The city of Powell has sent a letter to Liberty Township trustees as a “formal request” for an in-person meeting to discuss “issues and concerns,” including the potential change in emergency medical service providers.
The letter, dated Feb. 28, cites an article of the city and township’s Cooperative Economic Development Agreement that specifies the two bodies should meet “at least annually.”
“It is our duty to first and foremost serve our residents,” City Manager Steve Lutz said. “Recent discussions that significantly impact our community have led City Council to request a committee of the whole meeting. We hope this public meeting will provide more transparency and certainty for our residents.”
The letter comes on the heels of township trustees’ decision to bring back to the table a proposal for Delaware County to take over operation of the township’s emergency medical services, which provides EMS support to most Powell residents.
After Delaware County commissioners voted to take the proposal off the table, largely due to resident concerns, Trustees Melanie Leneghan and Mike Gemperline voted to ask for $1 million from the county in payment for EMS services and promising to hand control of EMS to the county if they aren’t happy with negotiations.
Trustee Shyra Eichhorn, as she has done throughout the EMS conversation, disagreed and voted against the request.
In the letter, signed by Powell legal counsel Eugene Hollins, a variety of issues are addressed, including EMS changes, a proposed planned overlay district, a lack of responses to “potential CEDA violations” and “interference with annexation and development discussions.”
The city also alleges that it “sent public records requests to the Township in order to gain more information about recent EMS discussions on January 18 and February 21” and has not heard back on those requests.
According to documents provided by the city, Powell made 17 different records requests in its Jan. 18 message, asking for communications sent and received by trustees, performance reviews and other documents regarding former medical director Warren Yamarick, and a variety of other documents.
In the Feb. 21 follow-up message, Lutz writes that the city would “view any response as highly suspect if it does not include records of communications between Trustee Melanie Leneghan and the other individuals named in the City's January 18, 2019 request.”
It notes that Leneghan’s personal email account is listed on the township website, and reiterates that correspondence from that account is public record “if it discusses public business.”
“If it is forced to, the City will not hesitate to use the legal remedies at its disposal to ensure that it receives a complete response to its records request, even if the remedy includes discovery of the non-Township email account so that it can be reviewed in full to identify responsive records,” the note reads. “The Township has a clear legal duty to respond to requests for public records. The Township's utter lack of response is already unreasonable. The City expects a complete response to its request no later than March 8, 2019.”
Leneghan and Eichhorn said they could not comment on the issue because they cannot discuss “pending legal matters.” Gemperline did not return a call for comment.
“Time is of the essence if irreparable damage to the quality of life of residents of the City of Powell is to be avoided,” the final paragraph of the Feb. 28 letter reads. “Please acknowledge receipt immediately and confirm your willingness to schedule an Annual Review Meeting prior to any further actions of the Trustees that may amount to a breach of the CEDA Agreement. We appreciate your anticipated attention and cooperation with regard to this matter.”
Powell Councilman Brian Lorenz said he couldn’t greatly expand on the letter.
“All I can say is that our obligation as a council is to represent all Powell citizens and make sure they’re being protected and served to the best of our abilities,” he said.
He did, however, say that an in-person meeting was long overdue.
“It’s an opportunity for us to get together in a formal setting more often, which I think is positive,” he said.
Eichhorn, in her only comment, agreed.
“I am dedicated to keeping our separate identities, but working for the betterment of the community,” she said. “We have met as a group before and I welcome the opportunities to meet again in the future.”