BELLAIRE Thursday's council meeting saw several heated debates regarding business and community ventures in town.
Council Member Patricia Thomas also complained of an unofficial Bellaire Facebook site operated by Dan Brown, local businessman. She said the site's posts include unfounded accusations of wrongdoing on the parts of council and village officials. It also includes names and contact information for council members, which is public knowledge.
She added that she had brought up questions about the possible benefits of a Bellaire Facebook site at a prior meeting.
Brown immediately created the site. Council members expressed concern that the people could believe the site was the town's official Internet presence.
Council Member Lou Ann Bennett spoke as a private citizen before council, saying that the Facebook issue was out of hand.
"It is an embarrassment," she said, adding that the site makes a poor impression for out-of-town Internet users. She said the site contains inaccurate information and allegations and gives the impression of being village-run. She said she was also critical of Brown's ego and impulsive behavior and said Brown has been a disruptive and counterproductive influence on civic organizations and activities.
Council authorized Law Director Edward Sustersic to ask Brown to remove "Bellaire, Ohio" from his site and authorized Sustersic to incur costs to remove the name.
In other matters, Jim Johnston of Electronics Recycling Services reported progress in transitioning an old school building into an electronics disassembly and recycling station with nationwide potential. He said the business could bring more than 30 jobs to the area and a corresponding increase in other local businesses. He added that their employees have assisted in various village projects such as helping the school place a sign at Nelson Field, helping to purchase a washing machine for the elementary school, mulching the park, and aiding in holidays, community cleanups and festivities.
"We want to be more involved in the community," Johnston said, adding that they are working with mayor and council to stay within regulations. "The whole purpose of us being here is for the betterment of the town."
He said anyone with questions or who has heard negative rumors are welcome to stop at the site and talk to him.
He added that he and Brown are both employed by ERC.
Jim Flanigan, member of Ironworkers Local 599 but speaking as a private citizen, said it was upsetting that the recycling center was employing out of town workers. He also raised questions about the building permits, saying that the workers did not have a village permit in hand.
On checking with the village, he said he was told Brown paid for the permits at the same time. He suggested that the village perform a complete investigation into the work being done at the building.
He also added his displeasure at the allegations on Brown's Facebook site.
Code Enforcer Jim Chase said he was not contacted about the situation. He said the permits were issued but might not have been received by the mayor's secretary for public information. Chase added that his office was open and he was available to answer questions.
Brown addressed council, saying he and his family have been threatened online and acknowledged that Facebook postings have become heated on all sides.
He added that the ERC building venture was valid and adhered to regulations.
"I don't believe we've done anything wrong or incorrectly. I don't believe that we've not filed any permits that we needed to file," he said, adding that state permits were also in order. He also said he has never claimed to represent the village online and said he has acted in good faith to benefit the village.
Mayor Vincent DiFabrizio said all issued would be looked into. Prior to visitors' comments, he also announced that in the future, the public forum will be strictly moderated. Persons wishing to speak must come prior to the meeting and fill out a form including the subjects they would be bringing before council. Visitors will be permitted to speak once per meeting for a period of five minutes.
"We're not going to use these meetings as a chopping block," he said.
In other matters, Council granted a request from Sustersic for $1,800 for the appraisal of a parking lot. He also gave the opinion that the present ordinance covering garbage pickup could be stronger. He suggested a committee review the ordinances. In 60 days he will provide some suggested changes.
Also, the finance committee met Wednesday. It is necessary to clarify holiday pay for employees. A technology committee will be formed to review the Website.
In addition, Frank Manteau visited council to volunteer to assist in spaying and neutering stray cats. He said grants for such projects were available and could reduce the cat population in three-to-six years' time.
DiFabrizio appointed Joe Campbell to the East Ohio Regional Board. Campbell reported changes to the board. There was a recent break on Indian Run across the creek, which East Ohio Regional Waste Authority repaired for $100,000. The money was in the contingency fund so there was no need to borrow or bond. He noted that North Guernsey Street will require grading. He added that rates recently increased by 50 cents.
Council Member Jim Williams reported a utility meeting was held Jan. 31 to discuss decreasing water revenue.
Council approved the appointment of Robert Dodrill to the zoning committee.
M ichael Shaheen, running for county treasurer, and Dick Flanagan and David Lucas, running for sheriff, introduced themselves.
DeFrank can be reached at email@example.com.