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Village Council

Village Council adopts volunteer policy

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At their most recent meeting Monday, March 20, Village Council members unanimously approved a policy for those wishing to volunteer on Village-owned property. 

The policy creates a formal process for groups working to maintain Village parks and landscapes and “assist with many aspects of Village government” and projects of all kinds. While many groups have volunteered with the Village for years, members of Village administration asked that a policy be put in place after villagers and volunteers from a local business offered to help clean Ellis Pond.

Village Council member Carmen Brown, who spearheaded efforts to find an environmentally friendly approach at Ellis Pond, said the policy would ensure that a mechanism is in place to facilitate community initiatives, such as cleaning the pond.

“Getting to a place where we can really give people credit for what they contribute to the Village in any capacity [has] been a long time coming, and I’m happy that we’re here,” Brown said.

Those wishing to volunteer for the Village will have to fill out a pre-volunteer application, which authorizes the Village to do a background check. Potential volunteers will also need to sign a waiver, releasing the Village from any liability should an injury occur.

Village Manager Josué Salmerón reiterated that the policy is a way to formalize a longstanding tradition of volunteers in Yellow Springs.

“This creates a framework to help us engage with volunteers,” Salmerón said.

Council member Marianne MacQueen asked which organizations would be required to sign the waivers, giving examples of Tecumseh Land Trust and the Tree Committee.

Salmerón said those volunteers would need to sign a waiver, but, for example, villagers working in Village-owned community gardens would not need to sign a waiver. In response to another question from MacQueen, Salmerón said the Village would need to determine best practices for  volunteers using their own equipment, such as chainsaws.

“Knowing that chainsaws are being used, we are certainly going to need waivers,” Salmerón said. “If we are providing a chainsaw, we have to make sure [the volunteer] knows how to use it and has the proper protective gear.”

Village Solicitor Amy Blankenship said each activity holds its own risk.

“By having this policy in place, we can take each example and figure out needs,” Blankenship said. “The tools issue hadn’t even occurred to me. We may need to revisit that.”

Villager Mitzie Miller, who organizes a group that clears sidewalks, asked Council if the sidewalks her team worked on were considered public property.

“You’re saying my volunteers would have to sign a waiver?” Miller asked. “It seems like you’re trying to control this group of volunteers that have made great accomplishments in the village.”

Council President Brian Housh said Miller’s group would, indeed, have to sign a waiver.

“It’s Village property, so we have liability,” Housh said.

Salmerón said he was not concerned about Miller’s group using mechanical tools, but he would like to have more communication from the group regarding their activities.

In response to a follow-up question from the News, Salmerón assured homeowners they would still need to clear the sidewalks abutting their properties and would not be required to sign a form.

“We are not requesting a waiver for property owners to do what the Village codified ordinance requires them to do,” Salmerón wrote in an email to the News.

In other Council business, March 20:

Council members voted to remove a resolution that would prohibit events sponsored by the Village, or supported through cash or in-kind donations, from using plastic bags, plastic cups or plastic tableware.

Beginning the discussion, Council member Marianne MacQueen asked what was allowed under the resolution, which banned plastic and styrofoam, but did not offer any alternatives.

“Paper,” Housh said. “There’s [also] bamboo or utensils made from avocado pits.”

Several members of the Chamber of Commerce board and a Mills Park Hotel employee questioned the proposed policy, claiming it would make planning for  Street Fair, Pride and other upcoming events more difficult.

The News asked how the proposal would  affect events aimed at building community amongst villagers, such as the community block parties the Village sponsors.

Salmerón said those events would be held to the same standard.

After hearing comments from those affiliated with the Chamber and downtown businesses, Council member Gavin DeVore Leonard said he thought Council needed more time to look over the legislation and find a balance.

“It sounds like there’s a lot we can figure out here. Let’s take some time to work on it,” DeVore Leonard said.

Ultimately, Housh motioned to remove the resolution, saying his intention in bringing the legislation forward was to elevate the environmental concerns.

“I do hope the environmental commission gets to work on this,” Housh said. “I think it’s important for our community.”

Other items from the March 20 meeting will be covered in next week’s issue of the News.

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