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June 23, 2011 Weather-alert system OK’d, but delayed By MARLA K. KUHLMAN ThisWeek Community Newspapers Gahanna residents won’t be able to receive weather-warning alerts until at least late July, despite city council’s June 20 approval of CodeRED legislation through the Emergency Communications Network Inc. Council has an existing contract for CodeRED, but the system is used for boil alerts, bioterrorism warnings and other emergencies. The service currently doesn’t include weather notifications. James Williams, the city’s director of emergency operations, had negotiated a three-year contract with ECN, with the first year at a discounted rate of $3,750 and successive years at $7,500. In May, Williams told council the city had been offered a half-off discount that would have started July 1 and continued until June 30, 2012, when the contract could be renewed. The offer expires June 30. Because council didn’t have the five votes needed for the requested emergency passage, the effective date would be July 21 at the earliest for the weather notification to be added to the contract. Council members who voted for the legislation were David Samuel, Brian Larick, Shane Ewald and Tim Pack. John McAlister dissented, and Beryl Anderson and Nancy McGregor were absent. Had five members approved, the measure would have been enacted immediately. Still, the majority of a quorum ap- proved, so the measure passed but won’t be enacted until after ECN’s offer deadline. Williams told ThisWeek he would seek an offer extension from ECN. Gahanna has used CodeRED for four years, but the current system involves the city manually putting out an alert that Gahanna records, said Brian Hoyt, public information manager. Williams said the weather notification system would be implemented on an opt-in basis, allowing residents the option of receiving notification directly from the National Weather Service’s forecast office in Wilmington, near Cincinnati. He said residents would be able to register on the city’s website to be notified of warnings for tornados, severe thunderstorms and winter storms on their cell phones and residential home phones. Residents could select the warnings they want to receive and could receive warnSee COUNCIL, page A3 (From left) Middle School East students Savannah Cofer and Mackenzie Wilson, Columbus Academy student Varun Vallabhaneni, East student Wayne Stegner and coach Haruna Cofer will compete at National Championship Week in Orlando. Trash idea takes Gahanna team to national contest By MARLA K. KUHLMAN Photos by Tim Norman/ThisWeek Super Chikan (left) and Watermelon Slim perform for a packed audience during the 13th annual Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival on June 18. Watch a video from the event at Beat goes on at Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival By MARLA K. KUHLMAN ThisWeek Community Newspapers Despite sporadic rain over the weekend, the music kept playing at Gahanna’s 13th annual Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival. The event was “wonderful” with a popup rain shower on Friday night (June 17) and an occasional drizzle during the rest of the festival, said Karen Eylon, director of the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I was pleased with the number of people who came out with the weather that was less than stellar,” she said. “We were really lucky. All around us was severe weather. Even as close as New Albany, they were having weather different than ours. Other than a pop-up (rain shower) on Friday night, the rest of the time there was an occasional See FESTIVAL, page A2 The crowd listens to the Super Chikan and Watermelon Slim performance. ThisWeek Community Newspapers The Mechanically Operated Litter Eliminator will take a team of four local students to Orlando this week for a national competition. The team, coached by parent Haruna Cofer, is one of eight finalists nationwide that advanced to the competition through the Christopher Columbus Awards. Team members are Gahanna East seventh-graders Savannah Cofer and Wayne Stegner, eighthgrader Mackenzie Wilson and Columbus Academy seventh-grader Varun Vallabhaneni. The Christopher Columbus Awards are part of a national program that encourages science, technology, engineering and math among middle school students. The program challenges students to work in teams of three or four, with an adult coach, to identify a problem in their community and apply a scientific method to create an innovative solution to that problem. “The twist is that it has to be an invention that helps the community in some way,” coach Cofer said. “The kids focused on the problem of the trash collection system that hasn’t changed a lot in 40 to 50 years. They came up with a more fuel-efficient, cleaner, underground trash collection system.” The team invented a specialized box that would be shared by neighbors for trash, she said, and they wouldn’t have to wait for trash pick-up day. “An underground robot would pick it up and take it to a transfer station,” Cofer said. “The robot would go from neighborhoods to the transfer station. The way the children envision it, you’d have a magnetic charge card that only charges for the amount you throw away. That would encourage you to compost and recycle, and you only pay for what you throw away.” A separate bin would be available for recyclables. “This would be expensive,” Cofer said. “It’s a cool idea.” As part of their research, the team talked to Gahanna city engineer Karl Wetherholt and to representatives from the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio. “The idea is to encourage kids to go into science and engineering,” Cofer said. The team’s entry was one of 30 See CONTEST, page A3 No change recommended for city’s fence code By MARLA K. KUHLMAN ThisWeek Community Newspapers After months of review, Gahanna’s planning commission recommended no changes be made to the city’s fence code. Gahanna City Council received the recommendation June 20. The commission has been examining possible revisions to a section of city code that prohibits privacy and/or chain link fences in side and front yards. The current code allows only open, non-enclosing fences of up to 42 inches in height in the side yard. Brock and Kelly Robertson erected a 72-inch-high fence and requested the fence code be reviewed. Robertson hoped the commission would modify the fence code to allow privacy fences and allow homeowners the right to build a fence as they see fit. He said some residents have fences that are six feet high and lower, extending beyond the back corner of their homes. “I am irritated and very disappointed that the planning commission saw no need to change the current code,” Robertson said. “More importantly, I am even more disappointed by the fact the planning commission did not see an issue with the enforcement of the code.” The commission decided June 8 to recommend no changes after soliciting input from local police and fire leaders, as well as reviewing fence codes from other cen- DIRECTORY News: (740) 888-6100 Sports: (740) 888-6054 Retail ads: (740) 888-6017 Classified: (740) 888-5003 Customer Service: 1-888-837-4342 tral Ohio communities. Commission member Jennifer Price said the fence issue has been thoroughly discussed and any change could be dangerous. Mifflin Township Assistant Fire Chief Fred Kauser provided a detailed report to the commission, noting that if a resident were to experience a fire, unobstructed access to all sides of the house provides the best opportunity for safe, fast and efficient firefighting and rescue operations. Regardless of height, he said, fences and other barriers impede access to any part of the structure and would lengthen the amount of time required to stretch hose lines, place ground ladders and other firefighting equipment necessary to perform rescue and control during a fire at a residence. A 42-inch fence would accommodate the passing of equipment from firefighters located on both sides, provides fire managers the ability to observe operations and monitor firefighting activities, and is scalable by firefighters if they need to suddenly evacuate the yard. A 72-inch fence would not permit these activities, Kauser said. Regardless of the commission’s decision, Kauser asked the city to consider providing an educational pamphlet to homeowners who have applied for fence permits. He said the fire division would be willing to prepare the information. Weekly newspaper. Daily updates. Gahanna Police Chief Dennis Murphy said a six-foot-high privacy fence shields a residence from both police and neighbor observation while obscuring burglars. “If homeowners have an expectation that all police officers can scale a six-oot privacy fence in case of an emergency, I would recommend they lower their expectations or lower their fence,” he wrote. Commission member David Thom said some time has been spent reviewing the fence code. “I think we did our job,” he said. “We reviewed comments from fire and police. We also reviewed codes of three or four other cities. I see no significant reason to change the code. A variance is available to residents.” food and wine expand your tastes Presented by: Central Ohio’s choice for community news. | Visit

ThisWeek Gahanna 6/23

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