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Village Council

At their most recent meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Village Council members considered legislation that would ban single-use plastics in the village, among other ordinances and resolutions. Present at the meeting were Council members Marianne Macqueen, Gavin DeVore Leonard and Carmen Brown, as well as Council Vice President Kevin Stokes. Council President Brian Housh was absent. (Video still)

Village Council eyes single-use plastics ban

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In an effort to respond to growing concerns about climate change, Village Council members agreed to bring forth legislation that would ban single-use plastics in the village at their most recent meeting, Feb. 21, which was held on Tuesday, rather than the typical Monday, because of the President’s Day holiday.

Council Vice President Kevin Stokes, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Council President Brian Housh, invited Village Solicitor Amy Blankenship to lead the discussion.

According to Blankenship, the legislation would prohibit noncompostable single-use plastics within the village.

“Ordinances like this started to gain some traction in 2017 and 2018, but then COVID-19 hit,” Blankenship said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Ohio placed a one-year moratorium on plastic bans, but that moratorium expired in January 2022. Since then, municipalities such as Bexley and Cincinnati have passed legislation banning the use of single-use plastics, to varying degrees of success. According to the City of Cincinnati website: 

“Ohio House Bill 242 [the one-year moratorium] was permanently extended in June 2021 and the implementation of the [single-use plastic ban] ordinance has been delayed indefinitely by the City.”

Blankenship said the proposal could affect plastic bags used in the grocery store, plastic lids and cutlery. Businesses using compostable plastic — such as Tom’s Market, which uses plastic bags that are purported to biodegrade in 30 days — could be exempt from the ban.

“One nuance of this to consider is certain things like dry cleaning bags,” Blankenship said. “There are certain times when single-use bags need to be used.”

Council member Carmen Brown asked about enforcement with some larger chains, such as Dollar General, which have stores within village limits.

“How would we [enforce that]?” Brown asked.

Blankenship said any business, including Dollar General, would have to comply with the ordinance or face a penalty.

“Once the ban was in place it would apply to them,” Blankenship said. “It would be tricky and it would take some conversations.”

Council member Marianne MacQueen spoke in favor of bringing legislation forward. Mark Heise, president of the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce, said that he was also in favor of a single-use plastics ban, but acknowledged the logistical difficulties the ban would place on the Chamber as an events coordinator.

“The Greene County Health Department has said that we can refill cups,” Heise said. “Our local vendor has said they will not refill cups because they are afraid of cross-contamination between beer taps.”

The Yellow Springs Brewery, the local beer vendor for events in the Village, does not serve beer at events; in the past, this has been done by volunteers recruited by the Chamber. At Street Fairs and other Chamber-sponsored events in the past, people purchasing beer received a plastic cup that was refilled throughout the event.

“It all comes down to what is considered a single-use plastic cup,” Heise said.

Heise also said compostable cups could create another issue, requiring additional volunteers to sort the compostable cups from other recyclables and garbage.

“You have to have a system in place,” Heise said, explaining he had experienced this through his work with Dayon-based Five Rivers MetroParks.

In response to Heise’s concerns, Blankenship clarified that the examples from other municipalities did not include plastic cups.

Villager Rose O’Brien said she was in favor of a full plastic ban, saying that composting plastics is very tricky.

“I think if you’re going to do it, just do it,” O’Brien said.

In other Council business, Feb. 21:

• Council unanimously passed an emergency reading of an ordinance adding positions and adjusting wages for the Public Works Department. The ordinance was passed as an emergency to allow Public Works Director Johnnie Burns to interview, hire and train for several open and newly created positions, including a lead journeyman for the electric department, and  several utility service workers for the streets, parks and sewer department and the water distribution center.

• Council passed a second emergency ordinance for a first quarter supplemental totaling $1,765,742.05 for expenses in the public safety department, transfers from the general fund to the water capital fund and the electric capital fund.

• Council passed a resolution to approve payment of invoices including a Then and Now certificate, which states the Village had the money to pay the invoice when the service was rendered. The purchases included $5,560.80 for an insurance payment for the Lawson Place apartments and a $21,666.67 payment toward a water treatment plant replacement loan.

• Council unanimously passed a series of ordinances — all of which had first readings at the Monday, Feb. 6, meeting. Included in the legislation were three ordinances adjusting the water, electric, and sewer rates in the village. Water rates will increase by 8% per year, electric rates will increase by 3% per year and sewer rates will increase by 5% per year. Other pieces of legislation passed included an ordinance creating a deputy chief position for the Yellow Springs Police Department and an ordinance banning texting while driving within the village.

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