PIQUA —The Piqua City Commission approved imposing a moratorium of 180 days on granting any permit allowing retail dispensaries, cultivators, or processors of medical marijuana within the city of Piqua by a vote of 4-1. The resolution was also declared an emergency during their meeting Tuesday evening and will take effect immediately.
Commissioner Bill Vogt voted against the measure.
“I don’t understand why this is such a big deal,” said Vogt, who said he was more concerned about the presence of heroin and illegal drugs in the community rather than a drug that was already approved by the state and the governor.
“I don’t even know why we’re messing with this. I’m more concerned about the illegal drugs,” Vogt said.
Mayor Kazy Hinds said the city is not saying no to medical marijuana, they are simply waiting on the rules and regulations regarding the growing of the marijuana and the sale of it that the state has yet to establish.
Ohio’s medical marijuana bill will go into effect on Sept. 8. Gov. John Kasich signed the bill on June 9. The law would allow patients to use marijuana in vapor form for certain chronic health conditions, but ban them from smoking it or growing it at home.
Under the law, cities and towns could choose to ban dispensaries or limit the number of them. Licensed cultivators, processors, dispensaries, and testing laboratories cannot be within 500 feet of schools, churches, public libraries, playgrounds, or parks. Employers could continue to enforce drug-testing policies and maintain drug-free workplaces. Banks that provide services to marijuana-related entities would be protected from criminal prosecution.
The city of Troy approved a similar moratorium last month. Beavercreek has also imposed a moratorium.
Also following the commission’s meeting, the project of painting of the CSX railroad bridge — which extends over Ash Street — is in murky waters.
The commission decided to table a right of entry and indemnity agreement with CSX Transportation Inc. for the painting of the CSX railroad bridge as it has not yet been finalized. The agreement would have given the city access to the bridge under various conditions. Those conditions include stringent oversight from CSX, including the city using a bridge painter approved by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), CSX has to review everything, and CSX has to be on-site the entire time work is being done.
City Attorney Stacy Wall explained that there are a couple issues that the city is still discussing with CSX in the agreement. CSX declined to disclose if there have been any known environmental issues at the site within the last five years. CSX is also putting full liability costs on the city, including if an incident occurs due to their own negligence.
“The city has huge liability in this contract,” Wall said.
“I’m concerned with us painting the bridge. I’m concerned that we cannot write them up for having an ugly structure in our city like we do a house,” Vogt said.
Wall said the city tried to look into a property maintenance code violation but they could not file one against the railroad bridge.
“They have their own set of regulations through the federal government,” Wall said.
Before the commission voted on the measure, city manager Gary Huff said he has personally worked on this issue with CSX for two years. Huff explained that CSX has no plans to paint the bridge themselves and that they will not allow any type of banner to hang from the bridge.
The commission could have chosen to approve the resolution pending certain stipulations with the contract, but they unanimously decided to table the agreement. The cost of the agreement was $52,180, which included a 10 percent contingency.
The commission then approved the bid contract with APBN Inc. to paint the railroad bridge at $221,000 — which includes a 10 percent contingency — pending an agreement with CSX by a vote of 3-2. Commissioner John Martin and Vogt voted against the amended resolution awarding the contract.
“The money that we’re going to spend on this … is a lot money, and we’re getting nothing in return for it other than a bridge that’s painted,” Vogt said. “Yeah, I don’t think the bridge looks good, but is it worth $200,000 to get painted? We’re going to get no return for that at all.”
Hinds spoke in favor of getting the railroad bridge painted as well as voiced concerns over the possibility of rising costs.
“It is the entryway to our city,” said Hinds, who said the cost of having that bridge painted will continue to go up over time.
Commissioner Judy Terry expressed an overall frustration with CSX.
“I’m really unhappy with the railroad,” Terry said. “The people in the community really want to see this done.”
Terry said that CSX could make some successions, calling the railroad company “hard-nosed” and “difficult” with which to work.
“I think they should be made to be the bad guys in this,” Terry said.
“CSX isn’t picking on Piqua in any way,” Wall said.
She explained that CSX imposes the same conditions and restrictions on everyone.
“We’re working as hard as we can to negotiate with them,” Wall said.
In addition to surface preparation of the existing structural steel bridge and repainting it, the bid contract to APBN Inc. includes sealing the concrete surfaces at the ends of the bridge. The project will also consist of traffic maintenance, including lane closures on Ash Street needed to complete this work.
The bid contract is pending an approved agreement with CSX, though, and the city was not able to say how long that bid from APBN Inc. would last.
If the city is able to reach an agreement with CSX, the bridge will be painted blue. Huff said that the color will match new entrance signage for the city. There will be no logos painted on it.
“I think you ought to paint it rust-colored. That way, when the paint comes off, we won’t notice,” Vogt said.
Melanie Yingst contributed to this story. Reach Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336.