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Village Council — 62 seek Village Manager job

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The process of vetting candidates to be the next Village Manager is officially underway, Council President Brian Housh reported at Council’s Feb. 18 regular meeting.

A total of 62 applications for the position of Village manager were received by the Village before the application period ended on Feb. 15, Housh reported.

Current Village Manager Patti Bates is retiring on July 1.

Council, with the support of a citizens group, is vetting the applicants by performing background checks, contacting references and conducting phone interviews, Housh added in a later email. Ten candidates were removed from consideration due to lack of qualifications, he wrote.

Council member Kineta Sanford is working with the Village Manager Search Community Advisory Committee on a rubric to score and assess the applicants, among other tasks such as interview guidelines, she reported at the meeting.

The goal is to get the number down to about 10 candidates, Sanford said. On March 18, three to five finalists will be announced and in April, they will visit the village to meet the community,  according to a Council timeline.

Current members of the Village Manager Search Community Advisory Committee are Bettina Solas, Kate Hamilton, Susan Jennings, Anthony Salmonson, Phillip Renfro, Karen Wintrow, Trent Fisher, Dino Pallotta, Jerry Sutton, Christopher Cox, Jeremiah Gaddy, Karen McKee, Janet Mueller, Cheryl Durgans, Laura Curliss and Scott Osterholm.

In other Council business—

Cell tower change discussed

Council considered its next step in response to a request from SBA Properties of Boca Raton, Fla., to purchase a perpetual lease of the cell tower the Village owns on the Sutton Farm along Ohio 343.

SBA, which currently leases the property for around $1,500 per month, offered the Village a one-time lump sum of $280,000 for the perpetual lease.

Council member Kevin Stokes said he wants the Village to “be in the best position possible” and suggested a counter-proposal to negotiate a higher payment.

“I think they can do better,” Stokes said of the initial figure.

From the floor, Scott Fife of Springs-Net said that the proposal from that group for a municipal fiber network is relevant to the current discussion of a cell tower buyout.

Fife explained that the group believes that with the rollout of 5G small cell towers, larger cell towers, like the one at the Sutton Farm, may be needed by cellular providers to aggregate data. Overall, Fife said, the Village should weigh such decisions carefully as the technologies are changing and the Village may lose out on revenue opportunities.

“We do think it’s worth a warning to be very careful and you will have other decisions that will be coming at you very quickly,” he said.

In a letter to Council, Springs-Net members added that according to their calculations, the cell lease could yield more than $1.1 million over the next 36 years due to the compounding nature of the current lease agreement increases.

In response, Village Public Works Director Johnnie Burns said he wouldn’t recommend a cell tower lease consultant due to the cost, but that he agrees the Village should ask for a better deal from SBA.

“It’s a low-risk proposition,” he said of such a request.

Council will decide the matter at its next meeting on March 4.

Tickets for EV charger abuse

Council unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance giving local police the option to give warnings and tickets to those who use the electric vehicle chargers at the Bryan Center for longer than four hours at a time.

Village Public Works Director Johnnie Burns said the need to step up enforcement at the chargers arose recently as some residents have taken advantage of the free electricity for their EVs. The Village, which received the chargers for free, spent $1,300 last year to power them, Burns reported.

Housh highlighted what he sees are the benefits of the chargers, especially in regards to sustainability and tourism.

“Like many communities. the reason we support these is that we want to promote environmental sustainability,” Housh said. “We want to encourage our visitors to the village to come and shop and spend money in town and also plug in their cars.”

From the floor, Sandy King questioned the need to do more to draw tourists to town.

“We’re getting inundated with tourists,” King said. “I personally don’t see the logic in that, of paying someone to come to our town.”

Stokes clarified that the EV chargers are also for residents.

“We want villagers to use them, but we don’t want them hogging them,” he said.

Investment decisions change

Council discussed an ordinance to change who is required to participate in Village investment decisions. It was the first reading of the ordinance, and no vote was taken. According to the ordinance, the investment committee will participate in such decisions along with the Village finance director, Village manager and Village treasurer. Housh said the change was to make sure Council was involved in such decisions.

Meeting to address transient lodging

The Village manager’s Housing Advisory Board will host a community meeting to discuss possible changes to the policies that govern transient guest lodging at residential properties, Council Vice President Marianne MacQueen announced.

Council is looking to more strictly regulate such establishments due to concerns that they may be reducing the availability of long-term rentals and negatively impacting neighborhoods, Council members have said.

There is some anecdotal evidence that the lodging sites, which number in the 30s, may be impacting rentals, but Council also is trying to be forward thinking, Housh said.

“We want to be proactive so we don’t get into a situation where we have more of a housing crisis because we have so much transient housing,” he said.

To MacQueen, who said she operates a transient guest apartment at her property, there are both benefits from and problems with transient lodging. On the plus side, they provide lodging opportunities for visitors to town who participate in local activities.

“People love coming to Yellow Springs. It provides income to the whole tourist service industry,” she said.

Arts and Culture earmarked $5,000

Council unanimously approved a request for $5,000 for the Arts and Culture Commission in 2019. The money will be used for several projects, including administering the Village Inspiration in Design Award, or VIDA, supporting the John Bryan Community Gallery and providing micro-grants to emerging artists.

After the vote, Housh added that a total of $25,000 is directed to local commissions each year, an amount which he said comes to less than 1 percent of the Village budget.

Local funds will also be used to encourage artists to address local issues such as anti-racism, the cost of living and running a local business, local environmental justice and police-community relationships, according to a proposal from the commission.

Prior to the funding request, Council member Lisa Kreeger gave an update on the commission’s accomplishments, including helping with the first annual Porchfest, continuing the VIDA and restoring a mural in Kieth’s Alley. She also spoke to a shift in mission, highlighting, “the way our role of activism through arts is beginning to shine through.”

A proclamation

Mayor Pam Conine read a proclamation in honor of Dr. Alphonse Smith, a Yellow Springs resident since 1964, to commemorate his birthday. Active in the local tennis community, Scouts, chamber music and unitarian church, Smith is a retired assistant professor of mathematics at Wright State University, Conine proclaimed.

Conine added that she plans to share more widely the regular proclamations she makes to honor local people, groups and events.

Wage increases passed

Council passed as part of its consent agenda two wage increases for municipal employees. The Village manager was given a pay increase of 5 percent, and Council Clerk’s pay was upped 3.5 percent, both effective Jan. 1, 2019.

Economic commission report

Saul Greenberg, chair of the Economic Sustainability Commission, gave the commission’s annual report for 2018.

Among the group’s accomplishments were the creation of an economic development incentive policy, which Council passed last May, and the establishment of a designated community improvement corporation, Greenberg reported. The group also started working on a marketing strategy for the Center for Business and Education and participated in village-wide discussions about localization.

“It’s a little more complicated than ‘buying local,’” Greenberg explained of localization. “We want businesses to come here and use local resources.”

From the floor, Fife said that a municipally owned fiber network could be considered localism. Housh said in response that revisiting municipal fiber is one of Council’s 2019 goals.

Council’s next meeting is Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.

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