Outgoing Yellow Springs Village Manager Reflects On Accomplishments, Challenges
Yellow Springs will soon have a new village manager. The Village Council has appointed former Yellow Springs resident and Antioch College alum Josue Salmeron to replace Patti Bates, who has occupied the village manager’s office for almost five years and plans to retire at the end of June.
WYSO spoke with Bates, who says she’ll take with her many fond memories of her time spent working in Yellow Springs government.
Below is an interview with Bates, edited for length and clarity:
Patti Bates: The Martin Luther King celebration, that is such a wonderful event and it's so inspiring. I love that event. The flash mob -- I mean, who else has a senior flash mob that does the dance routine? There is so much to this community that I just really enjoy having served here. I am a small-town girl and I grew up in Goshen Township in Clermont County, which is about an hour south of here, and I served prior to this in a small community called Williamsburg, which was about 2,500 people. I like the small-community feel, I like knowing my neighbors, understanding what's going on in their lives and how I can help them. You don't get that in a big city. And Yellow Springs is an interesting place. You either love it or you hate it here and I love it here.
Jess Mador: What do you feel are some of your proudest accomplishments over the past five years?
Patti Bates: As far as projects, I would say getting the new water plant built and online and actually bringing it in slightly under the budget that we had because that was a very important infrastructure project for the villagers. The project cost $6.9 million. And the biggest benefit is that we have had an older, very outdated plant that was in extensive need of extensive rehabilitation and we needed to find a different solution. So we needed to either do the rehabilitation, which would have cost us probably as much or more as the new plant, or we needed to build a new plant, or we needed to find another source of water. We chose to retain control of our own utility and so we built the new water plant. It came online at the end of 2017. There are two other things. One is bringing Cresco Labs to the village. They have about 60 employees. They are going to expand and will have about 120 employees and many of those employees will be local folks. They're great partners, their employees are looking for ways to volunteer in the community. They give their employees 40 hours to go out into the community and donate time, volunteer time and so they are looking for opportunities. They're just now getting started with their production but they have also said that once they are up and actually in the black that they will donate a percentage of their profits to the village. I think there was initially a question about the light at night but they do have the ceiling that closes to eliminate that light pollution. And so we've got that all ironed out and I have not heard any other issues. And then, building a really cohesive team for the village. We've made some some personnel changes and some organizational structure changes and I feel like we now have a really cohesive, very competent, very dedicated team providing to the villagers what they need.
Jess Mador: There was the incident on New Year's Eve with the police officer and you know many residents felt dissatisfied with that process. So I wonder if you could update us on that process -- where does it stand now and what do you feel the impact of that incident has been in the village in terms of trust among residents?
Patti Bates: I think that it definitely had a negative impact on the trust between the residents and the village in general and the police department specifically. We've worked really hard to regain that trust by looking thoroughly into the incident and taking the steps that we felt were necessary. We are right now in the middle of an assessment of our police department to try to move the department more toward the local policing that our residents want. The biggest hurdle that we run into is that officers are traditionally trained in a different way, and to change that after they've gone through the academy takes a little bit of time, to get them in a different mindset. And this is not just a Yellow Springs issue. Unfortunately, it's a national issue and it's starting to be recognized that the training itself needs to be adapted and changed to be more sensitive to local issues and what local residents and businesses want in their police force. And so that's where we're trying to move toward. I think we will get there. We've made great strides and we just ask for patience. There are going to be growing pains. It takes time to change how people think. We need the residents to be actively involved in this change. It's very important that both sides have open dialogue and talk about these issues as they come up. Call me, call the chief, and talk about this openly. There are three phases to the assessment. It is supposed to be completed by mid to late June. We will have a report out from the consultant Bob Wasserman at probably at the end of June. And so it's important that everyone know, if Mr. Wasserman contacts you or wants to speak to you or asks for your input, please give that input because it's important to know what the community wants. And we are having a public forum to talk about local policing. That is currently set for May 21 at the Bryan Center.
Jess Mador: How have you seen the issue of affordability in the village change during your time in office and how would you say the cost of living is here in the village?
Patti Bates: Well, as far as the cost of property itself, it is very expensive here in the village. So the question is, is there a creative way to fund things other than with property taxes? Possibly there are and I've been asked to look into some of those things, and I will before I leave. We have made commitments in our electric utility to carry a heavily green portfolio with renewable energies and that does drive up the cost. We are working now to make those improvements that need to be made to keep the system up and operating. That is adding to the capital costs.
Jess Mador: Do you feel like Yellow Springs will continue to be a place where you don't have to be wealthy in order to live and buy a home? Do you see that improving?
Patti Bates: The village is actively working on affordable housing. We have established the manager's Housing Advisory Board, which is actively working on a plan for the Glass Farm that includes a good portion of affordable housing and affordable for sale and rental as well as some market-rate homes. And we're very cognizant of the need to balance the affordable housing with the market rate and think about how that will impact the need for services and all those other things. There is a lot going on to try to address that.
Jess Mador: Now that you've put together this team that's more coordinated, more collaborative and more efficient, like you say, why retire now?
Patti Bates: I have been doing this for almost 35 years and it's just time for me to step back and take a little bit of a breather. I do have some family obligations that I need to fulfill, as far as caring for my dad. It's just time for me to take that breather. I'm sure in six or eight months I'm going to be bored out of my mind and will have read all of those books that I have stacked up on the shelf that I haven't gotten to. But it's time for me to step aside and just let somebody else come in and and build on what I've been able to do.
A report based on the assessment of the village's police department is expected to be completed soon. Residents are invited to a community meeting to talk about local policing -- that’s scheduled for May 21 at the John Bryan Community Center.