West Liberty resident James Burkhamer addresses the village council during their regular meeting Monday, Nov. 13. First, he expressed his concern that a lot of recycling still ends up in a landfill, then added, “We need a resolution for those who can’t make it to the recycling center.” His thoughts were shared by over a dozen people in attendance Monday night, including four more who spoke directly to the council. (EXAMINER PHOTO | SHARYN KOPF)
Less than a week after West Liberty residents made some big decisions in the Nov. 7 election, including allowing beer and alcohol within the city limits and choosing a new mayor, several turned up at the village council’s regular meeting on Monday, Nov. 13, with another subject on their minds: recycling.
It all started Oct. 5, when the council conducted a special meeting to discuss the issue. In a little over 30 minutes, the five members in attendance passed a motion to discontinue curbside recycling as of Nov. 1, 2023. Councilman Jim Hoffman was absent from that meeting.
According to meeting notes, the decision rested on a number of reasons. These included the belief most residents either don’t recycle or take their paper and plastics to a recycling center themselves, plus changes in the system would require the village to purchase a bigger truck as the one they have can’t handle what they would need it to do.
In fact, the issue had other financial implications. The cost would go to $4,310 a month, meaning they would have to raise the rates for the first time since 2020. It seemed the expense outweighed the benefits.
The public, however, disagreed. When the council opened their meeting on Monday, they dove right into the local response to the issue. Jayne Griffith, council president, started by reading two letters from concerned citizens, then, one by one, invited the residents who wished to speak to the podium.
All told, seven men and women presented one unified message: the council should have taken more time and polled the public before making this decision.
In her letter to the council, Ashley Hagar, owner of Sweetie Pie’s Baked Goods and Coffee Shop, wrote, “It seems very short-sighted,” and shared her concern the discontinuation might be a “recipe for disaster” and could lead people to stop recycling completely.
Other residents in attendance agreed, including Alex Dye. “I think transparency is critical for trust,” he stated. “And it’s evident to me the repercussions weren’t considered.”
Though Griffith began the time by reminding attendees the council doesn’t usually respond to audience questions/concerns during the meeting but would give it consideration later, that was not the case Monday night. In fact, several council members commented on the issue.
“We fell down on the job,” Jeanette Zerkle said. “We were thinking financially because things have been tough, and we didn’t want to put an added burden on the community. I feel … we let the people down.”
Griffith added, “I voted for it because I was convinced people weren’t recycling. I’m disappointed in myself for not sticking to my guns.”
With this in mind, the council determined to find a solution that would work for everyone. They also encouraged West Liberty residents to stay in touch with their council members directly rather than contact the mayor or clerk, who don’t have a vote.
E-mail addresses can be found at mywestliberty.com or you can send a letter addressed to the council.
In other council action Monday night:
- The curb and gutter ordinance for west Columbus Street passed on its third and final reading.
- A grant in the amount of $7,500 for flood mitigation was received.
- Another resolution—for the Emergency Management Agency multi-hazard mitigation plan—also passed. This will allow the village to apply for local, state and federal funds in the event of a natural disaster or environmental hazard.
- With foot traffic down in the village, Mayor Jill McKelvey expressed concern for their retail stores and asked the council to look for ways to bring more outside consumers to West Liberty.
- Some large purchases the council has made this year include having several streets repaved, adding two new pickup trucks (totaling $70,000), covering the costs of three police car accidents and repairs to a vehicle hit by a dump truck in an alley, and buying out Liberty Township’s portion of Town Hall for $50,000.
- On the recommendation of Fire Chief Darin Leach, the village hired Jared Cox as a new firefighter, on a probationary basis.
- Plans to replace the 1970-era bathrooms at Lions Park continue to move forward. Trent Spriggs, parks and recreation committee member, told the council that Lions Club member Rick Harr has “an exceptional plan put together” using money from a relatively small nature works grant, which should cover the cost of demolishing the old facility.
Spriggs asked the council to earmark $70,000 to match the $70,000 the Lions Club is raising, which the council voted to do. The prefabricated restroom will cost about $160,000 to install. If all goes well, they hope to have a ribbon-cutting for the structure by Labor Day 2024.
- MCC Thrift Shop was chosen as the December Business of the Month. They will be recognized on Nov. 29 at 10:30 a.m. This is the last time the village council will handle the award as the West Liberty Business Association will take it over beginning January 2024.
- Though McKelvey’s tenure as mayor will end on Dec. 31, she asked the council’s approval to continue heading the solar eclipse Moonshade Festival committee, which they unanimously agreed to.
- Speaking of the Moonshade Festival, West Liberty residents are invited to contact Cindee Boyd at the mayor’s office before the end of the year if they want to order shirts, thus saving money on shipping and handling. The village has also ordered enough eclipse glasses for every resident. They will start handing those out free of charge in March 2024 for the April 8 event.
The next West Liberty village council meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27.