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Officer drops charges— Village settles with Watson

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At Village Council’s Sept. 6 meeting, Council approved a settlement between the Village and Sergeant Naomi (Penrod) Watson, following a charge filed by Watson last spring with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, or OCRC.

“I’m happy this matter has been settled,” Council President Karen Wintrow said at the meeting. “Sgt. Watson is an important asset to the police department and the community as a whole.”

Watson was not at the meeting and other Council members did not comment.

In March 2016 Watson filed the charge with the OCRC, which seeks to protect people from discrimination based on race, color, sex, age, religion or disability. At the time of the filing, Village staff and Watson declined to comment on the reason for the charge.

This week Watson said she has no comment on the settlement. Village Manager Patti Bates and Police Chief Dave Hale also declined to comment.

According to the settlement, the Village agreed to pay Watson’s attorney fees of $18,500 to Jason Matthews of Dayton. The settlement also states that Watson agrees to waive all charges against the Village and will continue employment with the Village. The settlement also states that the Village will not pursue investigation of disciplinary matters involving Watson. According to Village Solicitor Chris Conard at the Council meeting, the disciplinary matters were connected to the 2014 charge against Watson, then Penrod, by villager Athena Fannin after Watson forcefully removed a camera Fannin was using to record an encounter with police. In that instance, the police sergeant was found not guilty by the Greene County Court of Common Pleas in July 2015.

Also according to the settlement, Watson will receive a 3 percent raise, totaling $1,900, retroactive from Dec. 6, 2015. According to a written statement from Conard, the raise was one received by other officers at that time, but that Watson didn’t receive due to the disciplinary action.

Also in the settlement, the police department agrees to “engage in team building exercises, training and education with the goal of developing a cohesive supervisory unit within the Department.”

In a written statement from Conard, he stated that, “the Chief is implementing leadership training with his supervisory staff to improve departmental operations and interaction within the department and community.”

In other Council business:
• Solicitor Conard made a brief presentation regarding the effects on Yellow Springs of the recent Ohio medical marijuana law, which went into effect Sept. 8. According to Conard, much about the law remains unknown and lawmakers still have work to do.

“Nothing is going to happen for about a year,” he said.

It is known that to receive the law’s protection, marijuana users must have an approved medical condition and also a statement from a doctor recommending use. The law approves marijuana use in the form of tinctures, patches or edibles but not in the form of smoking. Those who have a doctor’s approval to use marijuana also need to register with the state Department of Pharmacy.

The law also requires that medical marijuana only be sold by state-approved pharmacies, which cannot be within 500 feet of schools, parks or libraries. Individual cultivation of the plant is outlawed.

However, communities have “considerable control” over how to implement the law, Conard said, and there does seem to be interest in the new law in Yellow Springs.
“There are many questions to explore,” he said.

• Council heard a presentation from Shook Construction on the guaranteed maximum price, or GMP, of the new water plant. Council will vote on a resolution to approve the GMP at its next meeting.

The GMP is $7,145,215, according to Joe Mellon of Shook, an amount that is a reduction from the original expected price of about $7.4 million. After being hired by the Village to construct the plant nine months ago, Shook has gone through several preliminary designs that brought the price down, Mellon said. The firm has also met with Village staff nine times on the project.

However, the GMP does not include the cost of demolition for the current plant, which is estimated at about $51,000. Asked if the current plant could still be used in some way, Manager Bates said the amount of dampness and mold makes the building unfit for storage use.

Shook, which has been paid about $617,000 by the Village for its design work so far, would like to start work on the plant on Sept. 20, the day after Council votes on the resolution. Company leaders estimate that construction would take about 17 months and the plant would be finished in December 2017.

While Council members appeared ready to move ahead, they also requested that Shook continue to find ways to cut costs.

“While the price has come down, it’s still high and a lot for a small community,” Judith Hempfling said.

• Environmental Commission member Duard Headley told Council that that group has been stymied in its attempts to create a Climate Action Plan for the Village due to a lack of usable data. Council last year approved the EC moving ahead with creating the plan, which aims to define actions necessary to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions to meet target levels.

However, EC members have found that while some data necessary for establishing those target levels, such as that for electric use, is available, much is not, including data related to transportation, housing and industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

“For our area, a lot of that data is not readily available,” Headley said.
The Village has three options for moving ahead with greenhouse gas reductions, he said. The first option is to continue making the easiest adjustments toward reduced energy use without a climate action plan; the second is to create a plan with available data, although that plan would not be considered rigorous enough for recognition from external agencies; or, the third option, to hire consultants to collect the necessary data, which would require tens of thousands of dollars.
Council members leaned toward the second option, of creating a plan with data available.

“I’d rather we spend our money doing something, coming up with solutions, rather than coming up with a plan,” Council President Karen Wintrow said.

Council agreed that the EC will confer with the Village Energy Board to consider the next steps toward creating the plan.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution approving a contract for new utility billing software.

The current Village software program has not been able to handle the recent changes in billing, according to Assistant Manager Melissa Vanzant. The purchase of the new program, by Creative Microsystems Inc., should prevent many of the problems villagers are currently having with utility billing, although it will take about six months before the new system is up and running. In the meantime Vanzant encouraged villagers to visit the utility office if they have concerns about their utility bills.

• Council approved adding about $321,000 in supplemental appropriations to the Village budget for the third quarter of 2016. The added costs mainly involved “loose ends” in the budget, Vanzant said. The appropriations included an increase of $32,500 for legal services for the police department.

• Council approved several ordinances that correct current oversights in the zoning code, according to Bates. Changes included allowing food trucks as a conditional use in industrial and educational zones.

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. at Council chambers.


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