Mt. Sterling: Division over food trucks and AEP funds

(Posted June 11, 2020)

By Andrew Garrett, Staff Writer

Mount Sterling village council was back in its regular quarters, live and in person, for its regular meeting on June 8–masked and arranged to allow for appropriate social distancing between council members and with the audience stationed outside of council chambers in the lobby of town hall.

Despite the inconveniences, it didn’t take long for council members to get down to the business of disagreeing with each other, particularly over the stationing of food trucks during the community’s “cruise-ins” and the allocation of funds from AEP for the easement of a small parcel of land in Mason Park amounting to approximately $15,000.

Cyndi Compton, proprietor of Ben & Joy’s Restaurant in Mount Sterling, expressed her displeasure over food trucks from out of town taking up multiple parking spots downtown during the cruise nights, which are held every other Saturday. She said they prevent patrons from accessing parking to local businesses, including her restaurant.

“We are part of this community every day of the week for over 36 years, so to bring someone else into our town to cut off the (very limited) parking, that hurts our business,” Compton said.

Ben & Joy’s pays electric and water, generates RITA tax which in turn benefits the community, and employs residents that spend much of their earnings locally, she said.

Advertisements for the June 20 cruise night include the statement: “Support Local Businesses.” Council members Becky Martin and Jay Pettey disagreed as to who was responsible for inviting the food trucks–Martin of her own accord, or with the knowledge and blessing of the parks and recreation department.

According to Martin, the food trucks donated $40 each to the parks and recreation department. Currently, the village is footing the bill for the electric and water usage of the trucks. As of now, there are no village ordinances specifically regulating booths or concessions associated with festival vending.

Martin made a motion that the money the village received from AEP for the easement at Mason Park be allocated back to the parks and recreation department. She was nonplussed when she experienced pushback from the majority of council.

“Parks and rec is the only fund that has no income going into it, and it’s (the payment from AEP) been earmarked for parks and rec for two years. And I’m just surprised that there would be any question to that now,” Martin said.

Council member Andrew Drake gave his opinion that the money should go into the general fund, especially since income generation for the village was questionable given the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Council member Dave Timmons also stated that the money should go to the general fund where it can be distributed as needed, like to pothole repair.

Melanie Fritz was the only council member to side with Martin on the matter, saying that it was Mason Park that was altered by the transaction, so the money should go back to the park for improvements.

Fritz also challenged Pettey, who said he couldn’t vote for the money to go to the parks and recreation department because it might be seen as a conflict of interest due to his involvement with the local youth sports league.

“Then you should just not vote,” Fritz said.

Martin’s motion was voted down.

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