Tense Village Council Meeting Held 2-28 in Grand Rapids
Updated: Mar 9
The most recent Village of Grand Rapids Council meeting was held Monday, February 28, at the Old Fire Station in Grand Rapids. Towpath Radio was in attendance, along with all members of the council, the mayor, village employees, and less than ten residents either observing or presenting material to the council. The meeting, which started at 7 p.m., covered multiple items and had moments of tense interaction between council members.
The meeting started with the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, which was held on February 14. Mayor John Berry made a motion to approve the document with one objection from Councilmember Lynn Sylvain. Sylvain took issue with discussed items that did not appear in the official minutes. A technical issue with a recording device prevented various topics from being documented. Council President Rachel Smith questioned if Sylvain submitted notes from the meeting on February 14 to the fiscal officer, who puts the minutes together. Sylvain responded that it was still her time to talk and spoke about council members having the right to question the minutes. An e-mail had been sent to all council members on February 25 requesting the notes and explaining the recording error. After a brief back-and-forth between members of the council, Councilmember Bob Krabill motioned to table the approval until the minutes get updated.
Sylvain attempted to discuss the payout to former Village Administrator Chad Hoffman. Council had previously approved payment of over $70,000 in unused sick time and vacation to Hoffman. Sylvain stated that there was an overpayment of $62,531.89. Mayor Berry denied the request to speak of the payment. Smith and Councilmember Donsbach agreed with the Mayor and stated that the issue had been cleared by the village solicitor.
Council discussed Grand Rapids Town Hall and the effort to restore and use the historic facility. Mayor Berry pointed out that the last major upgrade to the building was roughly 30 years ago and stated that there is a need for work and maintenance. The building has been sitting unused for the past two years, mostly due to the pandemic. Committees are being set up to come up with a way to get the town hall to sustain itself financially. A recent tour sparked interest from residents who would like to see the building put to use. As a historic note, Grand Rapids Town Hall was built in 1898 and housed government offices, a jail, and an opera house. In recent years it has been used for village council meetings and plays put on by the Grand Rapids Arts Council, though those gatherings have been put on hold due to COVID-19.
Village resident Angie Miller was in attendance and presented the idea for an app that would help connect residents of the village to the village itself. The app would notify residents of village emergencies such as water main breaks, weather events, or other announcements. The app would cost an estimated $2,000 with a three-year contract. No decision was made on whether or not to use the app but the council appears to be interested.
Council went on to discuss “unfinished business,” at which time the mayor pointed out that the committees need to be updated on the village website. Sylvain then spoke on her interest to join the Finances, Wages, and Audit Committee. The mayor stated they will stay as they currently are. Sylvain then stated she would be attending said meetings. A resident in the audience asked if committee meetings were open to the public and the council responded that they are. They went on to explain that committee meetings are announced via GrandRapidsOhio.com.
Sylvain questioned if six committees were necessary and suggested that three may be more effective. The mayor stated the topic could be revisited next year. Sylvain responded by saying the village has a long history of no progress and questioned the statement of waiting another year. Mayor Berry explained that COVID-19 held the village back from multiple meetings and said the village was lucky to have any meetings at all.
A motion was made to adjourn the meeting, Sylvain objected and stated she had other items to discuss. Sylvain asked the council if they felt comfortable with the new village solicitor, Ryan Rothenbuhler. Sylvain stated that Rothenbuhler doesn’t have municipal law experience. Smith stated that Rothenbuhler works with Mike Marsh, who was the previous solicitor for the village. Smith stated she is comfortable with Rothenbuhler and thinks he is doing a fine job.
A motion for the meeting to be adjourned was then made and supported by all council members. As attendees were beginning to pack their items, Sylvain told residents sitting in the audience that she had documents pertaining to Hoffman’s payout. Smith questioned if they were legal documents or documents she came up with on her own. Towpath Radio obtained a copy of said paperwork, Krabill requested a copy but was denied by Sylvain. Sylvain explained that the council refused the chance to speak on this topic multiple times. Those wishing to view these documents can contact Councilmember Lynn Sylvain by e-mailing Lynn_Sylvain@yahoo.com.
As attendees were filtering out of the meeting room, a conversation between Smith and Sylvain, who sat directly across the room from one and other, appeared tense. Towpath Radio spoke to other attendees who say tense conversations have been present in recent meetings.
The next village meeting is scheduled for March 14 in the meeting room at the Old Fire Station on Front Street in Grand Rapids. Meetings begin promptly at 7 p.m. and are open to the public.
Other items to note:
The Wood County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an incident in the restroom on Lincoln Street. According to Interim Administrator Chad Beyer, the restroom was vandalized on Monday, February 21. $1,000 in damage was reported. The restroom has since been fixed.
Village maintenance has been working at fixing potholes around the village with cold-patch. Beyer said it’s been an ongoing project.
A CCA rep will be at the village office on April 6 from 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Residents can meet with the rep for tax help by appointment.
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