ANTWERP — Longtime village Fire Chief Ray Friend’s retirement was announced during Monday’s meeting of the Antwerp Village Council, startling the council members themselves.

Friend has been with the department for 53 years, the last 33 as chief. His last day on the job will be June 30.

Council will likely name Friend’s successor during its next regular session, to be held June 17 at 5:30 p.m.

Council also heard disturbing reports from Police Chief George Clemens about widespread drug use in town and vandalism at the Veterans’ Memorial Park.

Numerous cases involving possession and use of marijuana, fentanyl, cocaine and heroin were mentioned.

“Landlords are killing this community,” said Clemens, referring to property owners who let new tenants who may be abusing or selling drugs move into their homes without doing background checks.

“You’d be surprised what goes on daily (here),” he added. “They’re coming in faster than we can arrest them.”

Turning to problems at the park, Clemens said that sometimes the police visit the park on a nightly basis, as vandalism is running rampant there.

“We’ve been releasing (juvenile offenders) to their parents,” he said, “and telling (parents) their kids are not permitted in the park without adults.”

“People are scared to be out at the park because of those kids,” added village administrator Sara Keeran.

“A decent set of parents just don’t want to go down there,” Clemens said.

In addition to obscenities on walls and damaged playground equipment, reports have been made of urine on floors and human feces spread on walls.

“Now we’re having adults smoking marijuana there,” he said.

Among current park rules is a declaration that anyone under 6 must be accompanied by someone 16 years of age or older, which council believed was among the rules which needed to be updated. “That’s not cutting it anymore,” Keeran said.

Council called on the village park board to examine and upgrade the rules at the park. The new rules would then be reviewed by council at the next meeting.

Clemens also complained of adults violating junk ordinances, leaving numerous outdoor properties in disarray. “Some village residents belong in an episode of ‘Sanford and Son,’” he quipped, referring to the junkyard which the sitcom’s main characters operated.

The most common problems, he said, were junk vehicles and unkempt yards. “Some of these people aren’t going to clean up their properties.”

Although the village has authority to remove junk vehicles, police can do little about vehicles which are worth a certain amount of money and have current license plates. Vehicular parking limits on properties are set by the Ohio Revised Code.

Addresses of junk vehicle ordinance violators may be submitted to the police department.

Mayor Ray DeLong wanted to know why Antwerp could not place signs in property owners’ yards declaring them to be in violation of town ordinances, much like Defiance does. “Get some signs made up,” he said, “and let’s take care of it.”

In other business, council:

• held the first reading of two resolutions renewing existing tax levies. The first resolution was for current expenses, including street lighting expenses, while the other is for providing and maintaining fire apparatus and equipment. The resolutions must be passed in order to place on November voting ballots.

• heard that the four-year terms of DeLong and council members Jan Reeb and Ken Reinhart will expire at the end of the year. DeLong, who expressed hopes that the two council members would run again, said he had not made up his mind about another term.

• appointed local resident Jesse May as a full-time police officer, effective June 10. It was noted that the police department lost former local officer Damien Esparza to the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office. Andrew Moore and Jared Sanchez remain as auxiliary officers.

• heard Keeran praise village workers who battled flood issues on Kroos Drive to complete an installation project. Construction included about 1,000 feet of storm drain and six catch basins.

• noted the upgrading of the sanitary sewer plant and lift station has been completed for a final project cost of $784,760.90. A zero interest, 20-year loan for $424,650.40 will result in semi-annual payments of $10,616.26 to Ohio Water Development Authority. Other grant funding on the project include $123,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds and $199,999 in Ohio Public Works Commission funds.

• also reported the water treatment plant improvement project has been completed for a $230,608.50 final payment. This also has a zero interest, 20-year loan, with a grant repayment of $87,725 to Ohio Public Works Commission with semi-annual payments of $2,193.12. OWDA funded $55,158 in a 30-year, 3% loan with payment amount to be determined.

• noted drainage bids at Riverside Park will be taken at noon today. Storm line and catch basins around the playground and main pavilion will be installed with CDBG funds. The estimated cost of the project if $29,411.25, with $25,575 in grant funds. Construction is likely to start Aug. 3.

• heard that lightning struck the water tower Thursday, rendering all equipment atop the tower nonfunctional. The tower must now be filled with service pumps. Replacement equipment is on the way. Destroyed were telemetry equipment, transducers, radio, and equipment belonging to Mediacom, which provides cable TV to the village.

• plans to read an ordinance next month putting an end to the act of selling water to municipalities and people who live in other towns such as Grabill. The act is becoming expensive, members said; also, tankers have been causing excessive traffic congestion in town.

• learned that a recent incident where a car flipped over in front of the village hall was the result of texting and driving.

• was reminded of Ribfest on June 1 and Day in the Park Aug. 1.

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