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Montpelier officer honored by Legion

Montpelier police officer Stephanie Mills had no idea why she had been invited to attend the beginning of the village council meeting Monday.

So when she was honored by the Montpelier American Legion Post 109 for her actions on May 10 at Montpelier Schools, “I was 100 percent surprised,” Mills said with a laugh on Tuesday.

Mills, who is the juvenile resource officer at Montpelier Schools, was presented with an Ohio American Legion Certificate of Commendation and was also recommended for nomination for the American Legion Department of Ohio Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award. She was honored by Post 109 Commander and Montpelier village councilman Kevin Motter, Post 109 Law and Order Committee Chairman Roger Brown — himself a retired D.A.R.E. officer with the Williams County Sheriff’s Office — and Robert Wurm, a member of the Post 109 Honor Guard.

“It’s truly an honor,” said Mills, who was recognized for her actions when an intoxicated parent brought her preschool daughter to school on the morning of May 10. The woman was unsteady, belligerent and using abusive language as she signed her daughter into school that morning, so Mills said she moved the woman out of the office and away from her daughter and school staff.

“I didn’t want her daughter to have to see (what was happening). I was concerned because then she tried to drive away,” said Mills, who placed the woman under arrest and had her transported from the scene without further incident.

Mills is the first juvenile resource officer at Montpelier Schools, a position initiated in October 2018 that is a partnership between Montpelier Schools and the village police department.

“I’m proud of her efforts. This (position) is something new between the department and the schools and this incident really defines the strengths of this partnership,” said Chief Dan McGee.

McGee stressed that the juvenile resource officer offers another level of school security “and it’s so much more. She’s great with the kids and she’s a great new resource for the kids. She’s able to listen to them and be a friend and mentor them, and over time, she’s been able to form relationships with them. We see this as only a positive and I think the school feels the same,” McGee said.

For Mills, the position at the school is a perfect fit.

“I’ve just always had a love for kids and an interest in working with kids. It’s just been amazing, I’m able to teach them, talk to them ... we have a lot of fun,” said Mills, who’s married to fellow Montpelier police officer Randy Mills. Together, they have three daughters, ages 13, 10 and 8.

In reading the citation Monday, Motter noted that Mills — who served as a Military Police officer and is a member of Post 109 — was recognized for “removing a child from a potentially dangerous and neglectful situation and handling a contact with a person under the influence of a controlled substance in a highly professional manner, thus defusing a potentially dangerous incident.”

McGee said his records indicate the defendant in late June entered a guilty plea of aggravated possession of drugs.


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Stryker looking at street, sidewalk work

The Village of Stryker is looking at doing some sidewalk and road work yet this summer.

Alan Riegsecker, village administrator, said the village is working on replacing broken sections of sidewalk around the village, with work including the removal of a tree that is pushing the sidewalk up.

The village will also be adding sidewalk on the north side of Curtis Street. The sidewalk will run from Maple Street to the village limit.

“I had talked to the residents down through there and one had actually requested (a sidewalk) for her children to bike and walk down because there’s no sidewalk on either side of the street,” Riegsecker said during the village council meeting Monday evening. “We added that into the budget with the sidewalk fund, which will be about $16,000 this year.”

The project is set to be completed yet this summer.

Riegsecker also told the council about a street repair estimate they received from Gerken Paving. The repair would be on West Street between North Depot and Lynn streets, which he said was “getting pretty broke up.”

The problem is the estimate came in at $38,500, which is more than the village could afford this year.

“So, what he’s checking on is doing about half of it,” Riegsecker said. “Mill down and do the repairs and then, possibly, next year or the year after he can come in and resurface it. That’s the way we’re leaning right now to keep it in the line item.”

In other business, council:

• Approved to set aside $1,500 to help citizens purchase banners around town to honor veterans.

• Heard Stryker Heritage Days organizers are finishing their planning. Scheduled for Aug. 17, the event will feature a 5K memorial run for the late sheriff’s deputy Mick Frisbie, with proceeds going to the Williams County Humane Society and a scholarship fund. It will also have music and a bounce house.

• Swore in a new police officer.


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Lawmakers work on bridging state budget differences

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted

For the first time since 2009, Ohio lawmakers failed to meet a statutory deadline to approve the state’s proposed $69 billion two-year operating budget by June 30. Because the House and Senate could not reach a compromise, they are now in a 17-day extension to fund state government to allow more time for reaching an agreement on a two-year budget.

House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) met with Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) on Monday for budget negotiations and both have told Statehouse reporters they expect more meetings all week long until a deal is reached.

“Investing in Ohio’s future” is Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s budget theme, and he’s expressed his disapproval of the impasse, noting, “The legislature has an obligation to keep our government funded and operating. Both houses passed proposals that share the priorities of my executive budget proposal, and they passed them by overwhelming, bipartisan majorities. I urge the conference committee to continue negotiations and pass a budget promptly.”

Another person who is ready to move forward with a new budget is Lt. Governor and Montpelier native Jon Husted.

In a 20-minute interview with The Bryan Times Tuesday, Husted reflected on his first seven months in office by saying he is “hopeful” a new budget is approved soon because he’s ready to push forward with several new initiatives, such as expanding career schools and technical and trade school educational opportunities.

“We’ve been working on that and some other initiatives for the past six months, but those (have been funded through) the old budget. I want the General Assembly to pass a new budget so we can get started on some of these new initiatives,” said Husted, mentioning one of those is the newly created InnovateOhio platform.

Begun with much fanfare in late April, InnovateOhio will “coordinate data and resources across state government to improve the way Ohio tackles our most challenging problems, including streamlining technology service across agencies to give Ohio citizens and businesses a better experience when interacting with state government,” according to www.innovationohio.org.

Examples include a pilot program making it possible for people to register for appointments at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, “so they don’t just show up and then have to wait in line” for long periods of time, Husted said.

Husted, a 1985 Montpelier High School graduate who grew up just outside the village on County Road J, said current budget sticking points seem to be the controversial provisions for the nuclear power plants operated by FirstEnergy Solutions and differences between the House and Senate on cutting taxes on small business.

“I’m optimistic we’ll get an energy bill and simultaneously deliver (approvals) on Medicaid” and on PBMs, which are third-party administrators for prescription drug programs, including self-insured employer plans and Medicare Part D plans.

Husted said he works well with DeWine and noted he is involved in economic large-scale development projects across the state, “and most are still in the works.” But he also dropped a hint that “we may have a big announcement (about an economic development project) some time in the fall, as our efforts begin to pay off.”


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Alliance asks court to intervene

The attorney for the Williams County Alliance has asked the Williams County Board of Elections to provide its justification in court for rejecting the Alliance’s proposed county charter petition.

In a letter dated July 8 to the county elections staff and board, the Alliance’s Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge wrote that the board’s denial of the charter petition Monday was “unlawful” and the reasoning for the rejection was “constitutionally invalid.” He asked that the issue be brought before the Williams County Court of Common Pleas on or before July 17, which he said is within the timeframe — 111 days before the general election — prescribed by state statute.

The proposed charter petition seeks to change Williams County from a statutory form of government to a charter, which supporters said would give the county more local decision making. The effort is seen by supporters as a way to legally oppose efforts by Artesian of Pioneer (AOP) to drill into the local aquifer and deliver up to 14 million gallons a day to entities outside the county.

The Alliance had collected more than 2,500 signatures of registered voters and delivered them to the elections board June 26 in an attempt to qualify the charter petition for the November ballot.

But at the elections board monthly meeting Monday, Elections Director A.J. Nowaczyk ruled that based on his conversations with the board’s legal counsel — County Prosecutor Katie Zartman — and in his own opinion, language in the proposed charter issue exceeds the scope of the powers afforded to local governments by the state.

In his letter, Lodge disagreed. “We believe that the Board of Elections’ refusal to follow the statutory requirements to forward the proposal to the County Commissioners was unlawful, and its reasoning that the petition is constitutionally invalid were unlawful determinations, rendered unlawfully, are constitutionally unsupported, and are arbitrary and capricious,” Lodge wrote.

Lodge noted that according to the Ohio Revised Code, Section 307.94, a hearing must be concluded and a judge’s ruling communicated to the Williams County Commissioners in time for them to certify the proposed county charter issue to the ballot no later than 4 p.m. on the 111th day before the November election, or Wednesday, July 17.

County Prosecutor Katie Zartman said Tuesday she is researching “what we need to file in court” and when. She said state statute says a court hearing is required “so we’ll take it to court.”

Zartman said she advised Nowaczyk that based on previous rulings, and on ORC 307.94, and ORC 3501.38 M1B, “my review of the petition is that it exceeds the county’s authority,” as Nowaczyk referenced Monday.

However, she also said she merely advised Nowaczyk of her legal opinion, and that state statute requires the elections board, not the county prosecutor, to make the decision.

She said she advised Nowaczyk, who then advised the four board members, which was confirmed by Elections Board President Mark Fox on Tuesday.

“I didn’t instruct them. I laid out the law (for Nowaczyk) and let them make their own decision,” said Zartman, noting that the Ohio Legislature in 2016 made revisions to charter petition procedures, but that law is currently being challenged in a case pending in federal district court.

Zartman called charter petition law “very complex, very complicated,” and “very unsettled.”

“It’s a quagmire,” she said.

“We’re trying to do the right thing as soon as possible,” Zartman added.

Sherry Fleming of the Alliance said she was aware that similar initiatives and charter home rule efforts attempted over the past several years in other counties and municipalities around the state — many geared as a way to stop fracking in those communities — had been rejected by local common pleas and state appellate courts, the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office and/or the Ohio Legislature.

But, said Fleming, who attended Monday’s elections board meeting with about two dozen Alliance members and supporters, “I was shocked at what happened Monday. I expected some resistance, but I think I expected it later in the process.”

Fleming noted the elections office counted 2,077 valid signatures, far more than the 1,364 required for the initiative to move forward.

On Tuesday, Fleming questioned the decision. She noted the July 8 meeting date was set up after a flurry of questions and a letter from Lodge questioning the elections office’s knowledge of deadlines after the office initially had set a July 16 date for the board’s monthly meeting. After consulting with Zartman, Nowaczyk reset the meeting for July 8.

Board members Scott Towers and Jeff Erb, both Republicans, along with Fox, a Democrat, voted in favor of Nowaczyk’s recommendation to find the petition invalid on Monday. Board member Paul Duggan, the county Democratic Party chairman, opposed the recommendation.

Fox said Tuesday he voted to uphold the denial “based on advice from legal counsel, which was the county prosecutor.”

Duggan did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

Also late Tuesday, the Williams County Board of Commissioners called an emergency meeting for 9 a.m. today. The stated purpose of the meeting “is to appoint counsel on behalf of the Board of Elections.”