No medical marijuana locales for Bellaire

Village Council votes against allowing dispensaries

T-L Photos/SHELLEY HANSON
ABOVE: BELLAIRE POLICE Chief Mike Kovalyk proposes to village council that it consider contracting with a company that uses traffic cameras to catch speeding motorists with 60 percent of the fines coming back to the village. East Liverpool, he said, makes $70,000 a month via the traffic cameras.

T-L Photos/SHELLEY HANSON ABOVE: BELLAIRE POLICE Chief Mike Kovalyk proposes to village council that it consider contracting with a company that uses traffic cameras to catch speeding motorists with 60 percent of the fines coming back to the village. East Liverpool, he said, makes $70,000 a month via the traffic cameras.

BELLAIRE — If you were thinking about opening one of those new medical marijuana dispensaries in the village of Bellaire, you should think again.

During a regular meeting Thursday, village council in a 4-2 decision voted to ban such businesses in the village. The vote came about after a handful of companies contacted village officials about opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Bellaire.

By Ohio law, such businesses can only sell the drug in the form of pills or salves, not plants or buds.

Voting in favor of banning such shops were Councilmen James Piatt, Bob Koteles, Jerry Fisher and Councilwoman Nikki Liberatore. Voting against the ban were Councilmen Donny Maupin and Dan Brown, who both said they believed medical marijuana could help some ill patients.

Before taking the vote, council asked for Police Chief Mike Kovalyk’s opinion on the matter. He said he was against a medical marijuana establishment opening in the village because those who use it might become impaired behind the wheel. Also, he believes such dispensaries would not improve the village’s reputation.

The village already is battling a drug epidemic with officers and medics responding to overdose calls on a frequent basis, and Bellaire police Lt. Richard “Dick” Flanagan said that even though many people disagree, he believes marijuana is a “gateway drug,” meaning its use leads people to try other substances.

“People just don’t wake up one day and want to put a needle in their arm,” Flanagan added.

Village Administrator Scott Porter noted prior to the vote that two companies that were considering trying to set up shop in Bellaire decided to go elsewhere. However, council decided to take a vote now for future reference on the issue.

In other matters, Kovalyk presented council with a idea that has made one Ohio Valley city, East Liverpool, an average of $70,000 per month. Kovalyk said East Liverpool is using an automatic traffic ticket company, Blue Line Solutions, which uses cameras to take photos of motorists who speed or roll through stop signs. Of the proceeds, the village would receive 60 percent and the company, 40 percent.

“East Liverpool has reduced its incidents of accidents and injury by 85 percent,” Kovalyk noted.

Kovalyk said the cameras could be set up anywhere, but he noted the worst speeding offenders travel on Ohio 149 in the village. Council did not take any action on the proposal, as an ordinance must be drafted first. Kovalyk said the company can come to the village and do a demonstration.

In other business:

∫ Council approved spending $31,000 in oil and gas revenue for a variety of projects, including making repairs to seven village work vehicles, repairing a slip on Tanney Avenue, and for money owed to ADR Engineering.

∫ Porter received a $108,600 estimate from Kalkreuth Roofing and Sheet Metal to replace the village municipal building’s rubber roof. The job was bid out previously, but no companies bid on the project.

∫ Flanagan, who also serves as the village’s code enforcer, said since the last council meeting he has sent letters to four people about the need for their properties to be demolished. Three more houses have been condemned, while two more houses have been added to the landbank list, he said. Five rental properties were inspected with one failing, and of citations that have gone to court, one property owner has pleaded guilty, and another has pleaded innocent.

Flanagan said landlords continue to register their properties, per city code, but there are others who are not complying and will be cited.

∫ Council opened bids for the repaving of a section of Belmont Street. No action was taken, but the bids were: Wilson Blacktop, $149,780; Shelly & Sands, $168,500; Cast & Baker, $115,000; and Lash Paving, $107,451. The work calls for removal of 3.5 inches of old pavement and installation of a 2-inch base and 1.5-inch top coat.

∫ Council also held a closed-door session to discussion possible litigation. No related action was taken after council returned to open session.

COMMENTS