Fairfield Twp. trustee protests planned park because of registered sex offender

Fairfield Twp. is moving forward with a pocket park at the corner of Fairfax and Lenox avenues in the Five Points area despite the protest of one township trustee, who doesn’t want a park near a registered sex offender.

Trustee Shannon Hartkemeyer said it’s “a noble effort” to put a pocket park in the Five Points area. She said she has “concerns about that exact location.”

“It’s come to my attention that (there) is a Tier III sex offender that is directly across the street,” Hartkemeyer said. “The original charge against him has something to do with child molestation but he pled to a lesser count.”

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The property, 2045 Fairfax Ave., was purchased by Butler County's land bank through the Hardest Hit Program. The home on the property was razed, and the township will receive the property's title from the county land bank by the end of 2019.

Trustees voted earlier this month 2-1 to purchase $79,800 in playground equipment from Playground Equipment Services to install on the corner lot. The equipment includes a swing set, seating areas and a multi-deck tower with slides and climbing areas. Hartkemeyer voted against the purchase.

Fairfield Twp. Trustee Joe McAbee said he is “concerned about sex offenders whereever they may live” but believes Fairfax and Lenox is a good location for a park. He understands the concern but said he doesn’t believe it should stop the trustees from making the park.

“The people that live in the area asked for a park and selected that location,” McAbee said. “For a park in any location, the children using the park still need to be properly supervised.”

Fairfield Twp. Trustee Susan Berding also said it’s “concerning” a Tier III sex offender, the highest classification level, lives near the site. She asked the township’s attorney if the sex offender would be forced to move if the township did install a park at the site.

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“That would be my position,” said Fairfield Twp. Law Director Lawrence Barbiere. “I’m not guaranteeing I would win on that, but that would be my position.”

The township might not have much authority, though.

“There is no stipulation for sex offenders and their proximity to parks,” said Ohio Attorney General spokesman Steve Irwin.

Sex offenders do have a 1,000-foot residency restriction from schools, preschools and daycares. And they must regularly register with the county sheriff.

Ohio sex offenders

Ohio law requires convicted sex offenders to regularly register with the county sheriff where they reside. The frequency and length of an offender’s registration post-prison is based on the tier the convicted sex offender is classified under.

Tier I: register annually for 15 years.

Tier II: register every 180 days for 25 years.

Tier III: register every 90 days for their lifetime.

Source: Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

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