Representatives from Van Wert Youth Football were present at Monday’s special Council meeting regarding the property of the former Washington school. (Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)
In a special Van Wert City Council meeting Monday, Dec. 30, councilman passed a resolution to authorize Mayor Don Farmer to sign a memorandum of understanding between the city of Van Wert and the Van Wert City School District for the use of the Washington school property owned by the district to be used by the city as a park.
“I feel like we have made progress,” said Councilman Stuart Jewett to the city administration. “I appreciate the promises you have made. It has been a long road, but we have finally come to a good spot.”
During a regular council session a week prior, members of council and administration did not meet on such solid ground. Councilmen Jeff Agler and Jewett came to council after meeting with the Van Wert City School Board of Education with a clear understanding that council would be passing legislation that very night to obtain the Washington property, but an unknown meeting between Superintendent Ken Amstutz and Mayor Don Farmer brought additional players to the table and postponed a decision at that time.
Councilmen, whose terms were soon to expire with the start of the new year, were both angry and saddened that there hard work had not paid off as expected, and this resulted in an additional meeting last night for one last chance to pass legislation and obtain the Washington property before their terms as councilmen were up.
The meeting commenced with frustration and confusion when Farmer stated that he would not be signing the prepared memorandum that night as Agler and Jewett had desired.
“It is not the intention of this administration to block the transfer of this property to the city,” verified Farmer. “We are not trying to avoid signing the memorandum but want to get the correct wording and then it will be signed. I cannot sign this tonight. It will happen, but I want to follow procedure.”
Farmer also confirmed to puzzled council members that the signing of the memorandum and the acceptance of the property by the city is a separate procedure. Passing any legislation that night would not directly result in the acceptance of a deed. Before this can be done, terms of the transfer will be discuss with Amstutz and the memorandum would need to be amended from its original form and then signed.
These terms would include decisions on snow removal and other necessary processes. Youth Football, the organization that originally asked the city to act as a third party to obtain the property for their use, has clarified that they can cover all snow removal, but this information was not yet included in the memorandum.
Representatives of Youth Football were angered that their organization has done everything it was asked to do after their proposal for the city to obtain the property for their use and yet the issue has become a huge controversy that could now include additional participants beyond Youth Football. Farmer reassured these community members that Youth Football would be included in the usage of the park.
Councilman Stan Agler agreed that there hadn’t been enough discussion in council chambers by the correct committees for the memorandum to be signed in its current state. Agler believed that council and administration needed additional time for input and the opportunity to cover all areas of the agreement.
“Snow removal doesn’t concern me,” said Jewett. “My concern is to accept this property as the memorandum stands right now.” Jewett was soon reminded that the memorandum read that it could only be signed after further negotiation, but Jewett along with Jeff Agler refused to believe Farmer when he repeatedly said that he would sign the memorandum following the correct steps.
Farmer was finally forced by the unrelenting councilmen to swear to God in front of the public that he would sign the memorandum. Jewett felt this was a step forward but was still unsatisfied. A final opinion from Stan Agler to amend the memorandum to strike the need for negotiation prior to signing brought the meeting to a conclusion, and the resolution authorizing the mayor to sign the memorandum was unanimously passed.
Council also passed supplemental appropriations to conclude finances for the year 2013.