Chesapeake focusing on neglected properties

Published 11:20 am Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Fee set for excessive debris; Extended meeting scheduled for Feb. 16 to address issue

CHESAPEAKE — Cleaning up the village was the focus of Monday night’s meeting of Chesapeake’s council.

Interim police chief Randy Lewis gave a presentation to the council, in which he showed 80 photos he had taken of properties he said were in state of neglect.

“Chesapeake’s a great place to live, but there’s a lot of properties that need to go,” he said.

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Lewis’ slide show included homes that were abandoned, were in danger of collapse, had excessive garbage piled in yards, were boarded up and showed other signs of poor maintenance.

Some, he said, had become home to feral cats and rats or were fire hazards.

“Some of these are about to go back to Mother Nature,” he said of the more extreme cases. “People who live here learn to ignore this stuff. Somebody driving in for the first time, this is what they remember. They don’t remember the big beautiful house down by the river.”

Lewis proposed two solutions to the issue for council members to consider.

First, he said the village should take advantage of the Lawrence County land bank.

“I’d like to see us get into that as soon as possible, so we can clean this up,” he said.

Second, he said the village needs to adopt a stronger municipal code on the issue. He said he would provide the council with copies of codes from villages in Ohio that have had success, to review before the next council meeting.

“You can pick out what works best and look at, next month, doing something,” Lewis said.

Council member Randy Penix agreed that the issue was long overdue for action.

“We’ve dealt with this for years,” but we never get anywhere,” he said.

Council member and mayor pro tempore Kenny Wolfe suggested, in addition to action, that Lewis should publicly post the photos he had taken.

“Put the whole thing out there, so people know you’re not picking and choosing,” he said, stating those cited might otherwise claim they were being singled out. “Let everyone see it.”

While pledging to take action on the issue, the council voted 5-0 to set the fine at $100 per citation for violations of an existing ordinance on “the accumulation of filthy debris.”

Mayor Tommy Templeton praised Lewis for his proactive take on enforcing village ordinances.

However, one village resident was not pleased, and had come to the council meeting because she had been issued a warning sticker for parking a trailer on the street. She said the trailer was well-maintained, newly-pained and had a new set of tires on it.

Lewis said it was violating an existing ordinance, which he produced a copy of.

“Some of these ordinances have been on the books for years,” he said. “The problem is no in the village has been enforcing them, and now they are.”

In other business, the council:

• Voted, following a lengthy executive session, to adopt the contract with the Chesapeake and Union Township fire departments and to enlist Frank Meehling II as chief of Chesapeake’s department.

• Voted to transfer $3,000 to the village’s street fund.

• Discussed the issue of repairing the roof of the fire department building. No action was taken and the issue was tabled until more bids can be taken.
Set an extended meeting of council for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, which council ember Paul Hart said would focus heavily on the issue of neglected properties.

• Congratulated Wolfe for his new position as mayor pro tempore, a position he took over from Hart at the start of the year.

The session opened with Lewis announcing that Eric Morgan, a part-time officer for the police department, had received an achievement award from the U.S. army two weeks ago.

Morgan, who joined the army in 2009, has served in South Korea and Afghanistan, Lewis said. He earned a combat action badge in Afghanistan, where he survived an attack on the camp where he was stationed. He last served on active duty in 2013, when he joined the National Guard.

Lewis presented Morgan, who joined Chesapeake’s department in 2016, with a pin for his uniform.

“I’m proud to have him,” Lewis said.