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Summary of September 11 Bluffton Council meeting

By Andy Chappell-Dick

Could that upstart ChatGPT use artificial intelligence to write this column?  I signed up online and asked.  Here's its answer:  "I'm sorry, but I do not have access to real-time or current events.... To obtain a summary of the September 11 Bluffton Council meeting, I recommend checking the official website of the Bluffton Council or local news sources. They should have up-to-date information on recent meetings and their outcomes."  Darn, I'll have to find my notes.

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. sharp.  With a 7:05 public meeting, Mayor Richard Johnson squeezed in a few items beforehand. Councilor Mitch Kingsley reported that the Ordinance Committee is continuing work on hammering out a new zoning classification for Accessory Dwelling Units.  

Assistant Village Administrator Bryan Lloyd reported on a meeting of the Zoning Board that approved the plans of a resident to demolish and rebuild a South Main Street house, along with a minor alley change. 

Councilor Ben Stahl presented the minutes of two Pathways Board meetings, and hailed the start of the SR 103 portion.

At 7:05 Council voted to enter a public meeting to solicit comments on proposed changes to property lines in the Thurman Street Municipal parking lot. A map of the area was displayed and Village Admnistrator Jesse Blackburn described what was happening.  He later clarified to me that the Village is working with adjoining property owners, who own large chunks of the parking area, to ensure that the parking lot retains its public usefulness and ease of passage.  

No public comment was offered, and the breakout meeting was closed at 7:08. An ordinance to authorize these changes passed its first reading during the Legislation portion a few minutes later.

Mayor Johnson then turned to the normal Public Comment segment, and recognized Keith Suter to the podium. Suter said he was speaking for a local group that has sponsored a family, arriving this very night from a refugee camp in Tanzania.  He explained the structure of the program and how the family would be supported initially.

Turning to Legislation, Council passed the final reading of a Cherry Street alley vacation, the second reading of a Parkview sewer right-of-way vacation, and the first reading of the Thurman Street matter. 

A fourth bill, passed by emergency, renews the amount of $270,730 collected for the Village via the county's property taxes. The millage of 2.50 is unchanged from last year.

This meeting's Administrator's Report was spartan, with most items already covered earlier.   Blackburn called out progress on the ongoing Sanitary Compliance Inspection. 63.6% of Village households have been inspected.  The ominous name is deceptive; it's only making sure sump pumps do not discharge into the sanitary sewer. Only 8% of homes have been out of compliance, and the Village works with these residents to suggest workable and affordable solutions.

EMS Chief Jan Basinger said that run numbers are creeping higher again, with 35 calls in the first ten days of September.  With the new ambulance coming in 2025 looking like it may cost below the $400,000 budgeted, he asked Council to approve the purchase of a $33,000 hydraulic gurney loading system for the new truck, already used in the Village's two existing trucks, which would allow the department to retain three fully equipped ambulances.  

Fire Chief Jon Kinn described a heart-warming scene of Bluffton Elementary fourth graders requesting to come hear from him on the anniversary of 9/11, and while he was expecting a few kids well over a hundred came. They had many questions and wanted to recognize 9/11 as a day of service by washing trucks, which they did with great vigor.  

Police Chief Ryan Burkholder, with Lt. Matt Oglesbee, tentatively announced the dedication of a memorial outside Village Hall to fallen officer Dominic Francis, to take place on Saturday, September 23. They asked Council for permission to close Main Street for the 10:00 a.m. event.

Mayor Johnson asked for an Executive Session to discuss property matters, and with no action expected afterwards, effectively ended for the rest of us.

ChatGPT, tell me a joke about local government.  "How many village council members does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  Only one, but it may take several meetings and public consultations to decide which lightbulb to use and where to place it!"

Hmm, weak. Try again.  "I apologize if that joke didn't meet your expectations. Here's another one:  Why did the town's budget go to therapy? Because it had too many issues to balance!"

Writers' jobs are safe. For now.