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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio

Local Government

Daniels runs out of patience on old middle/high school

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — Saying he has run out of patience, Safety-service Director Joel Daniels is initiating action on the problem of the old high school at 301 N. Mulberry St.

The owner, Jason Gunsorek, owes over $13,000 in taxes on the property. Daniels said that when he discovered how far behind Gunsorek is in paying taxes, he went to Mayor Richard Mavis and said something has to be done.

"I am going to have Greg Bemiller, [property maintenance enforcement officer] take pictures of the property. We will then take them to our property appeals board and request they give it a label of condemned building,” Daniels told KnoxPages.com on Thursday. Daniels is concerned about the safety of the building, people illegally entering it and the lack of ability to secure it. “It's just one of those messy problems we can't solve,” he said.

Additionally, Daniels said he left a message with Chip McConville, Knox County prosecutor, on Wednesday. “He's the one who initiates foreclosure action,” explained Daniels.

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Old Mount Vernon Middle School on North Mulberry Street - KP file photo

Foreclosure and condemnation plans are still in the preliminary stages. “I just started the ball rolling on this yesterday,” said Daniels. “I'll talk with the mayor and we'll form a task force and formulate a plan on how to approach it.

“The owners live in the Columbus area,” he continued. “They have had communications with us and tell us what we want to hear, but we don't see much action. It has to be dealt with.”

The Board of Education for Mount Vernon City Schools initially sold the property in 1998. Since then, a series of owners has promised to rehab the building but none have followed through. Daniels said that in addition to being a safety issue, the building has dragged down property values in the neighborhood.

MVMS and city honor Arbor Day

By Dylan McCament, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON - On Friday, over 100 middle school students shouted: "We love trees!"

Students, city officials and teachers gathered outside the Mount Vernon Middle School yesterday to celebrate Arbor Day and to recognize two students who won a writing contest with an Arbor Day theme.

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis praised middle school teachers for efforts to educate students about Arbor Day and thanked members of the city's Shade Tree and Beautification Commission. The commission donated seven trees to the school, which were recently planted on the campus near the location of the gathering.

"Trees, wherever they are planted, are a source of joy and spiritual renewal," Mavis said. "I urge all citizens to celebrate Arbor Day and support efforts to protect our trees and woodlands. I urge all our citizens to plant trees to gladden the heart and promote the well-being of this and future generations."

Mavis presented the proclamation to Megan Burley-Durbin, seventh grade math teacher at the middle school, organized the ceremony and helped other teachers incorporate Arbor Day activities into their classwork.

Two Middle School students - Elizabeth Diehl and Annabel Waggoner - were honored for winning a nature-themed writing contest, of which there were 48 participants. Diehl, who won for poetry, and Waggoner, who won for a narrative, both read aloud their pieces at the gathering.

Arbor Day 2017 Mavis Diehl et al

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis, left, Mount Vernon Middle School students Elizabeth Diehl and Annabel Waggoner as well as middle school math teacher Megan Burley-Durbin stand before a newly-planted tree on the school's campus. Students, teachers and city leaders gathered at the school to recognize Arbor Day and to honor Diehl and Waggoner, who were were both winners of an Arbor Day writing contest.
KP Photo by Dylan McCament

"Lilly sat in front of her cherry tree, feeling the warm grass between her fingers," Waggoner read, reciting the first lines of her narrative. "The sounds of the waterfall trickling into a nearby pond was like a sweet melody, and she smiled she leaned against the rough bark of her cherry tree and closed her eyes."

In the first seven lines of her poem, Silver Branches, Diehl read: "My first thought, when I saw you/Twilight was on its way/Taking its way, slow and steady/And I just stared/Beginning Blooms shone/Pink, gold."

Jim Brown, chairman of the Shade Tree and Beautification Commission, said that the seven donated trees were planted in the perfect location, near the newly-constructed Outdoor Learning Center, a pavilion located on the middle school's lawn. He praised efforts of school and city officials to support activities that educate future leaders on the importance of protecting trees and forests.

Brown said that a plaque will be placed before each of the seven trees, indicating their genus, species and Latin name. He added that, in time, these trees will provide shade for future middle school students.

The names of the seven trees are: Shagbark Hickory, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Homestead Elm, Silky Sassafras, Bald Cypress, and two June Snow Dogwoods.

80 children in custody of Knox Job and Family Services, foster homes needed

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON - The message Matthew Kurtz, director of Knox County Department of Job & Family Services, had for the county commissioners on Thursday is that “We're facing a lot of challenges, but we are facing them in a wide-eyed and efficient manner.”

One of those challenges is the increase in the number of children in the custody of KCDJFS, climbing from 30 or so last year to more than 80 this year.

“Opiates is the popular reason you hear about [for the increase], and that's certainly a contributing factor, but we are also seeing a lot of methamphetamine,” said Scott Boone, social services program administrator for KCDJFS.

Boone said the number of child protection calls received last year is up due to KCJFS encouraging people to call and have situations investigated. The department received 2,346 calls in 2016 and 2,120 in 2015. The number of child investigations increased from 482 in 2015 to 517 in 2016.

The department received 220 adult abuse and neglect calls last year; Boone anticipates that number to increase in the 60-and-older category due to population demographics. The number of adult neglect investigations in 2016 (31) is down from 96 in 2015. Boone attributes the decrease to better filtering and increased information at the screening level.

“Better screening eliminates an investigation and an expectation created when money, or the individual, doesn't allow further followup,” said Kurtz.

The department will receive additional funding from the state for its adult protective services division. “It's valuable work and we are happy to do it, but not as an unfunded mandate,” said Kurtz, who has testified several times before the Ohio Legislature on lack of funding issues. He said his message to the legislature is “If you think it's seriously that big of an issue, follow it with some dollars.”

Boone said he feels good about the way KCDJFS revamped children's services regarding staffing and placement issues. He said that staff members are doing “more thoughtful, diligent assessments now” but noted that this increased thoroughness often reveals more children in unsafe environments. He said that KCJFS has been fortunate to find kinship residences for many of the children, adding that his hope and ambition moving forward is to be more proactive and have families in place should something happen.

He said staff members are doing an analysis of the children placed in care to determine if they are receiving the right level of care. For example, some are placed in Cleveland facilities; staff members are evaluating whether a different type of home closer to the child's community would be better suited.

“We've already uncovered some analysis that makes us believe we can make some restrictions and place children in a lesser environment,” he said. “Now we're working on bringing in more foster homes so that children won't have to be separated from their schools and community.”

The goal is to have 20 to 25 homes available. Six families have responded thus far. “It's early in the movement and we believe we'll get more moving forward,” said Kurtz.

The commissioners presented Kurtz with a proclamation proclaiming April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Morris Township Fire to have levy on May ballot

FREDERICKTOWN - Morris Township Trustees filed with the Board of Elections to place a 4 mill replacement levy on the May 2nd ballot for those living in Precinct B of the township. The township contracts with Mount Vernon City to provide Fire and EMS services for the southern portion of the township. This area is located in the Mount Vernon City School District. Precinct A, the northern section of the township, is covered by the Fredericktown EMS and Fredericktown Fire District. This includes the part of the township that is in the Fredericktown Local School District.

The 4 mill replacement levy will generate about $120,000 per year for Fire and EMS services to be provided to the southern portion of the township. This levy is for a three year period starting January 1, 2018. Because of the close proximity to the City, the township made the decision several years ago to contract for services with Mount Vernon because of shorter response time.

Should any Township resident have questions regarding the levy, they are encouraged to attend the next meeting of the Township Trustees on Monday, May 1 at 6:00 pm at the Township House on Beckley Road. Any of the trustees, Dan Humphrey, Dick Kershner, or Terry Maloney would welcome a phone call to answer questions.

Zoning change makes way for new business

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — Monday's City Council meeting was relatively brief, with only a few items on the agenda.

Council passed legislation changing the zoning for 1199 Newark Road from R3 residential to General Business. The Wooster-based Smetzer's Tire Service plans to build and operate a tire sales and service outlet on the 4.49-acre parcel.

The measure passed as an emergency, with council waiving the required three readings. Councilman John Booth noted that council usually does not pass rezoning measures as emergencies. Councilwoman Nancy Vail, chairwoman of the city's Planning and Zoning Committee, said she usually supports three readings for rezoning.

In this case, however, Smetzer's Tire, the administration and the city engineering department requested the fast track so that Smetzer's Tire can put the project out to bid and get construction started and completed in a timely manner. She also noted there has been no opposition to the rezoning, either from residents, the Municipal Planning Commission or public participation at a public hearing on the issue held March 27.

Council also fast-tracked an ordinance setting the wage of the newly hired court security officer at $18 an hour. Mayor Richard Mavis swore in Officer Thomas Brown as an auxiliary police officer on Thursday. A resident of Newark, Brown formerly was part of the court security detail for the Ohio Supreme Court.

Council approved four financial measures authorizing the payment of bills, transfers among accounts, participation in the Ohio Department of Transportation's co-operative purchasing program for road salt, and appropriation of money.

Of the $40,250 in appropriations, $33,000 was transferred among accounts. The remaining $7,250 is from Ariel Corp. for the city's annual fireworks display. The Chinese fireworks manufacturer raised the price, so Ariel Corp. increased its donation from $5,000 to $7,250 to cover the additional cost.

The final two pieces of legislation council dealt with included a second reading on the annexation of 3.249 acres from Clinton Township and emergency passage of an ordinance setting the number and wages of seasonal recreation personnel.

Mavis reminded residents not to throw away correspondence from the city as it contains information about the recent water and wastewater increases. Along with increased rates, the billing cycle will change to monthly.

Law Director Rob Broeren reminded council and the public of the funeral for former Sheriff David Barber on Tuesday. Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Glenn A. Gallagher Centre, 1451 Gambier Road. A service will follow at 7 p.m.

Councilman Sam Barone said that an educational session on home rule, also referred to as charter government, is set for Tuesday, May 16, at 7 p.m. in council chambers. Noting that it has been an interest of his for awhile, Barone said that 75 percent of cities have become home rule cities. Following a meeting last fall among local and political leaders, the consensus was that council and the community should at the least become educated on the issue.

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