West Jefferson’s Village Council voted down some improvements to the new community center during Monday night’s meeting, with council members arguing any improvements should be budgeted.
Two resolutions were brought before council, one to spend more than $19,000 on carpeting and more than $20,000 on 150 chairs for the former church turned public facility on 221 S. Center St., which council appropriated $175,000 in February for purchasing and repairing it. The new appropriation, totaling more than $40,000 would be a new appropriation from the Capital Improvements fund, which can only go towards maintaining or upgrading property owned by the village.
“We bought this community center, it’s a good thing, it’s been working out well, we need to be able to use it,” said Mayor Ray Martin. “This is the next step in using that community center, to get things uniform and nice. If people want to have a function and they want the capacity that allows it to be held there, we need the ability to do that for them.”
Council President Steve Johnston argued the chairs could be in better condition and would be more durable if any chairs broke.
“I assume the taxpayers would like us to do our due diligence,” said Johnston. “We bought a building … it give us something we did not have. We’re trying to get it up to the speed where it’s marketable, where it’s comfortable.”
Other members of council were skeptical of the immediate need, citing that they already made enough unbudgeted purchases this year, namely the community center itself.
“The purchase of the building was not budgeted for one thing,” said Council member Mike Conway. “We bought the building. Now you want us to put close to $50,000 in chairs and carpet [in the center.]”
“Let’s put it in the budget for upgrades next year,” he added.
Council member Lorie Cafagno echoed Conway’s budget concerns but also felt the measure was sprung onto council at the last minute.
“I am really disappointed that this did not go to finance committee,” she said. “That’s usually our first step. I know we discussed it and when we purchased this building, at that time we weren’t sure on where we were going to get the money for running it over the entire year.”
She argued that the building had money already set aside for needed repairs and felt that there were other issues and possible emergencies the funds could be better spent on.
“We know there are issues at the pool, we know that needs to be fixed,” she said. “We are waiting until next year’s budget process, to put that in the budget to fix the pool.”
“The other issue that I have is we’re potentially looking at a large payout with our insurance expiring with OPEC [Ohio Public Entities Consortium]. And if we have to pay them out a large amount of money at the end of the year, we have to prepare for that,” she added. “At this time, I don’t feel like chairs and carpet are a need, I think they are a want.”
Later that evening, council voted to end the village’s contract with the health insurance provider over what the resolution said was the consortium breaking stipulations in their contract. The breaches it said would have put unforeseen costs onto employees. Cafagno argued that there may be unexpected costs incurred during any further negotiations for a village employee health plan.
Director of Public Services John Mitchell said that the immediate issues with the pool, namely broken pumps, had already been dealt with by using pool funds.
Martin and Johnston argued along with council member King these funds were available. Johnston said the funds were locked for these purposes anyway as they would come from the village’s capital improvements fund.
“When I was in business, when I had the money I bought it today,” said Jim King. “We do have the money. We may need a lot of money come the first of the year or whatever but we can budget, we can get it, we can do it. If we have the money, which we do, we buy when we can.”
Others said they agreed with Conway and Cafagno’s thoughts.
“I agree with her, it’s not the right time,” said Jen Warner, vice president of council. “It needs to go in the budget.”
King motioned to table the resolutions but was defeated by votes from Conway, Cafagno and Warner along with council member Randy Otis. Both resolutions were defeated by no votes from Cafagno, Warner, Otis, Conway and council member Doug Eakins.
“I’m not against the community center, I think it’s great,” said Cafagno. “But at this point in time, I think what we have is working.”
Other business from Monday’s meeting:
• Council approved the vacating of three alleys, one behind 52 N. Hampton St., one running from 40 N. Hampton to 36 N. Hampton and one from 126 to 69 and 77 Frey Ave. Johnston recused himself from voting on one of the requests, claiming a conflict of interest due to his personal friendship with the applicant. The closings will occur in several weeks.