Plain City to take over fireworks

Mayor Sandra Adkins (right) swears in Kerri Ferguson to Plain City Village Council. Ferguson replaces council member Shawn Kaeser, who resigned for family reasons last month. Ferguson is one of the co-owners of Main Street Treasures. The four-year term expires at the end of the year.

The village of Plain City have agreed to host Independence Day fireworks again.

Plain City village council had a lively discussion on the future of fireworks in Plain City Monday night. Dozens of residents had come to the meeting, and many had let their voice be heard.

At issue was the village’s decision to charge the Plain City Fireworks Committee (an independent organization, run by council member Leslie Perkins and Colleen Davis) the standard $650 park usage fee. It had been determined, at a past council meeting, that it would be unconstitutional to be selective as to who does and does not pay to use the park.

Many neighboring municipalities make an exception for 501(c)(3), nonprofit organizations for paying to use park space.

The Plain City Fireworks Committee does not have a 501(c)(3) tax status.Perkins said the $900 filing fee was the obstacle from obtaining a the status.

“The issue has come up for many months, but there has not been much of a discussion to resolve the issue,” village solicitor Paul-Michael La Fayette said Monday night. “Just fighting and bickering.”

“Looking at case law, if you’re going to waive the [$650 park usage] fee, you have to waive it for everyone,” La Fayette said. “You can’t pick and choose.”

La Fayette went on to say that it could be determined to be in the village’s best interest to collect funds needed for park maintenance, extra police and fire protection, and liability insurance for any group using the park.

However, La Fayette suggested a solution to the fireworks debate. “If the village were to run the event, that doesn’t mean a private entity can’t collect and donate the funds.”

A murmur broke out in the council chambers from among those in attendance. Mayor Sandra Adkins, after several failed attempts to quiet the citizens, hammered down her gavel.

“I’ve never had to use that before,” Adkins said.

Perkins, who sits on council and heads the fireworks committee, suggested paying a smaller fee for using just a portion of the park.

“I guess I’m confused,” La Fayette said in response. “I thought we were working toward a resolution here.”

A resolution was then brought forth by council member Bob Walter to take over the fireworks contracts from the fireworks committee. The village would provide park, police, maintenance, and fire at no expense. The funds for the pyrotechnics and entertainment would come from the fireworks committee’s continued efforts.

All, including Perkins and Davis, were in favor of the idea, and council voted as such. Davis and Perkins abstained from the vote.

In other business Monday night:

• Kerri Ferguson was sworn in to complete Shawn Kaeser’s village council term. Kaeser resigned last month. Ferguson is one of the co-owners of Main Street Treasures, located at 150 W. Main St. The four-year term expires Dec. 31, 2015.

• Adkins recommended Sgt. Dale McKee be promoted to chief of the Plain City Police Department, and council voted unanimously in favor of the recommendation.

• Village Administrator Kevin Vaughn announced Amber Riley had given her notice and will no longer be the village’s public information officer.

Riley, who has taken a job in the private sector, was appointed to the position in late February.

Vaughn implored council to address the lack of staff remaining within the village’s administration by doing additional hiring.

“With Amber gone, we’ll be in limited capacity for a while,” Vaughn said, adding it could be “crippling” to how the village conducts business if council does not address the issue.

• The high volume of rain received over the 24-hour period, caused flooding in the Plain City police department. The building is scheduled to be inspected this week.

Rob Treynor is a contributing writer for The Madison Press. He can be reached on Twitter @RobTreynor.