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The public attends the Athens City Council meeting in Athens City Hall on Monday, February 3, 2020.

City Council: Source of income housing discrimination banned, Athens partners with OU for wastewater COVID-19 surveillance

Athens City Council met Monday evening to approve a measure banning source of income discrimination in regards to housing and to authorize the transfer of funds for several municipal purposes. 

Councilwoman Arian Smedley, D-1st Ward, introduced an ordinance to amend the city’s current ordinance to add “source of income” to Title 3, Section C, which deals with housing discrimination. The ordinance is aimed at preventing housing discrimination based on lawful sources of an applicant’s income, which include, but are not limited to, Social Security supplemental income, rent vouchers, child and spousal support and public assistance. 

Damon Krane, a candidate for an At-large seat on Council, commented prior to voting, reading a letter signed by nine local organizations, including United Athens County Tenants, Hocking Athens Perry Community Action Project and Southeast Ohio Habitat for Humanity. The letter urged Council to approve the ordinance. 

“United Athens County Tenants, along with the undersigned organizations, implore City Council to enact this ordinance as soon as possible, to protect our neighbors, family and friends from source of income discrimination,” Krane said, reading from the letter. “It is up to Athens City Council to close the gap by ensuring secure and safe housing for all.” The ordinance passed unanimously. 

Council also passed an ordinance authorizing the entrance into a contract with Ohio University for the installation of a wastewater-based COVID-19 surveillance program. The project is fully funded by an $83,100 grant and will help the city determine viral outbreaks and virus prevalence in certain communities. 

“In the future, we may also be able to use this for other things that may happen in the city, for other infectious disease detections,” Councilwoman Sarah Grace, D-At Large, said. “So, this is a fantastic opportunity for the city and the university to partner to protect the health of our citizens.” 

A second reading of an ordinance authorizing the service safety director to enter into a contract for the replacement of the roof of the city building was heard Monday. The current roof is 25 years old and has experienced numerous attempted repairs. The replacement project is expected to cost approximately $180,000, according to an initial estimate. The proposed ordinance appropriates $200,000 for the project from the unappropriated balance fund.

Several other inter-fund transfers were introduced in first reading by Councilman Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward. Transfers included $7,383 to the Community Development Block Grant fund for administrative fees, as well as $11,000 to the parking garage fund for an elevator repair. 

An ordinance introduced by all members of Council to apply for a designated outdoor refreshment area, or a DORA, was first read during the meeting. The DORA would be a five-year program establishing a location in uptown Athens where open container laws are temporarily suspended during city-determined hours. Biodegradable, disposable beverage cups will be utilized by local bars and restaurants, which may be carried into participating businesses. 

Council’s meeting concluded by moving to cancel a hiring freeze review, established during the beginning of the pandemic as a result of financial constraints. 

“We’ve powered through some really tough times and this is a good thing to go forward with, with removing it, because every day we are getting towards more normal,” Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, said. “I just want to say ‘thank you’ to everybody who has worked so hard to get to this point.” 


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