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Village Council— First step toward CBE funding

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At their Dec. 2 meeting, Village Council voted to get more information on funding options regarding the Center for Business and Education, or CBE, by approving two resolutions that open discussions with an underwriter and a bond counsel. The vote was 4–0–1, with Karen Wintrow, Lori Askeland, Gerry Simms and Brian Housh voting for, and Marianne MacQueen abstaining.

“This information will tell us what our debt obligations would be,” Council President Karen Wintrow said, emphasizing that the vote was not a commitment to fund the project. “It’s just a way to move forward.”

In September, Community Resources requested that Village government fill in the funding gap to complete the CBE infrastructure created when an Ohio Department of Transportation grant was rescinded because the project had not moved ahead. The amount requested to complete the $1.1 million project was almost $700,000, and Community Resources representative Jerry Sutton urged Council to act quickly so that the project’s second grant, from the Army Corps of Engineers for $412,000, is not also lost. The CBE project, in the works for a decade, aims to provide space for new and existing businesses to locate in Yellow Springs, and thus create new jobs, or hold on to existing ones.

While Council had initially appeared favorable to the request, former Council President Judith Hempfling moved to take the funding resolutions off the table before she retired from Council in November, citing concerns about a lack of due diligence on the project. At that point, Council voted 3–2 to take them off the table, but on Monday night Council untabled the resolutions.

Community Resources representatives again urged Council to act soon on the request, with Sutton expressing concern about the time that has been lost in Council’s recent back-and-forth on the issue.

“With a little skill and cunning, we can miss the entire building cycle altogether,” Sutton said. “I urge you to get on with it.”

And according to CR member Bill Short, “You’re going to come to us for more tax money if you don’t create more jobs. Let’s get it done.”

In an explanation of her abstention from the vote, MacQueen stated that she doesn’t oppose the CBE, but feels the Village hasn’t yet obtained information necessary to understand its potential financial implications.

MacQueen encouraged Council, if it moves ahead with funding the CBE, to see the CBE as “part of a well-articulated economic development strategy,” stating she didn’t think the Village currently has such a strategy. That strategy should “start with” supporting small businesses already located here, beefing up the Village Revolving Economic Loan Fund and developing a business incubator, she said.

Also seeking more information on the project was villager Lauren Miller, who stated, “I don’t know if I’m for or against the CBE, but the Village would benefit from doing due diligence” on the project. Dimi Reber expressed her concern about the hurried aspects of the project, stating that it felt similar to CR’s stance seven years ago, when, she said, it urged the Village to act quickly on loaning money to purchase the CBE land or face financial disaster.

“We seem to have survived, and Antioch College is getting stronger, without the help of Council,” she said.

However, Council does need to act quickly or face the possibility of losing the remaining grant, according to CR President Kathryn Van der Heiden, who said that the process for building on the CBE includes “lots of checks and balances” due to Planning Commission’s need to approve any CBE building as a Planned Unit Development, or PUD, project.

Roi Qualls and Sam Young also encouraged Council to move ahead with funding the CBE.

In other Council business:

• Council members agreed to use a consultant in its upcoming search for a new Village manager. Due to the interim manager’s large work load, it would be helpful to have a professional to help place the job notice and initiate contacts with potential manager candidates, according to Housh, who with Simms worked to find potential consultants. Two consultants, Dayton’s Weissman Group and Management Partners of Cincinnati, appear to be the best fits for the village, according to Housh.

“It won’t be a process of just handing this over to a consultant,” Housh said, stating that the hiring process “would still involve citizens.”

However, Council needs to remember that villagers often disagree, according to Sue Abendroth.

“We’re not all on the same page. Never have been, never will be,” she said.

Council members asked that the two consultants prepare proposals for Council’s next meeting. Askeland and Housh also encouraged citizens who have suggestions or ideas regarding the search to contact a Council member.

• Council heard from four neighbors of Antioch College regarding concerns around the proposed addition of farm animals on the Antioch College farm and the current drilling of geothermal wells.

The neighbors — Lauren Miller, Hans Jacobsen and Hilary and Ryan Peirson — represented a group of neighbors of the green space formerly called the “golf course” who came to Council regarding “growing concerns of Antioch College as a neighbor,” according to Miller. Specifically, the group cited a lack of communication around the college’s plans for the area, including the introduction of animals larger than chickens.

Because the farm was approved as a conditional use on the space, neighbors will be alerted in advance of any proposed changes and will have the opportunity to express their concerns to Planning Commission before changes are approved, according to Wintrow, who stated that the college did not need special approval for the drilling of geothermal wells.

• Linda Rudawski of the Human Relations Commission described to Council the HRC’s newest project. the creation and sale of “harmony rain barrels,” which are rain barrels decorated by local artists to promote harmony. The proceeds from the sale will fund a new HRC effort to hold community conversations around mental health issues, an effort sparked by last summer’s shootout and death of villager Paul Schenck.

• Bristol announced that Melissa Vanzant has been appointed the new Village Finance Director, replacing Sharon Potter, who retired in September.

• Sam Young, representing the Glen Helen Association, requested that Council write a resolution of support for the Glen’s attempt to obtain a grant to purchase Camp Greene, which is adjacent to the nature preserve.

• Joan Edwards alerted Council to her concern that drivers do not completely stop at the stop sign at the corner of West South College Street and East Enon Road across from the high school, near where she lives.

• In his manager’s report, Interim Manager Kent Bristol reported that a Mexican restaurant, Señor Gringo’s, of Defiance, Ohio, is interested in purchasing the former Kentucky Fried Chicken building on U.S. 68 south of town, and opening a new restaurant.

• Council’s next meeting will take place Monday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. at Council chambers.

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