Fairborn council meets in Kentucky, sets course for coming years

Mayor acknowledges possible inconvenience to residents, but says 3-day event ‘was not a clandestine meeting.’

A three-day city council retreat to Kentucky last week cost about $4,800, a trip that officials said was beneficial to Fairborn’s future.

The strategic planning event from Thursday afternoon to noon Saturday in Covington involved all seven council members and several administrators, officials said.

The retreat at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites “was not a clandestine meeting,” but an in-depth session aimed at orienting three new council members and updating others, Fairborn Mayor Paul Keller said.

“We’ve got 50% turnover” from 2021′s council, Keller said. “So, it’s just essential that we get all of our council’s input — the goals and objectives kind of steer the ship into the future.”

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A public notice with the site’s address in Covington was issued Feb. 9, according to the city. The agenda was not posted online because it was a special meeting, but the agenda was available upon request, Fairborn City Manager Rob Anderson said in an email.

Keller said meetings at distant locations “possibly” are an inconvenience for Fairborn residents.

“But we have work where we do similar-type things here in the city,” he said. “And this one time where we want to get away from the burden of the office” so “folks can totally concentrate on our goals and objectives and where we are trying to go with the city.”

Ohio’s Open Meetings Act does not specify where a public body must hold meetings. A decades-old Ohio attorney general opinion says that the spirit of the public meetings law “would appear to require” that meetings be held within the jurisdiction in question.

The off-site meeting also included city operations updates and team-building efforts, officials said. The retreat was “extremely beneficial,” first-term councilman Adam Fritzsche said.

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“This experience helps us to know each of the other city council members and the people who run the day-to-day operations just a little bit better,” Fritzsche said in an email. “This establishes effective communication and strengthens us as a team.”

Agenda issues included council rules and expectations, department updates, a review and update of council goals, and council’s role in economic development.

City records show other agenda items were two council dinners: One at Hofbräuhaus Newport and another at Covington’s Blinkers Tavern, whose website states it was voted “Best Steak” by NKY Magazine eight straight years.

Council’s approved 2022 budget shows $5,000 available for an off-site retreat, and this one cost $4,786, Anderson said. About 16 people (council members and administrative staff) attended the retreat, Keller said. Some staff stayed overnight, but others “cycled in and out,” attending for specific timeframes, he added.

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City Councilman Clint Allen said the session helped him “to deep-dive” with members and administrators “in setting the course over the next four or five years for the city.”

The off-site sessions have been a fixture for council after an election year, Keller said. This one was “really important,” as the city has six council members in their first term, half of whom were elected this past November, he added.

The last retreat was held in the Columbus area, Keller said.

This year’s session was initially proposed for Cincinnati, “but their prices are outrageous and we’re trying to be frugal,” he added.

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