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Alliance City Council members had plenty of questions remaining regarding the Westville Lake situation, especially in conjunction with an alleged hazmat incident on March 7
During Monday’s regular council meeting, Lawrence Dordea, R-3, questioned an incident related to seven audio files The Alliance Review obtained from the Alliance Police Department’s dispatch center, which began with an initial call shortly after 5 p.m. from Alliance Fire Chief Jason Hunt, asking them to contact Water Distribution Foreman Chet Jones on behalf of Superintendent Doug Hastings, whose cellphone went dead in mid-call when reporting an alleged spill. According to that audio recording, Hunt relayed that Hastings was out at Westville Lake campground when a hydraulic line broke and released oil into the lake. “Can you please tell Chet that I’ve notified North Georgetown Fire Department, and I will call the EPA as soon as I get off the phone with you?”
Within four minutes, an Alliance police dispatcher successfully contacted Jones, who apparently relayed he was now with Hastings, though it is unclear if they were at that scene or another location. She relayed, “(The chief) already called North Georgetown Fire Department and is calling the EPA.”
Jones responded, “We need to talk to Jason. Is there a possibility you can call him and give him my number?”
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To the dispatcher’s inquiry if Jones knew what happened, specifically “(Hastings) hit a hydraulic line out there,” the foreman responded. “I am sitting here with Doug right now … Doug said maybe you can get a hold of Jason real quick before he calls the EPA.”
However, in the meantime, Hunt had already called the EPA before Alliance dispatch was contacted by Sebring police, which dispatches for North Georgetown Fire Department. According to Sebring dispatch, North Georgetown responders arrived on scene at Westville Lake, found no water distribution personnel there and approximately 30 to 50 feet of sheen on the lake courtesy of a nearby creek. Capt. Rob Hardy of North Georgetown Fire Department told Alliance police dispatch approximately 40 minutes into the incident that they were going to try and “dam it up .. to get the oil (from) running into the lake and contact (their) hazmat team,” again stressing that they needed employees — and possibly Hastings — out there at the scene.
A check of timesheets acquired by The Alliance Review for March 7 show that in addition to Hastings, who worked 11 1/2 hours, three employees (Jones, Dana Bericchia and Charlie Vance Jr.) noted overtime due to “stay over for Westville Lake issue.” However, communications between Hunt and Alliance dispatch only acknowledged the presence of Hastings and Jones. In response to a question from Council, Hastings said he was not the driver of the backhoe during the incident.
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A water distribution office employee confirmed that water distribution employees typically work four 10-hour days per week between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. On March 7, both Bericchia and Vance recorded 2 1/2 hours overtime each, while Jones, whom Hastings had been trying to reach per Hunt’s 5:01 p.m. call, tallied 1 1/4 hours of overtime. Dordea had several questions for city Safety-Service Director Michael Dreger, including why an audio recording appeared to imply that Hastings tried to stop Hunt from contacting the EPA. Dreger disputed Dordea’s interpretation of the dialogue, saying, “I don’t believe that it was what you heard indicated there.”
In an effort to clarify the issue before the council meeting, Dordea said he contacted the Ohio EPA for the report, which allegedly acknowledged another “chief,” Hastings, as a contact in addition to Hunt, who reported the incident.
Dreger told Dordea that he wasn’t sure how the EPA had made such an assumption, adding that he didn’t “believe Doug Hastings identified himself as a fire chief and I don’t know why anyone would accuse him of that.”
Dreger told Jim Edwards, R-at large, that city employees contained the spill themselves, utilizing some equipment stashed at Walborn Reservoir. “Basically the volume was low enough, there was nothing substantive there,” Dreger said. Dordea then inquired about Hastings’ allegedly not having an Ohio driver’s license, since Hastings drives a city-owned vehicle and is listed on the city’s insurance policy as a supervisor. Dreger told Dordea he was unsure about that the license issue, but Hastings verified he does not have an Ohio driver’s license. Dordea then responded to Dreger, “Again, isn’t this a little sloppy, Mike?
“We sit up here and get water reports all the time. However, we don’t hear about the hazmat situation at Westville Lake, and we don’t hear that … (our) water superintendent does not live in Ohio If he lives in Ohio, then he has an Ohio driver’s license, Mike. You cannot be here more than two months and have a Florida driver’s license. That’s the law,” Dordea, a former Alliance police chief, said. Dordea said the city’s policy manual requires employees to have an Ohio driver’s license, alleging that Hastings would be in violation of that.
In addition to answering questions about upgrades to the Westville Lake property and the hiring of a private security guard, Dreger also informed council that he was to meet Tuesday with Westville Lake residents at the skating rink on U.S. Route 62.
No new information has been made available regarding the status of the Westville Lake Spillway despite the expectation of a report to be issued this month from state officials.
Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox and Herbie Adams, CTE Director (right) honor Lester Dunn as Employee of the Month.
By Rebecca Herman
The Johnson County School Board members met on Thursday, April 13 for their regular monthly meeting; all board members were present.
April s employee of the month was chosen from the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center at Johnson County High School. Lester Dunn, who works as the night security guard was honored. He is always there for our teachers and students regardless of the need, from unlocking or jumping off cars to making sure that we are secure at night, Lester is there. Lester is definitely one of the most faithful and loyal employees that we have and we are very fortunate to have him, said Herbie Adams, CTE Director and assistant principal.
Also honored were the CTE students who had just come back from the FFA state convention. Receiving state FFA degrees were Philip Dugger, Austin Gentry, and Taylor Long; Long also received an East Tennessee Star in Agribusiness. Rebekah Dugger was the East Tennessee winner in Proficiency in Diversified Horticulture and Nominating Committee Selection for Tennessee State Officers, and Dawson Cress was the East Tennessee Winner on Proficiency for Specialty Animals (Aquaculture).
The board approved a resolution to oppose any legislation to create voucher programs in Tennessee and briefly discussed the importance of having the policy that deals with charter school requests. We did not get an application for any charter schools, but if we receive one, we know the procedures and steps, said Dr. Mischelle Simcox, director of schools. Simcox also said that she and the board appreciated Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons coming to March s meeting and showing support in the disapproval of a voucher program.
The board also approved the purchase of Extreme Networks tech support and warranty replacement service using the ALCOA City Schools purchasing cooperative agreement. Rob Sutherland, Technology Coordinator, explained that the contract has not been renewed in previous years, in order to save money. This would be a one-time charge for a one-year contract. The board approved the request.
Next, board members approved the summer work list and an alternative teacher s salary schedule. Dr. Simcox asked several administrators how many teachers had come forth who were not happy about this new schedule. They explained that only a handful of teachers did not like it. Overall, teachers were pleased because the earning potential would be greater, especially after the 20-year mark, which previously had been capped at 20 years. Now teachers have the opportunity to increase their salary every year based on evaluation scores.
Student School Board Member, Marly Eggers, spoke next. Eggers told the board that the juniors had just received their ACT scores and that the average score had increased from last year, with the average score being 19.32, We had more than 50 of them score over a 21, said Eggers. We are very proud of our juniors. The National Honor Society had their spring blood drive on April 5 and was able to get 120 units of blood donated, which exceeded their goal of 105 units.
Eggers also announced that since school ends in four and half weeks, there are many end of the year activities, including the National Technical Honor Society inductions on April 19; the FFA Ag Olympics on May 5 followed by the 41st FFA Awards Banquet and the Student Council Banquet May 8.
There was an addendum to the minutes for the approval of a purchase of cabinets for the CTE house in the amount of $16,900 from Marshall s Custom Cabinets; this price includes the cabinets and having them set. Adams explained that there were three bids and that they wanted to go with Marshall s based on the price and quality of work that Marshall s has previously provided. He explained that the money will be taken out of the CTE house fund. The board approved this request.
Dr. Simcox ended the meeting with some upcoming important dates. JCHS Prom will take place on Saturday, April 29; Presidential Academic Excellence Awards, May 1; Teacher Appreciation Day, May 4; students last full day is May 16 and the last half day is May 18, with a teacher workday on May 17. JCHS Graduation will be Saturday, May 13 at 10am.
The next school board meeting will be May 11 at 6pm.