CENTERBURG — Some people hesitate to get involved when they see an altercation, but not Centerburg resident Willis Ellis Jr. Instead of standing around gawking, Ellis jumped into action.
Around 1:30 am on July 5, Sheriff's Deputy Curt Kelly heard a commotion outside of his office and went out to investigate. He discovered 21-year-old Reese D. Patrick standing in the intersection of Main and North Clayton streets.
“Totally unprovoked, [Patrick] launched an attack on Deputy Kelly,” Sheriff David Shaffer told Centerburg Village Council members on Monday.
Patrick initially complied with Kelly's order to get on the ground, then got up and tried to run. After being tasered, Patrick went back to the ground, got up again, and bit Kelly on the arm. Ellis saw the struggle and jumped in to help Kelly.
“I watched the body cam. Deputy Kelly's demeanor was pretty even-keeled and calm,” Shaffer said.
“A lot of people could choose a different path … but, fortunately, Mr. Ellis saw what he could do and assisted Deputy Kelly,” Shaffer said. “We are fortunate, the village is fortunate. From people I have talked to, this doesn't seem to be out of the ordinary for [Mr. Ellis] to do.”
In recognition of Ellis' assistance, Shaffer presented a Distinguished Citizen Award to Ellis during Monday's council meeting.
“This is something positive in the village and for the village,” Shaffer said of Ellis' quick action. “This is the reason some of us choose to get into this job and the reason why some of us choose to live in our communities. This could possibly have had a different outcome in a different area.”
Patrick was indicted July 12 on two felony counts: first-degree felonious assault and fourth-degree assault on a police officer.
Council member Saundra Dove reported on Central Ohio Greenways' (COG) Trail Town Initiative, a program designed to increase development and outdoor tourism for communities located along Ohio's trail system. The Heart of Ohio Trail is part of the 326-mile Ohio to Erie Trail as well as the 3,700-mile Great American Trail stretching from Washington, D.C. to Washington state.
“We are already a part of it, but we could be more involved,” she told council.
The trail initiative involves hiring a consultant to create a strategy for small towns along the COG at an estimated cost of between $35,000 and $50,000. The Columbus Foundation has committed $20,000 to the project.
Locally, Gambier has committed $1,000 annually for three years. It is anticipated that the Kokosing Gap Trail Board and the City of Mount Vernon will commit to funding the project as well.
The consultant will develop a guide that includes wayfinding and art installation strategies; infrastructure recommendations such as lighting, bike parking, or water fountains; and tourism activities.
The idea behind a trail town is to get people off of the trail and into the community. Dove said that she has talked with the owners of Animal Station about possibilities.
“We are in the right place at the right time,” she said.
“A thousand dollars isn't overly burdensome,” said Councilman Rusty Griffith.
The other council members agreed, and council committed to providing $1,000 annually for three years.
Councilman Dave Beck suggested asking the HOOT board and business association for funding also.
In other business, council took the following actions:
•Passed as an emergency a resolution authorizing the village to apply for ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds
•Passed as an emergency an ordinance authorizing Village Administrator Joe Hardin to contract with Kokosing Construction for repair and repaving of a section of Willis Street. Contract is not to exceed $37,500.
•Adopted on its third reading an ordinance increasing the village's parking fines
•Gave second readings to legislation recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday and authorizing the village to acquire health insurance for full-time village employees
•Went into executive session to discuss personnel
Fiscal Officer Shawna Humes reported that $11,674 in delinquent sewer funds was sent to the county auditor's office to be applied as liens on property taxes. Letters have also been sent to more than 400 non-filers of the village's income tax return.
Administrator Hardin reported that he signed the Ohio Public Works Commission contract for the second phase of the South Hartford Street improvement project between Church and Dally streets. He also approved a contract with Mid Ohio Paving to repair and seal the Trojan Trail and village lots.
Hardin ordered the new law enforcement vehicle at a cost of $31,439; no delivery date is set. The vehicle equipment cost is listed at $8,495, but Hardin said he expects both figures to come in lower than anticipated.