|Lack of representative on council worries Fourth Ward residents|
|Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor|
|Wednesday, 22 May 2013 11:00|
The potential for a long-term absence of Fourth Ward Council Member Greg Robinette has some residents unhappy about lack of representation on council.
Several weeks ago Robinette went on active duty with the Ohio Army National Guard. He has since submitted a request for a leave of absence from his council duties.
City Attorney Michael Marsh told council the leave of absence is allowed under Ohio Revised Code, which takes precedence because the city charter does not address the issue.
Marsh said Robinette originally expected to be away for up to a year but had come to have some hope that the deployment would be shorter because of the announced drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. Robinette does not draw his council salary while on leave of absence, Marsh said. BG council members are paid $5,000 per year.
"There is no vacancy in the office because there has been no resignation," Marsh said.
Robinette is commander of the Ohio Army National Guard's 371st Sustainment Brigade, which is based in Springfield, Ohio. The unit first deployed to Fort Hood, Texas, and was then to head for service in Kuwait.
North Main Street resident Jennifer Karches told council she has started a petition in an effort to get the situation resolved.
West Reed Street resident Laura Sanchez said the residents effectively do not have a representative on council.
"It's legal so there is not much we can do, but I think we deserve a representative. I think the media needs to let the people know more about this. Most of my neighbors didn't know anything about this."
Third Ward Council Member Michael Aspacher said any of the three at-large council representatives "would be happy to address any issues of Fourth Ward residents."
At-Large Representative Robert McOmber said Robinette's absence presents a number of issues for council. He said no one on council is as sensitive to Fourth Ward issues, a 3-3 vote on an issue mean it would fail because nothing can pass without at least four votes, and it would be impossible to suspend rules for extra readings if another member was absent for a vacation, illness or other reasons.
"I hope Mr. Robinette returns soon. I would encourage my colleagues and Mr. Robinette to find a solution," he stated.
Aspacher said any talk of replacing Robinette is "moot until he resigns." He also promised to listen to "public input and an honest and open discussion" of a replacement, should Robinette resign.
Robinette and McOmber are the only two Republicans on council.
Former council member William Herald suggested that if Robinette resigned council should consider asking at-large member Sandy Rowland, who lost by 12 votes to Robinette in the November 2011 election, move to Fourth Ward seat and former First Ward member Mark Hollenbaugh, be elected by council to fill her at-large seat. Council appointed Rowland to council to fill the unexpired term of Joel Kuhlman after he was elected a Wood County Commissioner.
"That's a bit more convoluted than anything I ever had in mind," McOmber said.
• Approved a $60,000 contract with Seaway Painting, Livonia, Mich., to complete refurbishing the remaining light poles, signal bars, bollards and other green fixtures along Wooster and Main streets in the downtown area. City officials indicated the firm did a good job on 17 poles north of Court Street and the city wants to complete the project. Work should be completed by August.
• Held a Community Improvement Committee meeting before the regular session to begin to respond to concerns expressed earlier this spring by east side residents about property maintenance, tenant behavior and related problems. Another meeting has been set for 6 p.m. June 3 before the next council meeting.
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