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Village Council— Public Arts Commission busy in ’14

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After a long pause following its 2013 launch, the Public Arts Commission was busy last year, making progress on a number of projects, according to PAC member David Turner in the group’s 2014 report to Council at Council’s Feb. 2 meeting.

The PAC activities included:
1) In May of 2014 the bronze sculptures created in the previous year’s Bronze Symposium were installed in three public places.

2) After discussions with various stakeholders, the PAC recommended the hiring of Grindline to update the skatepark; phase one of that project will be completed in May 2015.

3) During the year the group brainstormed several options for improving Ellis Pond, with emphasis on upgrading a dangerous spillway. Council is currently considering adding two bridges along with other upgrades.

4) After a period of growing tension between downtown buskers and business owners, the PAC last summer crafted an informal voluntary agreement between the business owners and buskers. Council passed the Street Musicians Agreement in September.

5) The group initiated the Village Inspiration and Design Award, or VIDA, which this year will be presented seasonally to a residential or non-residential property owner who creatively enhances the appearance of the Village.

The group consists of Christine Monroe Beard, president; Jon Hudson, John Fleming, Matt Housh, AJ Warren, Dave Turner, Patrick O’Reilly and Council representative Brian Housh.

In other Feb. 2 Village business:
• Council unanimously approved the renaming of the Village of Yellow Springs Water Reclamation Facility to the John A. Eastman Water Reclamation Facility, in honor of Eastman, the local environmental engineer who made a major contribution to the facility’s recent upgrade. Eastman died unexpectedly in December.

• Council voted 4–1 to approve a $100 grant to the Yellow Springs Arts Council. The grant would help the group provide monetary awards in its annual Members Show, to take place later this month.
Council member Gerry Simms voted against the request, stating that it sets a troubling precedent for funding other organizations as well.

• Council started a discussion on how best to address delinquent utility accounts. Currently, the Village is owed about $438,600 in past utility bills that go back to 1990, according to Finance Director Melissa Vanzant.

“Basically, not a lot has been done about delinquencies,” Vanzant said.

According to Vanzant, the unpaid bills are mainly linked to former villagers who moved with bills unpaid. About 60 percent have to do with rental units, where the property owner has not been held responsible for a renter who doesn’t pay up.

But holding the property owner responsible for renters’ unpaid bills is the practice of most local towns, according to Village Manager Patti Bates, who recently conferred with the county auditor on the issue.

The Village has reclaimed some of what’s owed in the last year due to the efforts of Village employee Denise Swinger, who has been calling those with delinquent accounts, Vanzant said.
Bates is currently working on adding strategies for recovering past-due amounts — including holding property owners responsible for debts incurred on their properties — into the Village policy and procedure manual. She will submit her draft to Council soon.

• During Citizens Concerns, Nancy Kelley stated that a Village 1978 ordinance requiring the installation of an outdoor water meter and pit is adding excessive cost to her family’s rehabbing of a recently purchased older home. Kelley requested that Council allow her to use less expensive alternatives, including a radio-read automated meter.

The Village is looking into moving toward automatic meters, according to Superintendent of Electric and Water Distribution Johnnie Burns, but will not be doing so soon. In the meantime, Council members agreed that the 1978 ordinance needs to be followed.

• Bates suggested that Council hear from the Energy Board and electric consultant John Courtney soon in order to make a decision on the community solar project. A decision is necessary because the Village electric crew is finding that making a survey of villagers currently using solar power, as requested by Council, is time-consuming, but if Council chooses to move ahead with the project, the crew will prioritize the survey. Bates will set up times for Council to hear presentations from Courtney and the Energy Board.

Council’s next regular meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 17. The meeting is delayed a day due to Presidents’ Day.

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