NEW LEXINGTON – The New Lexington Village Council at their Monday, April 19, 2021 meeting covered a host of issues, but none so hotly discussed as a possible homeless/transition shelter coming to New Lexington.
Attorney Bryan Everitt attended the meeting via Zoom to answer council’s questions concerning how to prevent a homeless shelter from showing up on the village’s doorstep. Everitt’s interpretation of the effort to place a blanket prohibition for a homeless shelter was not the message council wanted to hear.
“Blanket prohibitions may run into problems with constitutional rights,” Everitt told council. He added that classifying the homeless as a group could run afoul of due process rights as well.
“You cannot ban homeless shelters, but you can control them with tight rules,” Everitt explained. He detailed how a community could allow such a shelter in a specified area or perhaps require the organization behind the shelter to be licensed. He told council they could institute a blanket prohibition, but told them, “you will be challenged in court.”
Mayor Trent Thompson asked Everitt about putting this issue on the ballot for voters to decide. Several council members expressed that their constituents were firmly against a homeless shelter being opened in the village.
“Even if you have a vote that is 100 percent against a homeless shelter, it can be overturned if constitutional rights are being denied,” Everitt replied.
The next question posed to Everitt was the possibility of having a blanket ruling that council and the zoning committee must approve. Everitt answered yes, but added that these types of guidelines are usually enforced on large institutions like hospitals and factories.
Councilperson Doug Fox referred to regulations enforced as policy on a similar situation in Cadillac, Mich. Other council members also referred to the Cadillac response.
Fox made a motion that Everitt pursue a course of action to produce regulations similar to the homeless shelter policy implemented in Cadillac. The motion passed unanimously. Discussion on this topic consumed the first 40 minutes of the meeting.
Finance Director Heather Rockwell reported on the American Rescue Fund dollars allocated for New Lexington. She stated that a decision on the amount could be forthcoming by mid-May. While larger urban areas have been notified of the funding they are to receive, villages and small towns have yet to be notified as to the amount coming from the state.
Village Administrator Bo Powell had several items to cover; the first was having New Lexington streets swept. He also covered the cleanup along State Street being approved by the railroad, and the railroad tracks near Dr. Nash’s office being repaired by their owner, Ohio Central Railroad. Powell told council he had contacted Ohio Central, but so far they had not responded.
Powell told council he had met with Nathan Simons of HAPCAP about the $750,000 Neighborhood Revitalization Grant for upgrades at and around the village pool area. The village is required to put up a five percent matching fund due in 2023. Jim Welsh made a motion for council to pay the 5% match in 2023. The motion carried.
While most of the issues raised by Powell were going smoothly, one is not. That issue revolves around the repair work on the Nuzum Bridge. Most of the landowners have agreed to payment for permission for construction crews to cross their property lines. However, one resident has demanded a $10,000 settlement.
“This may go to eminent domain,” stated Powell, who said the property owner “wants $10,000, nothing less.”
The EPA has added an additional thorn to Powell’s side. He was recently informed that an EPA mandate calls for New Lexington to formulate an Emergency Response Plan that must be done by June. The first estimate for the cost of such a plan was $17,750.
“This is a very complicated plan that must be done by an engineer,” Powell explained.
Powell’s last input was answering a question from Mayor Thompson concerning the village fire hydrants. Powell replied that he was not satisfied with the original report and had asked the company evaluating the hydrants to “re-look” at their original work.
Police Chief Scott Ervin told council that 1,754 service calls had been answered far in 2021. He also mentiioned the two-hour limit for parking on Main Street.
Fire Chief Jim Fain told council the fire department is staying quite busy and reported that one EMS squad vehicle was pulled from duty in need of repairs. He requested a purchase order for the repairs, but did not list an amount needed for the repair. Chief Fain also said a computer glitch was preventing the fire department from gaining access to webpages for village businesses. Rockwell tried to explain how to correct this issue until Fain gave further details on how the fire department could not access the plans to T C Woodworking when it caught fire. Rockwell surmised that the fire department must be blocked from gaining this access.
Sue Boyle provided good news for council following Chief Fain’s report. The recent fundraiser for Parks and Recreation netted $2,350. Sue said the next fundraiser is set for June. Mayor Thompson thanked Sue Boyle for her hard work on this project.
The next issue tackled by council was creating a dog park in New Lexington. An early look into the issue reported that the village’s insurance would go up slightly with the addition of a dog park.
Under unfinished business, Jeff Danison told council that some guidelines were not being followed correctly by council, especially concerning the mayor’s authority on certain matters.
“Some people are doing things that overrides the mayor’s responsibility,” Danison told council. “Some day people will be in trouble.” Danison did not elaborate on the specific issues or those responsible for the actions he deemed to be out of line.
Bo Powell was asked to comment on the water clerk opening. Powell told council he had received eight applications, and would soon be bringing in the top four or five candidates for interviews.
Mayor Thompson asked Powell if he had a recommendation as to who should replace him as village administrator. Powell had told council of his plans to step down sometime in July at a previous meeting. Powell said he had no candidates to recommend.
The mayor asked Powell to begin posting the opening for the village administrator position. Kathy Chute announced the first week of May to address the working document. Stars Wars Day was selected for meeting on this issue. For the uninformed, that day is May The Fourth (be with you). Dan Bethel commended Chute for her hard work on this matter.
At 7:50 p.m., Susan Goodfellow made a motion to adjourn that passed quickly and unanimously.