Athens City Council met Monday evening to discuss and approve several ordinances, including an ordinance to establish mandatory racial bias training for all city employees.
The National League of Cities’ Race, Equity and Leadership (REAL) Council developed the training and will consult with Council and the Athens Racial Equity Coalition throughout the process. An employee-wide survey will be used to help inform and customize the training in Athens specifically.
Employees will participate in two levels of the REAL training about a month or two apart. The program will cost just under $100,000
Several Council members expressed their approval of the ordinance following its introduction by the Finance and Personnel Committee.
“I think it’s extremely important for people to garner a better understanding of systematic racism that we experience in this country,” Councilman Ben Ziff, D-At Large, said. “This is just one ... fairly large, excellent step that we can take here in the city of Athens to make it a better place for all of us.”
Council also unanimously approved a resolution that opposes pending Ohio House Bill 282 and Ohio Senate Bill 171, which, if passed, would permit the sale of brine from oil or gas operations as a commodity for use as a road de-icer.
Council members cited welfare and safety concerns as a reason for the opposition to the bills. According to the resolution, fracking brine contains elevated salt content, as well as Radium-226 and Radium-228, which pose a threat to groundwater and public health.
The radioactive brine binds well to clay soils, making inhalation a possibility once it has dried on roads. Additionally, the body can mistake radium as calcium, causing deposits in bones and teeth, according to the resolution.
“Athens City Council will recommend changes to the Athens city code that will prohibit the use of radioactive oil and gas brine on city streets, parking lots and sidewalks, and the city wellhead protection area to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Athens,” Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, read from the resolution.
Several appropriations were introduced at the meeting, including appropriations for improvements to the West State Street park. These include $233,000 for parking lot expansion and $65,000 for construction on the dugouts for baseball fields one and two, as well as $5,000 for the addition of 26 new trees.
Council also appropriated $600,000 for urgent infrastructure repairs to the Shafer Street storm line tunnel and sewer lines to prevent a potential sinkhole.