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Summary of March 27 Bluffton Council Meeting

After the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Richard Johnson opened the March 27 Bluffton council meeting by leading a moment of silence in recognition of the school shooting that occurred earlier in the day, killing three children and three adults at a Christian school in Nashville. After a minute, and without comment, the Mayor moved on to the first item, approving the prior meeting's minutes.

A packet of meeting documents supplied by the Village of Bluffton can be accessed HERE.

On the agenda for Public Comment were representatives of the Bluffton Sportsmen's Club and the Regional Planning Commission.  Mike Zimmerman of the Sportsmen stood to ask that Council engage on the issue of what he described as more frequent flooding along Riley Creek and Buckeye Lake. The upcoming fishing derby is the club's main event and source of revenue, and any flooding within a few weeks of the event wreaks havoc. 

Village Administrator Jesse Blackburn stated that the Village is already actively engaging an engineering firm to figure out ways that flooding can be mitigated.  Councilor Joe Sehlhorst added that he is the Village's representative on the Blanchard River Watershed Partnership and that group is also actively working towards solutions. The issue is complex, Sehlhorst said, since many flood mitigation efforts leave a bad outcome for communities upstream or downstream, and it's important that it be coordinated.

Tom Mazur of the Planning Commission had a huge handout full of charts and spoke at length about countywide work to improve transportation infrastructure.  He praised Bluffton for our proactive search for outside funding resources. Deep in his charts, it was shown that Bluffton will soon get two brand new bridges: Grove Road over the LIttle Riley (2026, $1.3 million) and North Main Street over the Riley (2027, $1.9 million.)

Three items were advanced in the legislative process: the second reading of a resolution establishing community swimming pool jobs and wages, the second reading of a resolution to allow installation and maintenance of U.S. bike route signs, and the first reading of a resolution authorizing the mayor to contract with ODOT on the SR 103 pathway.

Presenting a report on the state of Village operations, Administrator Blackburn and Assistant Bryan LLoyd updated Council on the many construction projects underway or about to begin.  The sewer work out by the fast food restaurants will begin next week in earnest.  Main Street curb repair and realignment of the Bentley Road intersection at the Dari Freeze will proceed quickly, in advance of the state coming through later in the spring to repave Main Street. 

The bike path along County Line Road will begin as soon as AEP has finished their overhead work.  A delay on that project was resolved this past week with "Structure 12", a large metal pole going in at the corner of Jefferson and County Line Road.  AEP placed the massive round concrete base uncomfortably close to the intersection, and the Village asked that it be moved twenty feet to the south.  A flurry of engineering ensued, and AEP countered with a shift of fourteen feet.  At issue for the Village was safety and potential expansion of the intersection, but AEP had to contend with rights-of-way and distances from wires to house roofs.

An engineering firm is at work surveying the future site of soccer fields on the SRK-donated land. The private Chestnut Lane development off Sunset Drive is proceeding, and the Village has been assisting with the sewer and water tie-ins.

Blackburn provided some funding updates. Despite rising costs for nearly everything, bids for several projects have come in below engineer's estimates, and various sources of outside funding have been pursued to make sure local tax money and donations are aggressively leveraged.

Moving on to Emergency Services, Mayor Johnson noted that EMS Chief Jan Basinger and Fire Chief Jon Kinn were absent because of a county meeting of the Emergency Management Agency, where they were discussing a potentially catastrophic event scheduled for next year, called… a total solar eclipse. Indeed, although the "path of totality" cuts across America from Texas to New York, our corn-and-beans Allen County lies at the center of an area that will experience the longest darkness--exceeding four minutes.  According to the EMA, this may result in a massive influx of gawkers from faraway cities, perhaps swelling the county's population that weekend by tens or hundreds of thousands.  It's their goal to manage the crowds and the chaos. Stay tuned, we've got a while to plan for this.

Police Chief Ryan Burkholder announced a new law, Ohio Senate Bill 288, that increases the penalties for distracted driving, AKA texting-while-driving.  Guidance from the state will be forthcoming, but motorists should be on notice that texting while driving will now get you pulled over.

Council approved a request to close College Avenue for street painting by high school seniors in May. Several in attendance, notably including the Mayor himself and the police chief, admitted to some reckless behavior back in the days when this was not a sanctioned event.