WM city manager still on paid leave

By Matt Clevenger

For Miami Valley Today

WEST MILTON — West Milton municipal manager Matt Kline remains on paid administrative leave, pending the results of an investigation.

“There will be some type of resolution, and the public will be made aware of that resolution,” Mayor Anthony Miller said during village council’s regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. “It’s still a personnel matter that is under investigation, and his status is pending the outcome of the investigation.”

Village officials said they cannot release any further details until the investigation has been completed. Kline has been on paid administrative leave since Thursday, Oct. 8; guidelines set forth in the village charter say officials “may suspend the manager from duty for a period not to exceed 45 days.”

The guidelines do not specify if a suspension should be paid or un-paid, and it was council’s decision to place Kline on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

“We’re hoping to have it done by the 45 days,” vice-mayor Scott Hurst said.

Service director Ben Herron will serve as acting city manager until the investigation is finished. Several West Milton residents questioned council about the investigation during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting. “Your city manager that’s suspended right now with pay; do you know that he has a business?” resident James Green said. “MDK Clubhouse; he bought property up north, and I just wondered if you all knew about it.”

“No sir, we did not,” Miller said.

“Is he still on the payroll?” resident Mike Craft asked. “You ought to be good stewards of our money and not just give it away for nothing.”

In other business, council members also held a public hearing and approved proposed changes to the village’s recreational vehicle ordinance. Under the revised ordinance, RVs and trailers can now be stored “within a building that meets the village’s zoning requirements or a structure that is otherwise approved by the planning board and the board of adjustments.”

Council members also heard a presentation from former mayor and current planning board member Jason Tinnerman, regarding the possibility of creating a comprehensive plan for the village’s future development and revising several zoning designations to be more specific.

“We don’t know of a comprehensive plan for West Milton,” Tinnerman said, adding that public input will be sought by the planning board. “It would be nice if we had a little bit more guiding principal on what we envision.”

“Quite a few of our properties get lumped into the same zoning codes,” he said of revising zoning designations. “Other towns have a much longer list. The planning board is more than willing to take those tasks on, but it probably will be a somewhat lengthy process.”

Council members also approved several temporary appropriations for 2021, allowing the village extra time to pass an annual budget due to COVID-19, along with the purchase of a new police cruiser and a used trash truck. The police cruiser will cost $35,579 plus $16,500 for outfitting, and the trash truck will be purchased from the city of Versailles for $22,500. Council member Jason Land voted against the trash truck purchase, and council members also heard several comments regarding the village’s new trash collection program from residents.

“This is getting to look like socialism,” Craft said. “I never did like the idea that you guys took away from us our freedom to choose our own trash.”

“You tied our trash with our water; they’re billed together,” he said. “You can’t opt-out of trash. When you can’t opt-out it looks like a tax. If it smells like a tax and walks like a tax …”

“My issue is that we’ve got these utilities lumped together,” Craft said. “I guess we’re calling trash a utility now?”

“I think the trash is very worthwhile to look at doing,” Jason Tinnerman said. “I myself don’t like government involved in anything that I do; I’m a big believer in free enterprise and all of that. I think that trash does make sense being picked up by West Milton employees. I think that there is money that the village can make at this, while offering the same rate and better service.”

Council members also approved a $96,600 contract with Eagle Bridge Company of Sidney to repair insulation on a water main across the State Route 571 bridge, and a $19,800 contract to run fiber optic cable across the State Route 571 bridge to the Stillwater Crossings development. Council member Greg Tracy voted against the fiber optic cabling contract.

Council members also approved a series of resolutions to annex approximately 95.879 acres of property along OH-571.

“We’re annexing the westbound side from Iddings Road to the west side of the bridge,” Ben Herron said. “That’s the one section we don’t have, and it’s actually in the 20-day waiting period right now.”

Council members also heard several announcements during their meeting. Council member Sarah Copp announced that New Ethic Barbershop is now open in downtown West Milton, which will also host its annual holiday open house from Thursday, Nov. 19 through Sunday, Nov. 22. The village will also hold its annual tree lighting ceremony downtown on Saturday, Nov. 28.

Village council’s next meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24.