, the proposal states. Group activities would include hosting discussions on issues such as energy and localization, and providing a public venue for discussion on ongoing economic sustainability activities.

However, according to Council Member Karen Wintrow at the Jan. 4 meeting, the commission would not be the appropriate place to develop an economic sustainability plan. Rather, the recently hired economic sustainability coordinator should create such a plan, according to Wintrow, who said she sees the economic sustainability commission as a place to “germinate ideas.”

Lisa Abel, president of Community Resources, suggested that the new group should confer with the new economic sustainability staff person more than the proposal seemed to suggest. She also expressed a concern that commission members’ sharing economic development information “sounds like a rumor mill.”

But the group would provide an important function for local economic issues, according to Dimi Reber.

“This would provide a forum for a variety of perspectives on economic development. There’s no other place for that,” she said.

In other Council business:

• Several Village Council members expressed concerns that a new ordinance establishing procedures to notify citizens about public meetings could prove burdensome to Village staff. But overall, Council members seemed ready to approve most aspects of the new ordinance if it could be simplified.

Council postponed its vote on the second, or final, reading of the ordinance until the Jan. 19 meeting, when Village Law Director John Chambers will be present to answer questions about the ordinance. Council had unanimously approved the first reading at its Dec. 21 meeting.

The new ordinance is the first Village ordinance establishing procedures for calling public meetings. The need for an ordinance became clear several weeks ago when a villager successfully sued the Village when the Energy Task Force planned a special meeting that did not give citizens 24 hours notice, as required by the Ohio Sunshine Law. The timing was sparked by task force members’ desire to make a recommendation to Council in order to meet a grant deadline. In the end, the meeting did not take place, and Council was able to both meet with the required notice to citizens and meet the grant deadline. However, the situation prompted Council to ask Chambers to draft a new ordinance on procedures for notifying the public about meetings.

“We need this for consistency. It has to be done,” Council member John Booth said at the Jan. 4 meeting.

The new guidelines establish procedures for calling both regular and special meetings. The new guidelines can be accessed at http://www.yso.com — click on Council packet Dec. 21. In general, along with the already customary notification procedures of publishing meeting times in local media at least 24 hours in advance, any individual or media organization may request in writing, for a $5 fee, that Council notify them of special meetings.

Several Council members stated their concern that the various new requirements to notify citizens could prove burdensome to Village staff, and that ways to simplify the guidelines should be considered. They also emphasized that special meetings should happen very infrequently. The recently proposed special meeting that prompted concern was the first special meeting in the past four years, according to Karen Wintrow.

Holding meetings without adequate public notice “is not something we’ve done and not something we will do,” said Wintrow. “We’re not sanctioning illegal meetings. It’s not an attempt to circumvent anything.”

Villager Rose Pelzl raised a concern about who determines whether an emergency meeting is necessary.

• Council completed several beginning-of-the-year “housekeeping” tasks, including approving Village membership in the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Municipal League, the Northern Miami Valley Local Government Association, the Greene County Emergency Management Association and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.

• Council approved a resolution that extends sewer service to Morris Bean, which is outside Village boundaries. The resolution, which was originally adopted by Council in 2005, waives the Village policy that extends utilities only to properties annexed to the Village.

The purpose of the waiver is to prevent a potential environmental hazard to the village, according to Village Manager Mark Cundiff.

“It would provide a significant environmental risk if the Morris Bean system fails,” Cundiff said.

The Morris Bean sanitary sewer plant is very old and in poor condition, Cundiff said.

The resolution states that Morris Bean has agreed to cover all expenses, which are estimated to be about $56,000, in applying for a grant to cover the extension of sewer pipes.

• Council’s next meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.

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