Mount Sterling approves service contract with West Jeff

(Posted April 30, 2020)

By Andrew Garrett, Staff Writer

Mount Sterling village council authorized a contract for the village of West Jefferson to provide certain management services to Mount Sterling, much to the ire of Becky Martin, Mount Sterling council president pro tem.

Passed on emergency on April 27, the resolution is an addendum to an existing services agreement between the two municipalities. Per that agreement, West Jefferson is to provide inspection services for building, planning and zoning permits to Mount Sterling at no cost. The addendum calls for West Jefferson’s building, zoning and planning director–with the assistance of his department–to also provide certain management duties at the cost of $25,000 per year.

Martin objected to the addendum for a number of reasons, first being that it was presented as an emergency.

“I don’t see what the big hurry is to get this passed right now. Something this important deserves three readings so the public has ample time to consider it,” she said.

Martin said there is no rush for these services because, due the COVID-19 situation, big projects that need oversight won’t begin for the foreseeable future. Passing it as an emergency was unnecessary and only served to cut the public out of the process, she contended.

Martin also took issue with the fact that Mount Sterling is opting out of hiring a dedicated village administrator. According to Martin, Mount Sterling would be in a position of taking second place to West Jefferson. She said West Jefferson’s building, zoning and planning director would be available only for consultation and to address problems as they came up, not to manage in full capacity like a village administrator would.

“Under such an agreement, the village will always be in a position of constantly being reactive instead of proactive,” she said.

Council member Jay Pettey said the village is contracting for services, not for a particular person. Paying $25,000 per year for those services compared to $60,000 annually for an administrator’s salary would be a considerable savings for Mount Sterling, he said.

Martin was the only dissenting voice on the vote.

Council also passed an ordinance conveying a utility easement to the Ohio Power Company (also known as AEP). The utility company will pay the village $15,886 for 0.706 acres on the back corner of Mason Park. The company’s plan is to erect two large poles as part of an integrated power loop on the property.

The placement of the poles will not interfere with recreational activities in the park in any way, according to Courtney Bricker, the village’s fiscal officer. The power company agreed to move the poles 50 feet back in response to objections to the original plans which had high tension wires running directly over the park’s dugouts.

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