PIQUA — Utility bills, property maintenance issues, and more were brought forward to the Piqua City Commission during their meeting on Tuesday evening.
Prior to public comment, Mayor Kazy Hinds advised attendees that the city was still working on preparing answers and responses to the petition that was presented to them during their last meeting on May 21, a petition that was seeking changes to utility rates, fees, and billing processes.
Hinds said that the city’s response should be available on the city’s website on Friday and that the commission will be holding a special meeting on Tuesday, June 11, at 6 p.m. to discuss utilities.
Jey Roman of Piqua, who spoke at the last commission meeting and began the Facebook group Citizens for Fair Piqua Utilities Pricing, thanked the mayor for her response before directing heated comments at commissioner Bill Vogt.
“When you’re in public places and you’re making comments about me, they tell me. Just like they told me the day after the last commission meeting that we’re all stupid,” Roman said. He said that he could not prove that was said, but he thought that showed the commissioner thought the problem was only about usage.
Roman said that their concerns stemmed beyond usage, including being charged to have their meters checked and their request for payment plans and extended due dates.
“You’re not going to intimidate me or anyone here just trying to get answers,” Roman said. “In my opinion, you shouldn’t even be sitting in that seat.”
Vogt responded, saying, “I cannot recall mentioning anything about that.”
Vogt said that the only thing in regard to utilities that he remembered talking about outside of the commission meetings was when he spoke with Tanya Blair, a local real estate agent and property owner, who spoke at the commissioner’s last meeting about utility bills she was receiving for a vacant residence. Blair, who was at Tuesday’s meeting, said that the city helped her find faulty wiring and breakers that were the possible reason she was receiving $200 utility bills for the vacant residence she was trying to sell on Linden Avenue.
Roman later commended the commissioner and the city for helping Blair.
Eva Silvers of Piqua then spoke during public comment in regard to a utility bill she received for three apartment units on the 800 block of Ash Street instead of just the one in which she was living. Silvers also expressed frustration at the landlord for the property being wired incorrectly, resulting in receiving those charges.
Village Attorney Frank Patrizio encouraged Silvers to contact the city’s code enforcement and file a complaint, saying that he has been working with the city’s code enforcement officer to force landlords to fix their properties.
Later during the commissioners’ comments portion of the meeting, commissioner Kris Lee encouraged residents to continue having an open dialogue with the city.
Vogt also spoke about how, in the past, he had advocated for the city to implement occupancy permits, at which time the city could find out if rentals were habitable and property owners were maintaining those properties.
“People really rebelled about it,” Vogt said.
Also during public comment, Bill Jaqua of Piqua also came forward to bring up concerns he spoke about at previous meetings in regard to drug-related crime and “the lack of drug enforcement in the city of Piqua,” he said. Jaqua said that he compared drug possession arrests between Troy and Piqua, saying that the Troy Police Department had approximately 537 arrests over the last two years while Piqua had 202 arrests. Jaqua also said that the Troy Police Department has a larger budget than the Piqua Police Department, and he advocated for the city to take approximately $500,000 from the city’s general fund to give to the Piqua Police Department for additional law enforcement in regard to drug crime.
Ruth Koon of Piqua then came forward, and she spoke about how the Friends of the Piqua Parks and the Beautification Committee of Mainstreet Piqua recently joined together to have the Don Gentile statue in downtown Piqua restored. Mike Major of Urbana cleaned, restored, and coated the statue of Gentile, a Piqua native and World War II USAAF pilot, over a period of about a month.
Koon also complimented homes in the Historic Piqua-Caldwell neighborhood for their restoration efforts on their homes, including at the intersections of Downing and Ash streets and Downing and North streets.
“Those are beautiful houses,” Koon said.
In other business, the commission approved two purchases for the Piqua Police Department as part of their ongoing fleet replacement plan. Those purchases included specialized equipment for three police vehicles from KE Rose Company at a cost not to exceed $32,050 and three Ford police interceptor utility vehicles from Lebanon Ford at a cost not to exceed $96,363.
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