Athens City Council met Monday evening to discuss and vote on a range of ordinances and resolutions.
Athens Mayor Steve Patterson discussed the city’s recent accomplishments and the steps being taken toward racial equity.
“People say that the city has done absolutely nothing when it comes to racial equity, and it couldn't be any further from what is actual,” Patterson said. “I want to chronologically go through a sundry of different things that the city has been doing in our journey for racial equity here in the city of Athens.”
Patterson touched on past events the city had sponsored to strengthen race relations, including the Joint Police Advisory Council’s community barbecues that began in 2015 and the declaration of racism as a public health crisis by Council in June 2020.
He also mentioned current events, including the city’s first meeting with Black business owners in Athens on April 23 and an upcoming meeting with members of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders community May 4 to find out what the city can be doing to better support the community.
“We haven't been sitting around, sitting on our hands,” Patterson said. “We have been very actively engaged when it comes to dealing with systemic racism and making our community as equitable as we possibly can.”
Patterson also noted the city had received a plaque from the Arbor Day Foundation honoring Athens for being a Tree City USA recipient for the past 30 years. He also showed a plaque the city had received for being a five-year sponsor of Athens Area Stand Down, an event that provides support for homeless people or people at risk of being homeless.
An ordinance passed authorizing compensation for the newly promoted Arts, Parks and Recreation Operations Manager at a rate 10% higher than the original rate of promotion, Councilman Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, said.
“I think it's important to identify that paying our employees competitive wages that show equity for knowledge, gender and anything else is super important,” Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, said. “We want our employees to be able to have a life that's worth living because a happy employee is much better at doing their job.”
An ordinance authorizing Patterson, as mayor, to submit an application for an Ohio Public Works grant program also passed. The grant is worth up to $400,000 and would be put toward improving lighting, safety and infrastructure on the west side of Athens, Councilwoman Beth Clodfelter, D-At Large, said.
Council also unanimously passed a resolution designating Athens as a Bee City USA affiliate. Crowl said the Environment and Sustainability Commission worked with city administration officials and the mayor’s office to apply for the designation, which was approved by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the nonprofit that provides the designation.
Crowl added Ohio University also applied for the designation and was approved to become a Bee Campus USA affiliate.
“So, we can say that there are no borders today,” Crowl said. “Bees from the city of Athens to Ohio University: come one, come all, pollinators, and enjoy our local community.”
Later, Council approved appointments and reappointments to several positions, including to the Environmental and Sustainability Commission and the Recreation Advisory Board.
Patterson finished the meeting by notifying councilmembers that Athens was awarded a Community Development Block Grant of $83,000 to pay for COVID-19 testing procedures. With the grant, Athens will be able to establish three additional testing sites throughout the city.
“I just want to say thank you, Mayor Patterson, for that announcement. I remember introducing the legislation authorizing the application for that grant and I was recently wondering what happened,” Councilwoman Sarah Grace, D-At Large, said. “That's excellent news.”