The village of DeGraff has a new village council member as Kelli Stephens was appointed by Mayor Gary Comer to fill a council seat that had been vacant for several months. As the seat had been vacant for some time, Mayor Comer had the power to appoint Stephens to the position without the consent of the council, but he asked the council for approval at the opening of the regular meeting Nov. 17. All four council members present approved of Stephens’ appointment and each welcomed her aboard.
Stephens is a life-long resident of DeGraff and a 1996 graduate of Riverside High School. She is a salesperson at Steve Austin’s Auto Group in Bellefontaine and is married to Tom, a freelance writer. They have two children, both of whom attend Riverside; Aubrey, a senior, and Max, a seventh-grader. Stephens is the second generation of her family to serve as her mother, Jennifer Kreglow, once held a seat on the council.
Following being sworn in by Mayor Comer and offered a seat at the council table, Stephens told those assembled that she looked forward serving DeGraff and its residents and promised to do what was in her power what is best for both.
For her first council meeting, Stephens and the other council members were addressed at length by Greg Norris of All-American Energy, a firm that has been attempting for several years to supply the DeGraff and Quincy areas with natural gas. A number of schemes have fallen through over the past half-decade, mainly because to deliver natural gas to Miami and Pleasant Townships today, All-American would have to pay Vectren Corp. to tap into Vectren’s natural gas pipeline from a point of delivery located about two miles due south of Bellefontaine along U.S. Route 68. Norris told the council that Vectren has done everything it could delay All-American Energy’s plan.
“Vectren has given us a hard time from the start,” Norris told the council in explaining yet another delay in the proposed gas line. The ongoing negotiations between the two companies, Norris complained, are at a standstill. “We’ve hit a brick wall.”
Norris then went into a detailed discussion on how and under what conditions the natural gas pipeline to southwestern Logan County could be completed, but continued to blame roadblocks thrown up by Vectren (and others) for the failure to get the project underway.
Councilpersons Walls and Jennifer Bowman (who is also Mayor-Elect) were not impressed with Norris’ arguments and condemnations, the same ones which have been made at countless DeGraff council meetings since 2010.
“We’re heard all this before,” Walls said, cutting Norris off at one point. She produced an email that was sent to her following a recent teleconference call she had with representatives from Vectren, which painted a very different picture of the situation than did Norris by laying the blame for the delay directly at All-American’s feet. “This has been going on for years,” a clearly exasperated Walls said of the back-and-forth between the energy suppliers.
Walls and Mayor-Elect Bowman were both openly dismissive of Norris’ suggestion that the council use its collective power to pressure state legislators to advance All-American Energy’s position with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. After a short discussion and with no formal vote taken, Norris was in effect advised by the council that All-American Energy’s spat with Vectren was not to be settled by the DeGraff Village Council. Both parties have been invited to again address the council if and when the squabbles between the two have been resolved.
Following Norris’ presentation, the council broke into a 26minute executive session regarding the status of a village employee or employees. When the executive session broke, the council voted to transfer $300 from the General Fund to the Cemetery Fund and then adjourned.
The next DeGraff Village Council is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. in the village office.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.