If you were disappointed last summer when Orange Township canceled a movie in the park, State Rep. Andrew Brenner intends to see that it doesn’t happen again.
Brenner, R-Powell, introduced House Bill 361 that has now passed the Ohio House and has now gone to the Senate.
When Orange Township Trustee Debbie Taranto approached Brenner about sponsoring legislation allowing levy revenue to be spent on community events, “he immediately said yes,” Taranto said.
The need for the bill, she said, came up when Orange Township wanted to sponsor a “movie in the park” night during the summer of 2015. Before authorizing funds from the park levy for the movies, township trustees consulted with their attorney. “We had received the opinion we could do it,” Taranto said.
Then “Delaware County Assistant Prosecutor Chris Betts told us, ‘No, you can’t do this at all,’” said Taranto.
According to Taranto, attorneys seem to have different opinions on whether townships can use park levy revenues to hold community events. “Some people said we could and some people said we can’t,” Taranto said. “I got tired of it and called Andy.”
“Just by changing the law we won’t have to worry about it,” Taranto said.
Brenner said he could see how this type of event can bring people and families of communities together. “By restoring control of park revenue to the townships, it allows them to host community events for families,” he said. “The park events have to be open to the entire community.”
House Bill 361 gives authorization to township trustees and boards of park commissioners to spend funds for the public purpose of presenting community events in their parks and at other recreational facilities.
The amount of revenue that can be set aside for community events is to be left up to the “discretion of the trustees,” Brenner said.
Before being stopped, Orange Township trustees did hold a couple of movie nights in the park. “The ones we had we probably didn’t spend $1,000,” Taranto said. “The third year we had to cancel it because of using public funds.”
Taranto was asked to testify in House committee hearings on behalf of the bill. While sitting there, she said she noticed the committee tends to ask lots of questions. “It made me nervous,” she said. “But it didn’t take long at all.”
Brenner said the bill now is in the Senate where he expects it will pass. He is hoping to get it passed by the Senate and to Gov. John Kasich to be signed before a break later in the month.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.