Section: News

Village Council discusses Sheriff contract, Strategic Plan

Village Council discusses Sheriff contract, Strategic Plan

Village Council members, led by Mayor Leeman Kessler ’04, discuss the future of the Gambier Strategic Plan at the council’s first meeting of the year. | SARA HALEBLIAN

The year’s second meeting of the Gambier Village Council took place on Feb. 13. The Council used this session to touch on topics ranging from Gambier’s relationship with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to Village’s Strategic Plan.

One of the first subjects of discussion was posed by Audrey Mueller ’22, a representative from the Black Student Union (BSU). Following an incident last fall, which involved a confrontation between a Knox County deputy sheriff and a group of BSU students and alumni riding a golf cart, students and Gambier residents alike had called for a renegotiation of Gambier’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office.

“We currently have a committee which is discussing potential solutions or alternatives to the current sheriff’s deputy,” Mueller said. “If possible, we would like to be involved in the conversations regarding the renewal of the contract with the Knox County Sheriff’s department.”

Clinton Bailey, Village solicitor, agreed to involve the BSU in the process. “We’ll send you a copy of the contract,” Bailey said. “If you have specific concerns, I’d like to take those to the Sheriff’s department, to be able to tell you what might be feasible, what might not be.”

Mayor Leeman Kessler ’04 said it might be possible for the Village to pay for the deputy to undergo additional training — whether that be for racial sensitivity, or for operating in a college setting — provided the sheriff agreed to it.

“Our budget’s pretty flexible on things like that,” Kessler said. “I think it would be more about, ‘what’s the willingness on their side, and how hard do we want to push and potentially lose the relationship we have with them?’ That might be part of the negotiation.”

“I think we share your concerns,” Bailey added.

The Council also discussed the Gambier Village Strategic Plan, which had been introduced at the previous meeting in January. Created by the Knox County Area Development Foundation, it would grant the Village $40,000 in funding each year for the next four years for Village improvement projects. Kessler had previously stated his enthusiasm for the plan, but other councilmembers now expressed their reservations.

Councilwoman Betsy Heer was concerned that the draft of the plan they were voting on wasn’t necessarily complete. The Strategic Plan website still allows visitors to submit suggestions, and Heer was uncertain how, or if, those suggestions would be used.

“Are they making adjustments based on input from the community?” Heer asked. “And what’s the timeframe for it? Because I don’t want to vote on something that I don’t get to see a final draft of.”

Kessler acknowledged these concerns. “I would absolutely love to see . . . someone from the Area Development Foundation come and talk through whether they’ve made changes,” he said. “I think that would be very appropriate to see at the March meeting.”

Heer was also concerned by some of the statistics expressed in the plan, which claimed that 560 Gambier residents commuted to work in neighboring villages. Heer thought that number was unreasonably high, and suspected that MS Consultants, the firm hired to construct the plan, was using the 43022 zip code to determine residency.

“There’s just no way that 560 people leave the Village to go work somewhere else,” Heer said. “They didn’t use the Village’s actual boundaries. And when you consider that the zip code includes the other side of the 62 [highway] and other such places, then it skews the numbers.”

As of this meeting, the Council did not vote on whether to enact the plan; the vote will take place following the plan’s third reading in March.

The meeting concluded with discussions about the Village’s entrance into an agreement with the Ohio Wastewater Agency Response Network, a plan to resurface certain Gambier streets and the new electric vehicle charging station that has been installed across from the Campus Auto and Tire gas station. Additionally, they announced that the Gambier Community Center is now officially a warming and cooling center: a space designated as a shelter to be used when outside temperatures become unsafe.

The next Village Council meeting will take place on March 2, the first Monday of spring break.

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