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AUGUST 22, 2019

Summer With City Council

A review of Athens City Council’s summer

By Abby Miller | News Editor

A thens City Council passed resolutions, approved ordinances and heard various presentations this summer. Ordinances and plans for the fall were also set into motion during the months off from school. Here are some of the legislative items the council tackled this summer:

athens city council

Anthony Warner | FOR THE POST

The Athens City Council in committee session on Monday, January 14, 2019. (FILE)

Construction updates

The council approved an ordinance for a slip repair on University Estates Boulevard and an ordinance for installing fiber optics on East State Street. The project on East State Street will cost about $135,000 and will cover the expenses of installing fiber optics and syncing up traffic signals.

The Complete Streets program was tabled this summer. The program is part of a nationwide project aiming to make city infrastructure accessible and safe for all citizens. The program includes efforts for alternate modes of transportation, such as improving bike lanes and pedestrian pathways. The program was tabled so that it can go back to committees for further discussion.

Bailey’s Trail moves forward

The council approved an ordinance that allowed Athens Mayor Steve Patterson to enter the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia Council of Governments. Being a part of that council will allow for plans for the proposed Bailey’s Trail to move forward.

Bailey’s Trail will be an 88-mile long pathway stretching across Athens County. It has been a project of the Wayne National Forest since 1994, and the council will help make the trail a reality.

The council will be organized like a park district, but its powers will be more limited. Many of the council’s abilities are still up in the air.

“A lot of that still needs to be worked out,” Dawn McCarthy, acting public affairs officer of the Wayne National Forest, said. “There is room for that to be discussed.”

Land for Bailey’s Trail is “shovel ready,'' Councilman Peter Kotses, D-At Large, said, and the next step is to obtain more funding. Collaborators are looking into obtaining grants for the project, according to a previous Post report.

Emerging E-Transportation

Councilmembers approved two ordinances in May that deal with the impending arrival of shared ride transportation.

Shared ride transportation in Athens will include both e-scooters and e-bikes. One ordinance that was approved discusses where shared ride transportation would be permitted. E-scooters will not be allowed in Athens’ business district.

The second ordinance approved e-transportation vendors to come to Athens.

“This is a technology whose time has come,” Councilman Jeffrey Risner, D-2nd Ward, said. “I think the best thing to do is to get as far ahead of it as we can.”

Councilmembers suggested taking a look at the ordinance again in about 12 months in order to make additional changes.

Resolutions sent to state government

City council passed two resolutions this summer that were sent to state representatives.

The first resolution passed on June 6 urged Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to restore the local government fund to its pre-recession levels.

In the past, Athens received as much as $812,000 a year from the state. But in 2018, Athens only received $375,000. That money is usually put in the general fund and helps support city services, such as the fire and police departments.

A resolution in response to House Bill 242 also passed on June 24.

House Bill 242 would not allow for local governments to impose taxes or fees on single-use plastic items. In the resolution, Athens City Council urges the state government to conduct research about single-use plastic’s harmful effects on the environment.

That should be something that we have the choice to decide for ourselves,” Councilwoman Sarah Grace, D-At Large, said. “The state legislature is trying to take that, along with many other home rule choices, away from local communities, so we’ve got to speak up about it.”

Both resolutions exert the city’s ability to home rule, a right which council asserted in a resolution passed in May.

AUTHOR: Abby Miller
EDITOR: Ian McKenzie
COPY EDITOR: Bre Offenberger
PHOTO: Anthony Warner