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BELMONT -- Belmont Village Council and Mayor Stan Sobel continued to encourage the involvement of Union Local High School students in local government at their May 4 meeting when ULHS junior Saraina Wise served as "Mayor for a Day" and senior Kaitlyn Kelly received a $500 scholarship as a private donation for her distinguished work having served as an honorary council member during the 206-2017 school year. Sobel said he hopes to award the scholarship yearly.
Wise said she applied to be "mayor for a day" because she is interested in government and hopes to fill Kelly's position on council. After graduation she is considering attending Ohio University to pursue a degree in political science and pre-law. Wise currently attends classes at Ohio University Eastern. She has been elected as a Buckeye Girls State delegate this summer and last summer volunteered with the village's summer camp.
"We're happy and proud to have Saraina as Mayor for a Day," Mayor Sobel said. "She and a couple of other high school students helped us out with our summer camp and hopefully we will get her back this year. She did an excellent job."
Kelly said she enjoyed her time on Belmont Council and has realized that running a small government is more difficult than she thought it would be. "I realized that running a small town is harder than you would think. There's always a lot of issues that come up," she said.
"We're trying to give young adults the experience of local government," Sobel said.
Wise said she and Kelly had become good friends and there was no one more deserving of the scholarship. "She's such a hard worker and I appreciate all of her dedication to everything she does," Wise said of Kelly.
The date of the second annual summer camp were also set at the meeting and will be June 5-9 and 12-16. Activities planned include a magician, martial arts, crafts, food music, visits with animals from the Belmont County Animal Shelter, a day with the fire, police and EMS vehicles, a horse and cart, animals from the Good Zoo at Oglebay, 3-D printing, a visit from Sky, a therapy dog, and much more. The cost will be $10 per child per week. Applications are available by contacting Sobel. He said scholarship money from donated funds has also been set aside for those that qualify.
Fire Chief Bob Mills gave the fire and EMS report for the month of April which included three fire calls and 13 squad runs, seven of which were billable and four of which were transports. Mills said the department received a $1,200 grant from the State Fire Marshal's office and six members participated in a mock crash at ULHS prior the school's prom using the department's fire truck and both e-squads.
Council discussed updating the village's fire levy which had not been done so since the 1980s and reducing the milage. Mills noted that the current fire truck was purchased in 1991. The levy is currently 5 mils but updating the levy to current tax rates would generate more money even while reducing the milage. Fiscal Officer Ricky Burkhead said he received the ballot language that day and must be filed by mid-September. He said it would require two resolutions so council would need to make a decision at least two months prior to the filing date. Council authorized Burkhead to look into it.
Mills said concrete would be poured in front of the fire house soon to make it handicap accessible so that the building can be used as a polling place and voting can take place in the village again. Council also approved the EMS contract with Belmont County which was the same as last year.
Burkhead reported that vehicle license tax funds held by the Belmont County Engineers Office and unused by the village totaled $26,000. He said the money is required to be used for through streets within the village (not dead end or state routes) and could be used for matching grant funds.
Village Solicitor T.J. Shultz gave the second reading of an ordinance prohibiting dumping in village owned cemeteries as an unspecified misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500.
Council approved the creation of a grant administrator's position, under the direct supervision of the mayor, to search and apply for grants, maintain documents, and attend council meetings and report to council on a monthly basis. Sobel said that he learned through his membership in the Belmont County Mayor's Association that many villages have such a position. Council agreed that the position was needed as soon as possible as grant opportunities are being missed.
On the topic of grants, Sobel said an application for handicap accessible playground equipment had been completed. A committee chose a design for the playground and is applying for a $20,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He said it would be several months before they would know if the application was successful. Sobel said he was proud that over 125 people from the village signed letters of recommendation for the grant. He said a lot of involved in such an application and thanked Burkhead and Shultz for their help and Katrina Woodland from OMEGA who put the grant together for them. Sobel said OMEGA would also be working with the village on paving grants.
Sobel also reported that the village's Easter Egg Hunt was extremely successful and over 19 raffle prizes were donated by residents in addition to donations of money and candy. He said $417 was raised from the raffles and $250 in personal donations were received as well, all for the playground. Sobel said the goal is to raise enough money to cover the costs incurred by the village to apply for the grant.