GREEN Despite approving a settlement with NEXUS by a 4-3 vote Feb. 7, Green City Council remains divided over the issue.
During the March 27 meeting, which got heated at times, council approved an ordinance establishing the creation of a pipeline settlement special revenue fund. Through the settlement, the city received $7.5 million from NEXUS.
Council agrees the money should be in a separate account and used only for issues relating to the pipeline. The city is waiting to hear back from the state to find out if it is permitted to have the separate fund, otherwise the money will go in a separate line-item in the General Fund.
Councilmen Matthew Shaughnessy and Justin Speight raised concerns about an amendment to the ordinance for the special revenue fund that Councilman Stephen Dyer raised at a previous meeting. Dyer wasn’t present at the Tuesday meeting, but the amendment dealt with the city not spending settlement money to fight the residents who have put together a referendum.
Shaughnessy and Speight were the only two to vote for the amendment as the other four council members present voted no.
Recently, 1,500 signatures were collected to reverse the settlement. The city is expected to turn the signatures over to the Summit County Board of Elections shortly. The Board of Elections is expected to decide if the issue will go on the November ballot. Green Law Director Diane Calta, however, stands by her position that the settlement is not subject to a referendum.
Councilman Chris Humphrey said the referendum is not in the best interest of the residents. He said by keeping the settlement there will be safety precautions kept in place in regards to the pipeline.
Speight asked if money from the settlement would be used to oppose the referendum. Humphrey said he wants to inform the residents of the facts.
"I don’t want to end up having the pipeline and wondering why we gave up the $7.5 million," Humphrey said.
Humphrey strongly believes if the referendum goes through, the city will have to give the $7.5 million back.
Shaughnessy disagrees with Humphrey and he said the city got the money in return for land and for the city to drop its lawsuits against NEXUS.
"I am in favor of the citizen’s right to a referendum," Shaughnessy said.
Councilman Bob Young said the referendum is a risky choice in that the city could lose the money.
Speight said it is not appropriate for the city to spend money opposing residents' right to a referendum.
"Putting it on the ballot will better gauge the community," Speight said.
Humphrey said the referendum only represents a small portion of registered voters in Green.
Shaughnessy raised concerns about how Calta wouldn’t sign off on the referendum. Calta said the document Attorney David Mucklow brought to the city didn’t meet the requirements put forth by Ohio Revised Code.
Shaughnessy asked what the document was missing, but Calta refused to answer and said he needed to ask Mucklow. Calta asked Shaughnessy if Mucklow is giving him legal advice.
Councilwoman Barbara Babbitt said she doesn’t see how the city would keep the safety provisions and money if the referendum goes through. Calta said the lawsuits the city had against NEXUS cannot be revived and the money would be returned to NEXUS if the settlement is voided.
Shaughnessy wants the city to seek another legal opinion about what would happen if the referendum were approved. Speight said those organizing the referendum have already said if the results of the referendum are going to hurt the city, they will pull it from the ballot.
"I guess there are a lot of questions not answered," Speight said.
Green Mayor Gerard Neugebauer said he wants to see members of council coming to him or his staff asking questions rather than posting all over social media about concerns.
Green Resident Andrea Hurr said she believes corruption has trickled down to the local level and that something happened behind the scenes between NEXUS and the city. She urged council to hold a meeting to clear up a lot of confusion residents have.
Calta said there are no other agreements other than the settlement.
Council also held a second reading of legislation Tuesday night brought forward by Shaughnessy regarding that no city money be used to fight a valid referendum. Council is expected to vote on that legislation at the April 10 meeting.