Therapy dog considered for Yellow Springs Police Department
- Published: September 19, 2022
At its most recent meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6, Village Council members heard a proposal from Village Manager Josué Salmerón to add a new member — a therapy dog — to the Village’s police force.
“We’ve been talking about the benefits of a therapy dog for a while,” Salmerón said.
In a memo to Council, Salmerón wrote that the dog would be used for officers who have experienced trauma on the job, for community outreach programs and to help calm victims of crimes while they are giving statements.
In a follow-up email responding to questions posed by the News during the Council meeting, primarily regarding who would be the handler and funding for the program, Police Chief Paige Burge said grant funding would cover the first year of expenses for the dog.
“As of right now the funding would potentially cover the cost of the vehicle upgrades, the actual dog and the initial incidental supplies needed for the dog.” Burge said. “We will continue to seek other funding opportunities to fund the program going forward. Funds would be needed for ongoing expenses such as food and trips to the veterinarian.”
Burge also said that ideally the dog would live at the police station and have a handler on each shift, but she was working with members of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs to determine if this would work.
“I feel this approach would offer the greatest benefit to the officers in need of the therapeutic services of the dog,” Burge said.
In his presentation to Council, Salmerón said YSPD had been approached by the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison Counties.
“They have expressed enthusiasm for supporting such an endeavor,” Salmerón said. “We are working with the board to talk through some grant opportunities.”
There are several police departments throughout Ohio that have similar programs including Marysville, Columbus, Westerville and Franklin County Sheriff’s department. Franklin County’s program, enacted in 2017, was the first in Ohio.
Two citizens, Kathryn Hitchcock and Kate Hamilton, expressed their support for the program. Hitchcock said that it was a “good program.”
“What attracts me to [the therapy dog program] is that it would be a community asset,” she said.
Hamilton said that she supported the idea of a therapy dog because of her family’s experience with a therapy dog.
“I’ve had experience with support dogs and I’ve seen the difference it makes,” Hamilton said. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Housh ended by saying Council would need to make a decision quickly before the grant funding ran out. Council members agreed that the pilot program could move forward, with the expectation that Salmerón would bring legislation to the next Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 19.
In other Council Business, Sept. 6:
Council unanimously passed an emergency reading of a supplemental budget ordinance totaling $289,500. According to Salmerón, a large percentage of the funds from the water fund were needed to meet increased costs of chemicals and gas. Likewise, $76,000 from the electric capital improvement fund would cover an estimated increase in the cost of materials for an upcoming project on the Cresco property. Additional expenditures, such as a $25,000 addition to the economic development fund, reflected a pass through of dollars granted to the Village on behalf of WYSO. As for the general fund, Council approved $12,750 to cover increased costs associated with legal services, $30,000 for the Planning and Zoning office to cover costs associated with building permits, $96,000 for additional improvements to the Lawson Place apartments and $16,750 for Council items.
Council approved a resolution accepting the Greene County Budget Commission’s estimation of Village resources. According to Salmerón, this is another step in the ongoing budgeting and auditing process that takes place yearly.
Council heard the first reading of an ordinance establishing rates and fees for stormwater in the village. If passed, residential customers will see an additional $5 on their bill; commercial, agricultural, exempt and industrial customers will see a $10 increase. Properties’ use will be determined by the code assigned to them by Greene County. According to Salmerón, the Village would receive about $100,560 per year in revenue, which would go toward maintenance and improvement of the storm water sewage system.
“We need a dedicated revenue stream to save money,” Salmerón said.
He said that this legislation was the first step in addressing stormwater issues through a fee, and that he hoped to eventually charge a progressive fee where people with more impermeable surfaces on their property would pay higher fees.
The News asked about pieces of the legislation aimed at mitigating the fee through a stormwater utility coordinator and how Salmerón determined the fees for village customers.
Council President Brian Housh said that the fee was something that Village staff considered fair.
“We centered on an amount that would make a difference,” Housh said.
Salmerón said he would follow up with the News, but did not respond as of press time. Council will hear a second reading of the legislation at their Sept. 19 meeting.
Salmerón gave an update on solar installation projects the Village could embark on to meet Council’s goal of using 100% renewable energy. To date, several sites, such as the John Bryan Center, the train station and Gaunt Park Pool, have been identified for small-scale projects; however, Salmerón said a large-scale project would be needed in order to justify the installation costs.
According to Salmerón, a prime location for a large-scale solar installation would be Sutton Farm, but moving forward with the project would require an amendment to the conservation easement Tecumseh Land Trust, or TLT, holds on the property. To date, Salmerón said he has received a letter from TLT that said the easement could not be modified and that the type of project Salmerón proposed would not work on Sutton Farm. Salmerón said he had two options moving forward: consult the Village solicitor and other attorneys to see about modifying the easement, or “review policy position on land conservation and climate action goals.” Additional reporting on Sutton Farm will appear in a future issue of the News.
Concerns about zoning reform
During the citizens’ concerns portion of the meeting, Mitzie Miller expressed concerns about a zoning reform proposal from a village group called Neighbors for More Neighbors Yellow Springs. Miller said that she felt that Council should be “very cautious” before proceeding with the proposal from Neighbors for More Neighbors.
In addition to citing concerns about infrastructure and utilities, Miller said she worried about how adding more housing would change established neighborhoods, giving examples of neighborhoods in Seattle, Wa., and Texas that she believes have been negatively impacted by zoning reform. “I’ve personally seen what’s happened … when there’s neighborhood zoning changes,” Miller said.
Neighbors for More Neighbors is a zoning reform group whose membership includes Matt Raska, who is married to this reporter.
Council members unanimously approved a $900 board and commission expenditure request on behalf of PorchFest, who requested the amount to cover the cost of four portable bathrooms for its Sept. 17 event. Salmerón said that the Village would cover the cost through its commission budget, which often covers the cost of portable bathrooms that are accessible to all people.
Salmerón highlighted several projects, including the Limestone Street sidewalk project, that were moving forward. He said that the Dayton stormwater system project is moving forward with a new contract that was awarded to Fillmore Construction. According to Salmerón, construction on the Dayton Street project will commence after Street Fair.
Council member Marianne MacQueen asked Salmerón about the memorandum of understanding, or MOU, between the Village and Agraria for the Climate Action Sustainability Plan, which was approved at Council’s July 18 meeting, but had not been completed as of the Sept. 6 meeting.
MacQueen said that the delay in receipt of the MOU meant Agraria could not post a job description for a coordinator. Salmerón said that he and the Village solicitor had been reviewing the proposal and that he would have it to Agraria within a week.
Council member Gavin DeVore Leonard asked Salmerón for an update on the Village’s pledge to support people, particularly Village staff members, seeking abortion services after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Salmerón said providing a benefit through the employee’s Health Savings Account, or HSA, would be the best strategy. In response to a follow up question from DeVore Leonard, Salmerón said adding to the HSA benefits would have to be a part of the budgeting process for 2023.
Ellis Pond update
MacQueen said that the Environmental Commission discussed the benefits of and barriers to having volunteers working on the pond. Council member Carmen Brown added that part of the volunteer process would be ensuring all volunteers were given jobs according to their ability.
“I think it’s the responsibility of the person organizing volunteers to make that assessment,” Brown said.
According to MacQueen, the Environmental Commission would like to move forward on short-term and long-term goals for the pond, including removing some of the plant matter, looking for grant monies for dredging and renaturalization of the pond and monitoring the pond. Brown elaborated, saying that cleaning the pond would be most effective as the plants go into dormancy, “toward the middle of fall, before a freeze.”
“We don’t want to be removing plants while they are still reproducing,” Brown said.
Brown estimated that work on clearing the pond should begin at the end of September, and that details about volunteer opportunities would be forthcoming.
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