Unusual Middletown council meeting includes accusations of threats, discussions and debate

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Oakland District project, social media interaction among topics brought up.

The Middletown City Council meeting Tuesday night was filled with drama, decisions and debate.

Business owners and residents questioned city leaders on their plans for the Oakland District and a Middletown resident said he felt “threatened” by a Facebook post from the city council member.

There were several uncomfortable moments inside City Council Chambers.

Here are some of the highlights:

Dan Mayzum owner of the former Carnegie Library inside the Oakland District, wondered why the city hasn’t acted quicker to obtain Historic Tax Credits to help those who want to invest in the area. He could lose $1.3 million in tax credits if the neighborhood is not finalized and submitted on the National Register.

He said the library restoration is expected to cost $4.3 million with $1.3 million in tax credits.

Dan Barton, an Oakland District contractor from Dayton, said the project remains “viable” but “we need to move forward.”

Barton said he received an email dated April 17 saying the city terminated its contract with Brainwave Connection.

When City Manager Jim Palenick was questioned by Mayor Nicole Condrey about the situation, he said the contract was terminated “quite some time ago,” like eight or nine months.

Condrey said it was April 17 and she and other council members were unaware of the contract termination. Palenick said he may have been off on his timing

He said the council meeting was “not the appropriate time” to discuss the city’s decision because “we are not prepared to do that.”

In an email to The Journal-News, Barton said the Oakland Project is 95% ready to launch, needing only a series of planning and work sessions with city leaders to finalize the terms and policy.

He wrote that city council needs to “strongly exert control and discipline” over staff misrepresentations, and reset the priorities, and reaffirm the promises to Oakland that the council and the former administration made in 2019-2020.

Middletown resident Wanda Glover said the former AK Steel Research and Development building is part of the Oakland District and she’s concerned if the area is converted into industry that will draw trucks into the neighborhood and disrupt the quality of life.

“Why does our area always get the rift?” she asked, saying she doesn’t want a truck route in her neighborhood.

Condrey said a possible plan is for light industrial in the area and there will be no trucks.

Council and Palenick agreed to schedule a workshop within two months to clear up the confusion about the Oakland District.

Also during citizen comments, Middletown resident Levi Hensley said about four months ago he had a conversation on Facebook with council member Ami Vitori that “turned south.”

Hensley, 22, said he felt “threatened” after reading a Facebook post between council member Vitori and Ashley Baumgarten.

As Hensley started reading the Facebook posts, Vitori asked if it was related to city business.

“Absolutely,” Hensley said. “You are part of the city.”

Hensley said Vitori wrote to Baumgarten that she “will grab a bat and follow you anywhere.”

In another post, Baumgarten wrote: “I have a truck now, so bring more than 1 bat!”

Hensley was stopped by Palenick: “I would suggest that we should not engage in individual attacks.”

Condrey asked everyone to maintain “respectful communications.”

Vitori said “these are jokes she made because your comments were completely rude and disrespectful. If you don’t have a sense of humor I’m sorry. This is not the place for it.”

As Hensley continued reading, Vitori said: “This is not appropriate and we are done.”

Middletown police Chief David Birk, who was sitting in the audience, walked toward Hensley and he returned to his seat.

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