Village gets insurance funds after vacant house fire

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(Posted May 11, 2015)

By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer

Ron Garver, president of West Jefferson village council, learned about a section of the Ohio Revised Code that helps municipalities when he discovered the village had received an $11,000 check.

“It’s something that helps the village,” he said May 4 after council approved a  resolution to set up a special fund to handle the money.

A vacant house on Twin Street sustained damage in a fire. State Farm Insurance settled with the property owner, Garver said, then provided the village with some money.

“That money, according to the Ohio Revised Code, is to be used specifically for that property,” Garver said. “That’s the first time I heard of that section. It’s good for the village.”

He explained that the code prevents a “take the money and run” scenario in which a property owner would get insurance funds and move on, leaving behind damaged property that the village would have to repair to bring it up to code or tear down. This way, Garver said, the village has money to do that work.

However, strings are attached. The money must be used in one year or it goes back to the insurance company.

Meanwhile, Zoning Inspector Arnie Booth is looking into what needs to be done at the damaged property on Twin Street to either fix it up or raze it.

Where are the police vests?

Council members questioned Mayor Darlene Steele about the delay in purchasing life-saving vests for village police officers.

“We talked about it at a council meeting and everyone seemed in favor of it,” council member Cory Coburn said. “It’s a shame our hard-working police officers don’t have the latest equipment.”

A report from the police department sent to council’s police committee showed that several of the vests now in use are out-of-date. The new vests must be specially fitted for each officer.

Steele said the delay stemmed from what she called a misunderstanding about finances, but said, “The money is there.”

Doug Eakins said council’s police committee recommends that money be set aside for safety features for officers so that such purchases could be ongoing.

Other business

Council appropriated $26,000 to purchase a new tornado siren.

Council approved the purchase of a siren last year but had not set aside the funds. The village will pay the full amount up front, but a reimbursing grant from the Madison County Emergency Management Agency will take care of half of that bill.

Council also started a discussion on participation in www.ohiocheckbook.com, a state operated website where municipalities post their financial transactions.

“We are open with our books,” Garver said. “We have nothing to hide.”

But some council members didn’t think taxpayers would appreciate having a record of their tax return payments online.

That’s when Garver said he would contact state Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office to have someone come before council to explain the program.

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