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BARNESVILLE — A village councilman recently questioned the legality of an executive session held during the May 9 council meeting.

At the council meeting held June 20, Councilman Steve Hill read from a prepared statement, saying that the executive session in question was called to discuss “personnel,” so that Councilman Terry McCort could express his dismay at Hill’s reading of a complaint concerning the restrooms at Memorial Park at a previous meeting.

Hill cited Ohio Revised Code in claiming that simply stating “personnel” as the reason for an executive session is not sufficient and that “personnel” would refer to employees, whereas he is an elected official.

Hill went on to say that McCort had claimed that Hill had “embarrassed” the village by reading the restroom complaint during the meeting and that he believed McCort was seeking a way to get him removed from council. Hill said he had since consulted an attorney who had characterized the executive session and McCort’s comments during the session as “blatantly unlawful.”

McCort responded, “First of all, these were personnel issues. I did contact our attorney, (Village Solicitor) Adam Myser because I did have a problem, not necessarily that the complaint was read, but what happened after: The hostility that was shown and the arguments that broke out. It did bother me the way these council meetings were going.”

McCort said his goal had been to stop what he felt were “attacks” against the park staff and get the council members back together, and that he was considering stepping down if the meetings continued to go that way.

Hill asked that McCort speak up in open session if he has a problem with something Hill says.

Meanwhile, at the June 20 meeting, Village Administrator Roger Deal updated council concerning the long delayed Rails to Trails and tunnel project that has been stuck in legal limbo due to property issues since grant funding through the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternative Program and Belomar Regional Council was approved in 2018.

“I met with ODOT officials on June 10 to discuss the property issues and possibly changing the scope of the project. They have agreed to change the scope and instead of going from corporation limit to corporation limit, it will be going from East South Street to the intersection of Bethesda Street and East Main.”

Deal explained that besides putting in the trail for recreation, this change would still include the much-needed drainage and other work to the B&O Railroad tunnel to “make it safe.”

Deal also noted that the path would not be wide enough to allow bicycle traffic.

Deal said that while ODOT will be approving the final scope of the project, it will be up to the village to put together a committee to select an engineering firm to design the project and that it looks like 95% of the project will be paid for with the grant funding.

Deal also informed council that he had submitted a pre-application for grant funding for a needed slip repair to the dam that retains Rotary Lake at Barnesville Memorial Park.

He said that if awarded, the grant would require a 35% match from the village, which would be in the neighborhood of $140,000, adding that the village has the advantage of the project being essentially “shovel ready.”

Deal invited council members to attend the Slope Creek Waterline pre-construction meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Youth Center at Memorial Park.

Deal reminded council that Independence Day will be celebrated in the village at Memorial Park on Saturday with a full day of activities that would include a free swim, food trucks and other vendors, a baseball tournament, as well as a variety of entertainment, culminating with a fireworks display at dusk. Deal said in the event of rain, the fireworks will be held on Sunday.

Council agreed with Deal that it would be prudent to spend $2,100 to fill the cracks on the park tennis courts.

Councilman Brian Yarnall commented on seeing the success of a recent $1 Monday moonlight swim at the pool.

“That was great to see the pool full of kids,” he said.

The need to adjust the fees the village charges for burials at its three cemeteries was discussed before it was decided to hold a Cemetery Committee meeting to consider options.

Yarnall requested that the Finance Committee meet with The Health Plan and other relevant entities to discuss the village’s options and possible adjustments that could be made with the employee policy renewal deadline looming in September.

Councilman Tony Johnson said his daughter recently had the opportunity to ride along with Barnesville police Officer Megan Phillips as part of a job shadowing program and that she had found the experience enlightening.

“It makes me feel good that we have a good police department that would take the time to do that,” Johnson said.

In other business, council approved paying bills in the amount of $73,273.05, approved the appointment of Christian Carpenter to the Fire and EMS Departments on a six-month probationary term, and authorized Deal to apply for a loan through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to complete funding for the Slope Creek Waterline Project.

Council also suspended the rules requiring that ordinances be read on three separate occasions in order to pass an ordinance dedicating a 20- by 50-foot parcel of the former Louise Alley land as a public alleyway with Hill voting against while Councilmen Johnson, McCort, Yarnall, Tim McKelvey and Council President Les Tickhill voted in favor.

Fiscal Officer Jeannie Hannahs announced that a public hearing to review the village’s 2023 budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday prior to the regular council meeting scheduled for 7 p.m., with both being held at the village offices located on Arch Street. The MOnday council meeting was moved due to the July 4 holiday.

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