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March 25 Bluffton Council: BPD awards 2023 Citizens of the Year honors to three residents

PHOTOS clockwise) Ross Zimmerman sworn in as Bluffton Police Officer; Teri Steinmetz accepts BPD Citizen of the year honors shared with Ryan Demarco and Makayla White; members of Bluffton Boy Scouts Troop 256.

CORRECTION: The last name of Officer Abby Michael was spelled incorrectly in the first version of this article.

By Paula Pyzik Scott

The 28-page meeting packet is HERE.

The March 25 regular meeting of the Bluffton Council presented a gallery full of people including Boy Scouts from Troop 256, an admittedly unusual condition for these meetings. The Scouts were introduced to the Village Councilors and to the staff in attendance.

Two special events drew the guests: the hiring of a new full-time police officer and the presentation of the 2023 Bluffton Police Department Citizen of the Year award.

The meeting began in dramatic style with the story of a young preschool child lost in Bluffton, (to be told in full in a forthcoming article). Police Chief Ryan Burkholder announced that on Easter Sunday 2023, Makayla White, Ryan Demarco and Teri Steinmetz had found and assisted a small child who was walking down a Main St. sidewalk–cold and inconsolable–and who did not speak English. The three flagged down Officer Abby Michael and together helped reunite the child with his father, who was attending a church service nearby. Teri Steinmetz accepted the award on behalf of the others.


Council approved the hiring of Ross Zimmerman as a full-time Bluffton Police Officer with a contract for four years. Zimmerman was sworn in by Mayor Richard Johnson and congratulated by guests including many from the police department.

Personnel Councilor Mitch Kingsley reported on a meeting with Police Chief Burkholder regarding Police employee education requirements for Lieutenant and Sergeant. The committee recommends adjusting the Lieutenant requirement from bachelor’s degree to associates degree and to remove the associate’s degree requirement from the Sergeant position. Legislation for this change will be presented at the next meeting.

Tree Commission Councilor Ben Stahl reported on the March meeting and the upcoming celebration of Arbor Day at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 27 at the Bluffton Community Pool. Two Espresso Kentucky Coffee Trees and two Monumental Plane Trees will be planted along the southern edge of the pool parking lot.

The second reading of an ordinance approving appropriations for the 2024 fiscal year was passed by unanimous vote. (Exhibit A, a 5-page listing of expenses is in the meeting packet.)

The second reading of a resolution adopting the final draft of the Bluffton Beyond Tomorrow comprehensive plan was passed by unanimous vote.

The first reading of a resolution establishing pay increases for 31 Village employees was passed by unanimous vote. (Listed in the meeting packet.)

Village Administrator Jessee Blackburn reported on proposed updates to fees for water and sewer taps. These fees have been unchanged in 10 years, while materials have increased significantly. Blackburn notes that actual material costs for ¾” water connections are being subsidized by $925.00.

Blackburn also noted that hydrant flushing is scheduled to begin April 9 and that lawn mowing season has arrived. Village ordinance requires lawns to be maintained below 7 inches.

Bluffton Police Department Chief Ryan Burkholder provided updates including:

Nixle to Everbridge alert system transition - Effective April 1, the village will be using a new alert system from Everbride. Residents must sign up for the new service at

The Nixle system is now obsolete. Everbridge will provide access to multiple staff members and allow for more notices such as street closures and events. 

Burkholder also announced three career milestones in the department: Hope Hannah - 10 years; Abby Michael - 10 years; Eliott Tyzzer - 15 years.

Burkholder thanked the officers who went to Indian Lake after the area was devastated by a tornado on March 14. He said that the extent of the destruction was “eye opening” 

Bluffton Fire Department Chief Jon Kinn reported that the final eclipse preparation meeting was held and that local safety services are ready to go. He wondered aloud, “Will I-75 look like a parking lot?” on April 8.

The next regular meeting of the Bluffton Council is Tuesday, April 9. (Moved from the usual Monday due to the solar eclipse.)