CHARDON — “We want to make a statement that, clearly and unequivocally, our community and its leader are disturbed by the death of George Floyd,” Mayor Dan Meleski told council last week.
“We want to state that our community and its leaders are disturbed and disgusted. The actions that lead up to the death of George Floyd have clearly impacted our nation,” the mayor said during the June 11 council meeting.
Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died on May 25 after a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota held his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes over an allegation of using a fake $20 bill at a market.
The mayor and Chardon Police Department Chief Scott Niehus also talked about events that have occurred following Mr. Floyd’s death, including a case of a social media post involving Chardon that garnered national interest.
Chief Niehus said a vile social media post has recently made the rounds on various platforms, depicting two white males, one lying supine on the ground while the other kneels on his neck, with a caption mentioning a “George Floyd Challenge.”
“What brought attention to Chardon was that the image was shared by an Instagram account that tagged it to Chardon, as well as a geolocation address on the image attached to Chardon,” Chief Niehus said.
Chief Niehus worked with the FBI and the Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office to identify the males in the original image, one of several of its kind posted across the globe in the past few weeks, as well as who in or around Chardon may have posted it. He said the individuals pictured are not Chardon residents, and that it’s possible to doctor geolocation dates to make it seem like a photo came from anywhere.
“Even though it was despicable, the image itself does not constitute a crime,” Chief Niehus explained. “We couldn’t subpoena on social media because we didn’t have a crime. The other challenge is that it was shared on all social media platforms. It started on Snapchat, went to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok. Some of these social media companies, they make it so you can’t communicate with them. So that’s where we’re at with that.”
In other business, council approved a $357,228 bid with Specialized Construction, Inc. of Cuyahoga Heights to chip and seal, resurface and maintain streets around the city that are in need of repair.
Chardon City Manager Randy Sharpe told council that the city will receive between $54,000 and $62,000 in funding from the $350 million in federal CARES Act money. To use the money, he said the city will have to adopt a policy for dealing with COVID-19 expenses and commit the funds to be spent by Oct. 15.
Mr. Sharpe also said goodbye to a few employees during his report. Doug Patterson, who is an operator for the wastewater treatment plant, will be departing after 32 years with Chardon.
Mr. Sharpe said Chardon entered into a contract with Waste Management for waste pickup. Ben Chojnacki was named law director.
Councilwoman Heather Means announced that the ad hoc theater committee sent out a questionnaire to each of the people or groups expressing an interest in filling the spaces previously occupied by the Geauga Lyric Theatre Guild. The crew cleaned out the buildings at 101 and 106 Water St. on Chardon Square so that the public can again use them, she added.
Council debated whether to purchase 12 United We Stand Banners for Chardon Square at $125 a piece. While Mayor Meleski said he thought the banners could help bring residents some much-needed positivity, other council members disagreed.
“I don’t think that this is a good luck for us, to be spending money on something that’s going to go up for a few months at best when we’re getting complains about the pool being closed, for example,” Ms. Means said. “That was a good decision to make from a business standpoint, so maybe we don’t do as many around the square if we do this.”
After making a motion about the banners, council rescinded it and decided to table the issue.
They did take action on establishing a new location for a new Little Free Food Pantry, which will join the current pantry located on the side of the Geauga Theater annex building and function like a little free library, allowing residents to drop off non-perishable items whenever they want. The new pantry will be located at Mel Harder Park.