NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WKBN) – Emotions ran high at a Newton Falls council meeting Monday night as several people went to voice their frustration and outrage with council.
Two major topics discussed were a $3.1 million meter replacement project and a recent proclamation declaring the community a sanctuary city for statues.
“I am shocked and appalled at the behavior of this body,” said resident Bruce Moore.
His strong words were aimed directly at Newton Falls’ council. Residents were outraged by the decision to repeal an ordinance that was passed last month — which would OK over $3 million for smart meters — and replace it with a new one. It passed 4 to 1.
Plans are to swap old-fashioned utility meters with new wireless devices that would let customers monitor their own electrical power and water usage remotely. They would be able to track all of their information by using cellphones, tablets or computers.
“Why the effort to silence the will of the people? Why try to keep us from voting on it?” asked resident Jim Luonuansuu.
Three hundred and thirty residents signed a referendum to place it on the ballot in November. They believe the action was a direct move by council to invalidate the petitions.
“Most of you have blatantly ignored the will of the people over and over again,” one resident said.
Though others disagreed.
“You either get with it now or you’re going to be paying more for it down the road,” another resident said.
Council members also weighed in before the vote, one member even directly asking the city manager.
“Mr. Lynch, is this being done as a way to stop the referendum?” asked John Baryak, Ward 2.
“The answer to that is ‘no’ as well,” said city manager David Lynch.
Another hot button issue was a proclamation made by Lynch over the weekend, declaring Newton Falls a sanctuary city for statues.
The back and forth banter got so heated, several people were asked to leave and many others walked out with them.
“We don’t need that here in our city,” a resident said.
“I don’t think any statue should be torn down anywhere. Our history should not be erased,” another resident said.
“What about the safety of our families?” one resident asked.
“This is my opinion, only this is not a representation of council but folks, there comes a point in time where we can’t allow people to denigrate our history and our past,” said Tarry Alberini, council-at-large.
The other council members did not comment on the statue proclamation.