Council decision keeps beach closed

WAYNE LAKES – Wayne Lakes Village Council decided Monday night to void a contract with John Kennedy who was attempting to open the Wayne Lakes Beach. The contract would have allowed Kennedy to operate the beach for a total of five years, but Kennedy said he couldn’t meet the village’s demand for the level of insurance they requested.

The village currently holds a $2 million liability policy with a $4 million aggregate to cover the entire village and its lakes. Kennedy said he has checked several insurance agencies and the most he can get is a $1 million policy. He said, “I personally feel I shouldn’t have the same amount of coverage on that one little area (the beach).” He explained the chances of a claim actually being made are very slim. “You have to prove risk. You have to prove negligence in order sue someone and the village having sovereign immunity makes it even harder. You have to prove that dangerous conditions existed and we failed to do something about them. We have to knowingly know a dangerous condition existed. They can try, but it’s very difficult,” he said.

Kennedy wasn’t without support with several residents expressing their belief that Kennedy was “blindsided” or the village was asking him for too much. One individual claimed that Kennedy’s $1 million liability and $2 million aggregate policy is better than the village’s policy because it isn’t capped, to which Kennedy agreed.

However, Mayor Ellen Brown defended the village’s insurance policy requirement stating she was excited about the possibility of Kennedy operating the beach and wants the beach to open, but “this is about me trying to protect the village.” She read a statement from the insurance company that stated, “You need to remember that Mr. Kennedy does not have the same sovereignty that Wayne Lakes has. If something happens and the village is sued, if you don’t have enough coverage the balance not paid by insurance comes out of your general fund. Insufficient funds could bankrupt the village. That is why equal limits are being required.”

Council member Karen Sink asked Kennedy if more time was needed to find a policy. Kennedy responded, “I literally cannot get a policy.”

Council members praised Kennedy for stepping up, but all agreed to void the contract. Mayor Brown left open an opportunity to readdress the issue by stating that council’s vote only voids this contract. She stated she would hope the discussion on this issue would continue.

In other business, council went into executive session to discuss hiring a fiscal officer. When they emerged, council unanimously agreed to hire Carolyn Robinson. Robinson has experience as a fiscal officer having worked with Arcanum and Gordon.

Village council also agreed to put a new 1 mill levy on the November ballot. The levy, if approved, would generate approximately $9,450 to help the financially struggling village. A homeowner in the village could expect to pay approximately $17.50 annually on a $50,000 home or $35 on a $100,000 home.

Council will also ask village residents to renew a 7 mill levy in the fall.

Mayor Brown noted she will be compiling information on the need for both levies and presenting it to the residents in the near future.

PHOTO CAPTION: John Kennedy speaks to members of Wayne Lakes Village Council at their regular monthly meeting on Monday.

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