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Summary of January 23 Bluffton Council meeting

Main St. and College Ave. safety draws public comment and questions; police officers recognized with awards by peers and Chief of Police

By Andy Chappell-Dick

The January 23 meeting of the Bluffton Council was chaired by Council President Jerry Cupples. Mayor Rich Johnson is still recovering from back surgery. The agenda seemed brief, but the handful of citizens present indicated that pedestrian safety would be raised during public comment. (Council packet with agenda and supporting docuements.)

Councilor Mitch Kingsley reported on a recent meeting of the Personnel Committee. They have been working on updates to the personnel manual for Village employees on issues of training, uniforms, sick leave, vacations, and the like. Council has committed to a process of annual wage reviews, and most of this is complete for the year.  The committee is polling surrounding villages to check on their wage structures.

Administrator Jesse Blackburn reported on the January 10 public hearing held by the Board of Zoning and Building Appeals. All requests of the applicant, which involve the conversion of the white church behind Town Hall at 104 E. Elm, were approved by the Board.

Three resolutions were up for a vote. The first was the second reading of the proposed "Complete Streets" Policy,  The second was a first reading of personnel manual changes, and the third was involving bids for 2023 street repair. All three passed unanimously.

Blackburn then provided his Administrator's report. Waterline work on Lawn and Jackson is proceeding well, and should be wrapped up by the end of February if the weather cooperates. 

That crew, Hohenbrink Excavating, will then move to the corner of Bentley Rd. and Main St. intersection by the beginning of March.  This long-anticipated intersection project will involve some temporary traffic diversions to Harmon Road, but through traffic along Main Street will be mostly maintained throughout the project. 

Blackburn asked for a motion to declare two former police cruisers as surplus and put them up for auction.Police Chief Ryan Burkholder interjected that both were totally worn out, and that one in particular "smells like a canine unit."  Local residents may bid with everyone else at

Blackburn reported that the administration has acknowledged renewed public interest in pedestrian safety at the College Ave/Main St. intersection. An upcoming meeting of the Streets Committee will be requested (and has since been scheduled for 5:30 on February 8 at town hall), and contact has already been made with ODOT, the Regional Planning Commission, and an engineering firm.  The intersection, he said, "became wildly unpopular" when the traffic light was removed about 13 years ago. Speaking for Council and the administration, he stated "we all want [the intersection] to be as good and safe as possible."     

Before turning to public comment, Safety Services committee members were given the floor to report on their departments. 

EMS Department - Chief Jan Basinger asked Council to accept the resignation of Kelly Griffin, who has served over twenty years.  

Fire Department - Fire Chief Jon Kinn submitted his 2022 call numbers, which were slightly up over the previous year.  

Police Department - Chief Ryan Burkholder also submitted his year-end numbers (data is available in the Council Packet.)  

Burkholder reported that Officer of the Year for 2022, nominated by their peers, was a tie. Both Corporal Eric Rayle and Officer Dominic Francis received the honor. Officer Ed Montgomery was singled out for the Chief's Leadership Award. And Officer Breanna Kill was recognized in a Letter of Commendation for her generous actions in assisting a car accident victim on Christmas Eve. 

Also, the Chief noted he will be presenting a talk on identity theft at the nursing home. 

Councilor Jerry Cupples opened the floor to public comment. The first speaker expressed dismay about crosswalk pedestrian safety at Vine Street as well as College Avenue. She polled everyone around the room about what they felt would be the safest solution. "In a perfect world," most responded, "a stoplight."  

It was pointed out by a visitor from Lima-Allen County Regional Planning Commission that Ohio state law is the authority on how intersections are structured, and these laws are based directly on safety concerns.

Another resident raised the question of who has jurisdiction over how decisions are made.  

Several members of Council and the Administration emphasized that they are dedicated to making the intersection as safe as possible. Councilor Joe Sehlhorst reminded everyone that the Complete Streets Policy, already being shepherded through Council, will be an excellent tool for promoting safety as streets are modernized.

The public portion of the meeting ended when the council entered a closed door executive session to discuss legal matters.


February 1 - Joint Personnel & Safety Committees - noon

February 1 - Parks & Recreation Committee - 1:00 p.m.

February 2 - Pathway Board - noon

February 3 - Finance Committee - noon

February 6 - Council Committee of the Whole -  6:30 p.m.

February 8 - Streets, Lights, Alleys, & Sidewalk Committee - 5:30 p.m.

February 13 - Council Meeting - 7:00 p.m.

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