Piqua citizen-run committee to discuss lithium-ion battery burns


By Eamon Baird

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PIQUA — The Piqua City Commissioners discussed forming a special citizen-run committee to discuss the fallout of Energy Safety Response Group’s (ESRG) lithium-ion battery burns during the Piqua City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Jan 16.

Ward Five Commissioner Frank DeBrosse presented the subject to the commissioners and citizens and stated he has unanswered questions about ESRG’s lithium-ion battery burning in 2023.

“This particular committee would allow us that outside, independent assessment of what happened and what we need to do to ultimately put this behind us,” DeBrosse said.

“If you’re interested in volunteering for this let us know,” Mayor Kris Lee added.

On Sept. 22, 2023, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Regional Air Pollution Control Agency (RAPCA) agreed for ESRG to cease all destructive and non-destructive testing and determined the lithium-ion battery testing performed by ESRG was beyond the scope of the permissions the city of Piqua was granted.

The commissioners said they will have more information on this special committee at their next meeting.

The commissioners also approved a purchase order to Hampton Golf for services provided to Echo Hills Golf Course for $418,000 to provide the community with a golf course at an affordable rate while working toward a more balanced budget.

Amy Welker, assistant city manager, said the city of Piqua is in the second year of a three-year contract with Hampton Golf to provide management marketing and employment services for Echo Hills.

“The management and marketing fees are about $100,000 and the remaining $318,000 is for employment. So this covers all of the employees at the golf course,” Welker said.

Piqua residents remain apprehensive about the city using city dollars to continue funding the golf course funding to Echo Hills.

“It’s unfair for the city to be able just to allocate thousands and thousands of dollars. I think maybe the city should consider getting out of the golf course business,” Jeff Grimes said.

In other business, the commissioners appointed Ward Two Commissioner Paul Simmons as the commission representative to the Forest Hill Union Cemetery Board of Trustees.

Jim Vetter, ward one commissioner, read a proclamation highlighting Catholic Schools and designating Jan. 28 through Feb. 3 as Catholic Schools Week.

Lee read a proclamation observing Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Day.

The Piqua Parks Board gave its annual report and welcomed new members Brad Collins, Zachary Gordon, Terry Wright, and Juli Smith.

In the consent agenda, the commissioners appointed the following resolutions:

• Recognizing city of Piqua volunteers for the second half of 2023. A full list of Piqua volunteers can be accessed on the city of Piqua website.

• For Paul Simmons, Kyle Hinkelman, and Kenton Kiser to serve as members of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.

• For Joanna Raffel to serve on the Miami County Community Action Council.

In new business, the commissioners heard the first reading of an ordinance to amend Title XV about land usage, establishing standards for a hotel, and proposing the local economy can support it.

The commissioners also adopted the following resolutions:

• A purchase order for three marked police cars for $123,000, with the remaining $66,000 for upgrade costs, including emergency lights, sirens, prisoner partitions, computer equipment, etc. The total cost of the purchase after upgrades will be $189,000.

• To continue participation in a Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard mitigation plan in conjunction with the Miami County Emergency Management Agency

• To permit a liquor license for PB 43 Petroleum LLC., at 8855 N. Country Road 25A in Piqua.

Simmons addressed the public during the commissioner’s comments section.

“After the last meeting, I got a little bit of heat from folks in emails and Facebook about wearing a hat indoors. It is for medical reasons, I get bad migraines,” Simmons said.

Simmons also said there will be a new amateur radio class on Saturday, Feb. 17, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a test between 3 and 4 p.m at Stonebridge Church at 105 E. Green St.

“There is no cost for the class or the test, but you do have a $35 fee to the FCC for your license,” Simmons said.

At the end of the meeting, the commissioners discussed the proposal to consolidate the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) and Planning Commission. During the previous commission’s meeting on Dec. 12, the commissioners voted to keep the BZA and Planning Commission as separate boards.

“We need to decide whether we are going to consolidate it and start all over with a brand-new committee or keep the committees that we’ve got. So, in this public forum I’d like to know what you guys would like to do,” Lee said.

DeBrosse and Simmons recommended merging the two boards, while Ward Five Commissioner Hohman and Lee recommended keeping the boards separate. Vetter remained neutral, delaying the proposal until the next meeting.

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