Saturday, September 20, 2008

Storm Redux, Village Mgr Search, Planning Comm/MTZB Mtg.

Dear People: Well, what a wild week it was! I will be in my office hours today at the Emporium, 12-1.

This past Monday I sent out a quick email to my whole Yellow Springs email list alerting you to the need to conserve water. Additionally, the "CodeRED" system called thousands of homes and cell phones of residents to give us the latest updates. (To find out more and/or register your cell phone or other number with code red, please click here and follow the instructions, or call the police department's non-emergency number, 7206, or email dispatch[at]yso[dot]com).

The great news?
By Wednesday morning, the YS grid was just about 100% back online. Some individual structures that sustained damage to the connection points on the buildings were still off line late this week. As interim manager Weithofer explained, 56 buildings in town sustained minor damage, while 10 sustained major damage, according to reports from the MTFR. Without AMP-Ohio's assistance--which had 7 additional crews in town, helping with our recovery, we'd probably still be offline.

AND: During the power outage our village reduced our consumption of water by 70%,
interim manager Weithofer reported at our Thursday night meeting. He also noted that, because of this reduced usage, there were no EPA violations during this time at our wastewater plant. We did not come close to using up all our water in the tower.

So, from all of us in village government: Well done, villagers! For more information about the inspiring and community oriented response to the storm, by both villagers and village staffers alike, please be sure to read the article by Diane Chiddester and Virgil Hervey in this week's Yellow Springs News. If you get a chance please consider sending a personal thank you to the village staffers who worked tirelessly to get things back up and running much faster than we thought possible on Monday.

Several of you asked some important questions about the storm and our response to it. Let me answer several of those questions now:

1) Generators at the water treatment / wastewater treatment plants? Interim manager John Weithofer reports that he is working with Joe Bates, our water treatment plant operator to install permanent pre-wiring for generators that will enable us to readily install and connect generators to our water plant during emergencies. He's also working with LJB, the engineering firm that is designing the planned updates and alterations to our wastewater treatment plant to put in place permanent prewiring for generators there.

2) Improved emergency notification system: As I mentioned, we have added CodeRED as the latest additional way for the police to contact villagers in case of emergency, and we encourage you to register alternative numbers with that service. (If you have a listed YS land-line number, you're already covered). Additionally, we always contact both WYSO and Dayton TV stations with the same information as soon as it is available.

What now? Dealing with debris. The Village asks that if you have large limbs that will need to be hauled off of your property, please follow the instructions at this link and then be patient--it will take some weeks for us to remove all the limbs and debris that need to be attended to.

Additionally, the above YS News article has advice from the health bureau about what to throw out, what to keep, from your fridge.

Ok! On to "normal" business:

1) Village manager search update: we received 46 applications for our village manager. 26 were from Ohio-based applicants; 20 from out of state. 39 applicants were male; 7 were female. We have narrowed the field down to 3 persons to interview, plus 2 alternates. The three interviewees have been contacted, and visits/interviews have been scheduled, and the alternates have been notified that they may be contacted for interviews. Remember to mark your calendars for the community forums that will be held on the evenings of October 7, October 13, October 20, 7 pm.

I have been very pleased with the work of our consultant Don Vermillion and with the help and advice of John Chambers, our village lawyer, and John Weithofer, our interim manager, during this process.

2) Planning Commission: We'll be having a joint Planning Comm mtg on Monday Sept. 29, Bryan Ctr., 7 pm with the Miami Valley Township Zoning Board discussing
  • Role of development in the Township and the Village and zoning
  • Annexation and Cooperative Economic Development Agreements (CEDA)
  • Greenbelt
  • Urban Services Area Map
Second, on Wed Oct. 1, 7 pm Bryan Ctr., we'll hold our regular Planning Comm meeting, be reviewing the Nonstop request re: the application to use the Davis St. house as office space and review the Comprehensive Plan.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Village Mgr Search, Flouride?, and 10 cool towns...

Dear People: We received about 40 applications for our Village Manager position, so that will be the main focus of our work at our regular Village Council meeeting on Monday evening at 7 pm in the Bryan Center--including our executive session. Don Vermillion, our consultant, will be at this meeting to offer an update on his work. I need to spend more time analyzing and ranking the applications, but it appears there are a good number of promising, and diverse, candidates.

Mark your calendars: Public Forums with each of the three candidates we bring for full-day interviews will be held at 7 pm on:

1. October 7
2. October 13
3. October 20

Additional legislative business on our agenda includes two resolutions:

* Water/Sewer rate study: Because we are under Ohio EPA findings for the problems at our Waste-Water Treatment plant, and are planning to use loans to help cover many of those costs, we are requred to complete a study to determine what rates will be sufficient to generate revenues to cover the loan payments. This resolution authorizes the study and appropriates funds to pay for Woolpert Services to complete it.
  • One question I have for future consideration: Should we consider ceasing to fluoridate our water? On our tour of the water treatment facility, the director of our water treatment services very briefly mentioned that the price of fluoride was rising fairly dramatically and there were quality control issues. While fluoridated water has typically been seen as a cost effective way to distribute fluoride to everyone in order to prevent tooth decay, is it still a good idea? Briefly, it's my understanding that there's no health benefit to injesting fluoride, but there are some health risks associated with injesting higher levels of fluoride, and there are disputes as to what levels, precisely, are safe for children and adults, and about the sources from which drinking-water fluoride is currently derived. Many countries in the world--Germany, Sweden, Japan, etc.--no longer fluoridate their water, given the widespread availability of toothpastes, etc. with fluoride. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
+ Here's a letter from the CDC advocating continued fluoridation based on the current science.

+ Here's a statement--published by an anti-fluoride activist group--from a scientist, Dr. Harvey Limeback of the University of Toronto, who participated in a review of the EPAs standards on fluoridation; since 1999 he has begun to oppose fluoridation of drinking water.

* Lease Termination: After months of efforts to resolve problems due to a lack of adequate insurance coverage, we are terminating our lease with Stuzman Landscaping. I am very sad that it has come to this point, but we can see no other path forward at this time. The animal rescue operation, "The Ranch Menagerie Animal Sancutary," can provide satisfactory levels of insurance and will be taking over the lease, so the ostriches and emus will, we are glad, be able to stay.

There will also be a Visioning Task Force update, as well as reports from the Village Manager (esp. focusing on the cost of our Comprehensive Plan update), and from the various commissions.

Speaking of which, we had what I think was a good meeting of the Planning Commission on Monday. I was glad to see that we were able to buy a little more time for Non-Stop to work with the neighbors to resolve concerns about their office space on Davis Street, just behind the library parking lot, and to approve their moving into the Millworks property as permissable under current zoning rules.

Note: Planning Commission and the Miami Township Zoning commission will have a special meeting on Sept. 29th; Planning Commission will have a special meeting on the 1st; our normal meeting on the 13th is canceled.

In EC news, we discussed our forum on tire burning vs. coal burning with the Greene Environmental Coalition, the EPA/RAPCA, and CEMEX. Eli Hurwitz has been doing some good research on the issues. We have some specific concerns about the kiln's design that we would like to look into, so at least some of us are going to try to take a tour of the plant, as CEMEX offered. We are planning another forum, tentatively looking at a date in November. We'll be publishing an ecobeat article soon with some of our thoughts on the issues raised.

In my life, school runs apace--I've just finished cowriting a grant proposal with a colleague, have sets of essays from all my students--and I've been obsessing over the national election. And I've fallen in love again with early American writers--I can't seem to get out of the 17th and 18th centuries. Mary Rowlandson (is she the 17th century Sarah Palin?), Anne Bradstreet, early native writers like Senecan mystic Handsome Lake, the Mohegan Samson Occom, and the first African American to publish a book of poetry, Phillis Wheatley. There's great new research on these last writers that makes them much more complex than we used to believe, and their experiences more poignant.

However, some of you may realize that we've got a NonStop student living with us, James, from Texas, which has been good fun. James is featured in this Columbus Dispatch article about NonStop. Also, most of you have probably seen that at least one magazine thinks we're cool. (Not that we didn't already know that!)

One national election related item and I'll stop: take a look, if you have any doubts, at this striking graph that represents how little oil will be gained--and that little trickle starting only around 2025/2030--from future off-shore drilling.

Don't drill, baby!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Plan Comm: Historic Preservation, Non-Stop and YSKP requests, Comp Plan

Dear People: The Planning Commission will meet 7 pm Monday evening, Bryan Ctr., and we have a pretty big agenda on tap. I'll be in my office hours today, 12-1 pm Emporium.

Historic Preservation:
I'll be proposing to the Planning Commission that we hold a joint meeting with the Village Council, in December, for an educational, special report from Glenn Harper of the Ohio Historic Preservation on the possibilities of historic preservation--including historic preservation ordinances and what is entailed in Certified Local Government status--in the village.

Public Hearings: We'll have two public hearings on
  • The vacation of two alleys (in, it seems, on the most technical sense; they have already been partially vacated) between N. High St. & N. Stafford St. at 409 N. High St.
  • Non-Stop Liberal Arts Institute is asking for a conditional use permit for its rental property on 113 E. Davis St.
Old Business: The ongoing saga of our Comprehensive Plan revision, with John Eastman.

New Business: Ed Amrhein has been advised by our Village Solicitor, John Chambers, that the Planning Commission needs to make a determination as to whether YSKP can use a site within Millworks (on Walnut St.), which is zoned light industrial, for prop production, storage, and possibly rehearsal. We have to decide whether their proposed uses are permitted or require a conditional use permit.

I hope I'll see some of you in my office hours today or wandering around the Blues fest, or other events going on in town this weekend. (I've read good things about the Woody Allen film that's playing in the Little Art right now...).

Rock on, compatriots--

Monday, September 1, 2008

Delayed post (sorry!): VC meeting agenda, Recap of EC tire-burning forum

I meant to post this on Saturday, but didn't--sorry!

Dear People: I'll be in the Emporium today (Saturday)--12noon-1pm. VC meeting on Tuesday 9/2--7 pm Bryan Ctr.

VC: We will be voting on an emergency ordinance regarding our budget appropriations, a resolution regarding "Clean Ohio" (urging state funds being appropriate to municipalities for brownfields), and a resolution accepting our current rates/tax budget.

Then we'll be discussing Domestic Partnerships and getting an update on the Village Manager search.

EC: We had a great forum on the issue of tire burning on Thursday. On behalf of the EC, I would like to thank everyone who came out for the event. Here's EC chair Bob Moore's assessment:

'We had teary-eyes pregnant moms, an emotionally- shaking pathologist from Miami Valley, upset organic farmers, well dressed physicians dangling tomatoes, ordinary folks, Obama supporters anxious to see their candidate, and a packed room. We had numbers from both sides and Doug Bailey counted 95 people" flowing out into the hall in the Standing Room Only crowd.

One positive piece of information that I learned: I did not realize that RAPCA has a monitor for our air quality located right at the Bryan Center--as well as in Xenia, Dayton, Moraine, Springfield, and Preble Co. Yellow Springs is one of the few places in the region where the air has not been over federal Clean Air limits in the last two years, staying (just barely) under 35 ppm of particulates (34.75). I'd encourage data people in particular to look over the data available at the RAPCA website:

Two concrete outcomes of the forum:

  • First, the RAPCA rep agreed to collect data specific to WHOLE tire burning prior to the tests (which will not be conducted until 60 days after CEMEX alerts RAPCA), because audience members are concerned that tire-derived fuel--tires that have been shredded and processed prior to burning--is not the same as burning whole tires.
  • Second, the EC agreed to have a follow-up forum at some point in the future, where we hope there will be more time to compare the burning of tires more directly to the burning of coal/petroleum coke, which I have to admit is no more attractive to me at many levels. So I really do want answers to questions--I'm really uncertain about what is
The EC are a fairly young commission that's just getting some good experience, and we do realize that there were some glitches that we're hoping to address; we've already been asked by Bob to make lists of what we'd do differently next time. (When we chose this date about two months ago, we weren't even thinking about the Democratic national convention, sorry! Luckily, Obama didn't speak until 10 anyway.) We're thinking about altering the format in small ways to make the question period more efficient. And maybe we'll try to get a bigger space and microphones next time.