WAYNE LAKES — For the time being, the beach at the Village of Wayne Lakes will remain closed, as a contract between the village and one of its residents to lease the beach was voided Monday night by Wayne Lakes Council members.
Council voted 4 to 0, with one abstention and one council member absent, to void the contract with Wayne Lakes resident John Kennedy after listening to comments from those attending the meeting.
Originally, council had agreed to lease the beach to Kennedy for $1 per year for three years. In exchange, Kennedy was tasked with providing liability insurance which matched the amount held by the village. Wayne Lakes’ current insurance is for $2 million per occurrence with a $4 million aggregate.
However, Kennedy said he would only be able to obtain $1 million worth of liability coverage, with $2 million aggregate. Kennedy has already performed clean up and maintenance at the property.
Kennedy said in his investigation into obtaining insurance, he found the nearby Village of Arcanum and the City of Greenville each only have $1 million policies.
“And that’s for their entire city, not just for their pool,” he told council. “I didn’t realize the $2 million to $4 million covered everything in the park, all the properties, all the lakes. I personally feel that I shouldn’t have to have the same amount of coverage for that one little area that the entire Village of Wayne Lakes has for the entire village. I think it’s excessive.”
“I think the $1 million, $2 million policy for that little bit of the village is sufficient,” he added.
A number of residents at the meeting asked council to proceed with the lease, despite Kennedy’s inability to meet the terms of the contract.
“I think John got blindsided,” one resident said. “You rented him the pool, and now you want him to cover all this other stuff.”
Another resident asserted Kennedy’s policy would actually provide more coverage than the village, as his policy is uncapped.
“I think you should give this gentleman a shot,” another resident added, hoping the village and Kennedy could find a compromise. “He’s done a lot to get that place going.”
Wayne Lakes Mayor Ellen Brown said no one on council wishes to keep the beach closed.
“I was very grateful to John, I was looking forward to taking my grandchildren down there to play at the beach when they come to visit,” she said. “So this is not about me not wanting the beach open, this is about me trying to protect the village, and that’s what the council’s trying to do.”
Brown added that if a lawsuit were to occur from an incident at the beach, the balance for a settlement not paid for by insurance would come out of the village’s general funds.
“Insufficient funds could bankrupt the village,” she said. “That is why equal limits are being required of Mr. Kennedy. The fact of the matter is, if his insurance doesn’t match our insurance, the $2 million and the $4 million aggregate, we are putting ourselves in jeopardy.”
Councilwoman Karen Sink pointed to past financial mishaps by the village as a factor in council’s original decision to not open the beach this year.
“This conversation has gone on for months,” she said. “We have wanted to be able to open it ourselves, but all of the sudden, when this audit information came to us, that we couldn’t share yet, we sat right here and said ‘We can’t do this; we can’t do this the same way we were doing it.’ We chose, at that time, that this year the beach wasn’t going to open. That’s what we had to do. It was hard on all of us.”
In other business, council appointed Carolyn Robinson to be the village’s new fiscal officer, effective immediately.
Council also approved a proposed budget for 2019, drawn up by temporary fiscal officer Richard Ford and to be submitted to the Darke County Auditor’s Office.
Further, council voted to have a 7-mill renewal levy and a new 1-mill levy placed on this November’s ballot, pending approval by the Darke County Board of Elections.
Wayne Lakes Council next meets at 7 p.m. Aug. 13. The Ohio EPA will be present to discuss funding for a proposed sewer system.