A largely new Plain City Council began laying the groundwork for another year of progress, though disagreements arose among some members during their first meeting.
Mayor Jody Carney and Council member Michael Terry, who were both previously appointed to their positions but won seats in the November election, were sworn into office Monday. New Council members Jim Eudaily, Kerri Ferguson and James Sintz also took the oath of office.
Terry received a unanimous vote to serve as council president.
Council member Frank Reed expressed disagreement and disappointment surrounding 2022 appointments to boards and committees.
Reed was the only council member to vote against Carney’s appointments for the year.
Carney appointed Eudaily to the Board of Zoning Appeals; Reed to the Parks and Recreation Committee; Ferguson to the Personnel and Finance/Capital Improvement Projects Committee and Sintz as the Fire District council representative. Council member John Rucker will continue his current term on the Design Review Board.
Reed, who served on the Personnel and Finance/CIP Committee in 2021, said he felt there should be a discussion amongst council members as to who would like to serve on which committee.
He said he invested time into learning about the budgeting process and Plain City’s finances and would like to continue to serve on his previous committee.
Carney explained that she felt her appointments reflect the experience and knowledge of each council member.
Ferguson has a background in accounting and served on the Personnel and Finance Committee during her previous stint on council, Carney said.
Reed said he was not opposed to Ferguson’s appointment to the committee, but said he would like to serve on it, too.
Eudaily noted that the village solicits applications from those interested in serving on committees when vacancies arise. From there, the mayor appoints individuals to serve. Council then approves or disapproves her recommendations.
He said he feels this should be the process followed to fill any additional seats on the Personnel and Finance/CIP Committee.
Reed said he felt there was “an effort to make it difficult” for him to be seated on the Personnel and Finance Committee.
“You’re just resisting way too much for me to be comfortable with it,” Reed said before requesting council move on to the next agenda item.
Terry also suggested that a Marketing and Communications Committee is created in 2022.
“I do think it’s a gap I’d like to address in 2022,” Terry said, noting that the village had difficulty alerting its residents of a boil alert in 2021.
Reed, though, said he feels it should be expanded and called the “Development Committee.”
While Terry said he understands Reed’s desire to focus on development, he said he is “hesitant” to form a committee that revolves around it.
He noted that the Plain City Charter, approved in 2021, removed the council representative from the Planning and Zoning Committee “for a reason” – preventing council members from voting at the committee stage and council stage.
Creating a committee that addresses development could be construed as subverting the intention of the charter, Terry said.
Ferguson agreed that the focus should remain on effective communication between village officials and staff and local residents.
“I personally feel communication is of the utmost importance,” she said.
Terry said the topic will be added to an upcoming work session, during which council will discuss the purpose and parameters of the committee, along with its actual name.
An engagement agreement with the village’s solicitor, Paul Lafayette, will also be discussed during an upcoming meeting.
Lafayette explained that his “contract” is not truly a contract because it is non-binding and council can decide to terminate his services at any point. Instead, the engagement agreement simply sets his rate for the next two years.
His previous rate, approved by Plain City Council in 2019, was $150 per hour. The proposed agreement lists a new rate of $175 per hour.
Terry said he feels strongly that Lafayette should be retained, given that the village is currently seeking a new administrator. He said he would like to maintain as much stability as possible.
Reed, on the other hand, said he has a “strong preference” that council reviews the contract in detail and holds an executive session to review his performance.
Village Administrator Haley Lupton said she will include Lafayette’s most recent engagement agreement and the proposed new agreement in council’s packet for review at their Jan. 24 meeting.
In other business, council:
– Unanimously approved a motion scheduling a public hearing for the preliminary development plan for Madison Meadows II on February 14.
– Scheduled a work session for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 20 in council chambers specifically to discuss council goals for 2022.