PIQUA — Piqua Chief of Police Rick Byron took his oath of office during the Piqua City Commission meeting on Tuesday evening, officially assuming his new role at the Piqua Police Department.
“It’s an honor,” Byron said following the meeting, adding that it was an honor to be able to serve the department and the community as a whole.
For over the past month, Byron has been the acting chief of police after following the retirement of former Chief of Police Bruce Jamison, who recently stepped down after over 30 years with the department, approximately a decade of which he served as chief.
Byron said he did not think Jamison received enough credit during Jamison’s tenure as chief, saying he kept the department together during the economic downturn and was able to rebuild the department before retiring.
“He kept us going in the right direction,” Byron said. “Our department is in a good place … I have the luxury of building on that.”
Byron was named the next chief last March following a meeting of the Civil Service Commission and an intensive selection process within the department.
Byron joined the Piqua Police Department as a police officer in August 1999 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2012. He has over 23 years of police experience.
In February of this year, Byron became a certified law enforcement executive. This certification was presented to him by the Law Enforcement Foundation and Ohio Associations of Chiefs of Police, and it took a total of 14 months to achieve. This certification is valid for three years with certain qualifications to stay active and re-certification every three years.
“He’ll do a good job,” commissioner Kris Lee said at the end of the meeting.
Discussions on utilities continue
Later on during the commission meeting, tensions were still high in regard to city utilities, which included a disagreement on past stormwater rates.
“We did not get into your pockets for dollars and dollars, we raised it a quarter … is $3 a year going to kill you?” commissioner Bill Vogt said.
The exchange was prompted when local resident Kevin Jenkins asked if there were any plans to raise the stormwater rate, to which City Manager Gary Huff indicated that there was no plan to raise those rates.
“If we would have incorporated this stormwater runoff back in 1990 when government said we should do this, ours wouldn’t be as much as it is now,” Vogt said. Vogt explained that they were mandated to use a separate enterprise fund to maintain storm water, but the city did not do that for approximately 15 years.
“We had to get some funds to make up for what has been damaged and wore out for years,” Vogt said.
Vogt said that after they implemented the stormwater rate in the early 2000s, they raised the rate $0.25 a month, or $3 a year, to build up that fund at that time.
Jenkins said that he had to pay the stormwater fees for a number of properties because his renters did not want to, to which Vogt responded by telling Jenkins to raise the rent for those properties.
Also during the meeting, Tanya Blair, who is trying to sell a vacant property in the city, pointed out that she has to pay the minimum costs on utilities for that vacant property even though she is not using much, if any, of the utilities there. Blair said those minimum costs add up to over $70 each month.
“She said she’s got a vacant home, and they’re not taking any trash, and they’re still being charged $21.30, do we think that’s morally right?” Nick Ventura of Piqua asked. “If you’re not taking trash, you shouldn’t get paid for that house.”
Complications with the city’s trash collection were also brought up during the meeting as residents expressed concerns about trash not getting picked up after the new trash bins were recently put into use. Jey Roman of Piqua said the trash bin for his residence was taken and they have not been able to get a new one. Roman also said that there were videos on Facebook of alleyways lined with trash where the trash had not been picked up.
Huff said that the city’s sanitation department was being instructed to pickup trash sitting outside of trash bins at residences that had requested a second trash bin but had not yet received one. More trash bins are currently on order.
“We’re supposed to be picking up the trash,” Mayor Kazy Hinds said, adding that she has also received a number of calls about the trash pickup.
At the end of the meeting, Lee and Hinds acknowledged frustrations in regard to utilities.
“We’re listening to you,” Lee said, asking residents to “hang in there” while the commission and city works to find ways to help the residents.
“We’re trying to do the best we can to help our city,” Hinds said. “We are in this together.”
Hinds said they hoped to have some solutions by the end of July to help residents.
Earlier in their meeting, the commission also approved an annual filing of their 2020 tax budget, which was estimated at approximately $125.7 million. Finance Director Cynthia Holtzapple said this was a decrease of approximately $9.7 million from last year.
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