East Palestine Park Renovated To Be More Accessible To All Kids

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – The East Palestine City Park has been renovated. It’s now more accessible for children with wheelchairs or other mobility devices — and also offers play options for children of all abilities.It’s called the Rainbow Dreamland Playground.

There are two new swings designed for children with disabilities, and there’s an omnispinner that allows for an easy transfer from a mobility device and makes spinning fun for all children.

There’s a metallophone, which is similar to a large xylophone.

Also a chain bridge and older balance board were removed to make the playground accessible to all children.

Village Manager Mark McTrustry says the only part of the project not complete is a new pathway into the playground from the community center parking lot. McTrustry says he believes the path will be completed by the end of October.

EP moves council meetings to larger space

However, due to technological difficulties, the village has had a tough time delivering clear audio to viewers. Because of this, village council discussed an alternative way to hold meetings open to the public at last week’s council meeting.

Mayor Trent Conaway has received many questions from the public regarding the issue, and Conaway believes that holding the meetings in a larger facility would fix the problem.

“I’ve had a couple questions about opening up the council meetings again to the public,” Conaway said. “If we move to a bigger facility, we can spread out and have social distancing so the public can be involved.”

Councilman Alan Cohen was in favor of allowing the public back into the meetings, as he said they should have opportunity to participate.

“No matter how we’ve tried to do it, with the Zoom or with the Facebook, we’ve run into problems,” Cohen said. “If there’s a way that we can figure out how to go to the community center for example, we should look into that.”

Cohen mentioned that while they don’t want to go against the law, there are many circumstances where people are gathering for less important reasons than to attend a government meeting.

“If people can gather to have dinner together in one room, they should be able to attend a government function,” Cohen said. “I’m not saying we should go outside the law. I’m just upset that the people can’t be here.”

The rest of council agreed to holding the meetings at a bigger venue as long as they remain in compliance with the governor’s orders.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be set for 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at the park community center, and it is open to the public.



EP names new village manager

EAST PALESTINE — The village’s long search for the next village manager ended on Monday night with the hiring of Mark McTrustry, who has been serving as the pastor of the Centenary United Methodist Church in East Palestine for more than eight years.

Village council voted unanimously to hire McTrustry, who’s first official day will be Oct. 1. After the meeting McTrustry said he will continue to serve as the pastor at the church on Sundays and for some other duties such as funerals until the end of the year. He will be spending time at the village hall offices on week days after he officially begins.

Those attending village council applauded the move after council unanimously voted to approve the emergency resolution to name McTrustry to the position, which will pay $65,000 plus benefits.

The village began the search for the new village manager following the resignation of Pete Monteleone on March 15, when he announced he was leaving for a job in Virginia. Fiscal Officer Tracy Spratt filled in as interim village manager while the search was conducted.

Council had a special meeting on Sept. 3, where they invited McTrustry into an executive session for personnel presumably to make their final decision or at least iron out the details of the contract with McTrustry.

Besides his theology degrees, McTrustry studied civil engineering at both Queen’s University in Belfast and the University of London and has worked as an engineer before becoming a minister. He also serves as a member of the East Palestine Volunteer Fire Department.

In other matters before village council:

— Council had a second reading on the ordinance that will raise the base water rate for village customers. The increase will result in a base rate of $16.78 for the first 1,000 gallons of water used per month and $3.22 on any amount in excess of the 1,000 gallons used.

— Council approved an emergency resolution to issue special assessment on property taxes for those properties that were cleaned up by the village and those with past due water and sewer bills. The village is hoping to recoup $4,244 total from 17 properties cleaned up and nearly $3,100 in delinquent utility bills.


More eyes to monitor downtown Palestine

EAST PALESTINE — The local chamber of commerce is looking into donating money for more security cameras in the downtown business district.

Councilman D.J. Yokley told council last week that the chamber received a $500 donation from CCH Environmental, also known as the Tri-County Solid Waste District, for more cameras.

The first two security cameras were installed last summer, although they were not operational right away due to a few technological difficulties, Yokley said.

Yokley said those problems have been corrected and the cameras are serving the village well, and in fact were helpful with a recent traffic crash, since the police department was able to go back and review the footage to see exactly what happened.

The cameras are not geared toward traffic enforcement, but to monitor activity along North Market Street to keep businesses safe.

Last year the chamber provided a $2,000 donation to the village to help pay for the first of the cameras, and Yokley said the chamber is looking into donating more.

In other business, council approved appointing a new member to the village’s park board, and a new member to the planning commission following a more than half-hour executive session.

Council unanimously approved Jessica Conard for the park board and Karen King for the planning commission. The women will replace Marge Slavik and Shirley Gorby, who both recently resigned.

Slavik served on the park board since January of 2017 and Gorby served on the planning commission since the late 1980s.

In her letter of interest to the village, Conard said she wished to serve on the park board because she is “ready to set goals, effectively address them and ultimately take more responsibility for the village.”

Conard has a Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology from Kent State University and has worked in the medical field for the past 10 years. The is also a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance.

She lives, works, and owns a small business in East Palestine.

“My children attend school here, and my husband and I would have it no other way. I am gladly invested in our future and our youth at the First Church of Christ as well as a recent member and newly elected treasurer of the East Palestine Youth Sports Association board,” she wrote.

She added that she has experience in finance management and marketing through assisting with a family furniture business as well as her own yoga studio.

King said she decided to pursue to the open seat on the planning commission because she cares about the town. King graduated from East Palestine High School and has lived in the village for several years.

She attends most council meetings and wants to be more invested.

Katie White Morning Journal News


Deceased officer’s daughter receives police escort to school

story tease

By Jessica Hardin



Olivia Welcomed to School

Olivia Dobbins’ mother, late Boardman police officer Heather Dobbins, was missing Wednesday morning for Olivia’s first day at a new school, but her presence was felt when nearly 20 local police officers congregated at East Palestine Elementary to escort the child inside.

After a procession of 17 police cars from nearby jurisdictions, the officers stood in the rain and gave Olivia high-fives and warm hugs as her dad, T.J. Dobbins, stepmother, Jennifer, and step-sister, Aanna, walked her into school.

“It shows that when your parents are cops, you’re part of that police family,” said

Olivia’s dad, a trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Olivia, who attended kindergarten in Boardman, transferred to East Palestine after her mom’s unexpected death Jan. 11.

Heather Dobbins, 40, died at Cleveland Clinic after serving the Boardman Police Department for 16 years. She had been suffering from a brain tumor.

When East Palestine police officer Lt. Don Johnson learned that Olivia would be attending a new school, he came up with the idea to escort her on her first day.

“Officer Johnson sent a mass text to local agencies, and they came on their own time. It speaks volumes to what kind of people they are and what kind of family this is,” said T.J. Dobbins.

For Johnson, showing up to support Olivia in this way was a no-brainer.

“This was the thing to do, to make her part of the law-enforcement family and show her support,” said Johnson.

Olivia’s family and the school’s principal, Kim Russo, showed her to her new kindergarten classroom. Russo said that the school is equipped to support Olivia.

“A lot of our students have been through trauma. We have a full-time school counselor and psychiatric care in the building. We have sweet and caring students,” said Russo.

Wednesday’s escort was just one of the ways that the law-enforcement community mobilized to support the Dobbins family after Heather’s death.

Boardman Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 43 is creating a trust for Olivia, which she can access when she turns 18.

“There has been an outpouring of support from family and friends and law enforcement. We couldn’t have asked for anything more,” said Jennifer Dobbins.

Vote delayed on major Palestine project

EAST PALESTINE — Village Council is ready to vote on the $1.06 million bid presented for the pump house expansion project.

Council is expected to vote at its next meeting on Oct. 22.

The village began looking into an expansion of the water facilities after the water crisis in January of 2014, when several waterlines broke as a result of sub-zero temperatures.

Residents were left without fresh water for nearly a week at that time after the village shut down its wells to conserve water.

The village operated on three outdated wells, with a fourth new well drilled that year not producing to capacity.

The Marucci & Gaffney bid proposal includes a new well, water treatment plant roof replacement, and pump house renovation.

The bid was lowest out of the four submitted. Other companies that submitted bids were Stanley Miller Construction Co., Utility Contracting Inc., and SET, Inc.

Three of the total bids came in under the engineer’s original estimate of $1.12 million, with the exception of SET, Inc., which submitted a bid of $1.24 million.

The village will pay for the project with an Ohio Water Supply Revolving Loan Account loan provided by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The legislation was the only thing before council Monday evening and no other business was conducted.


EP Garden Club

Members of the East Palestine Town and Country Garden Club (from left) Bev Leake, Betty Lou Flower, Darlene Exposito, Donna Holzer, Debbie Hall, Jacquie Whitehead and Janet May recently planted 32 asters that were donated by Don Elzer of Southern Greenhouse. The members of the club place flowers or plants in the pots for each of the four seasons


By Katie White Morning Journal News

91-year-old jigsaw wizard provides firefighting gear for East Palestine

EAST PALESTINE — A former Glenmoor firefighter who has earned the reputation of “The Puzzle Man”in the village has donated money for new firefighting gear for the local department.

David Butler, who turns 92 next month, served on the Glenmoor department in the early 1960s up to the 1980s. His first experience with firefighting was for the Navy Seabees in China from 1945-1946.

Butler said firefighting has changed tremendously over the years thanks to new technology and equipment not available back then.

He also said there is a lot more training now.

One thing that has remained the same, however, is the camaraderie among firefighters, he said.

Originally from East Liverpool, Butler moved to East Palestine in 2002.

For his birthday last year, his daughter, Cindy Butler Fletcher, gave him some jigsaw puzzles, which he began piecing together at alarming speed.

Fletcher turned to Facebook after her father breezed through those puzzles to see if anyone had any puzzles for him to complete.

His skill at the hobby quickly turned into an international sensation, with people from all over the world sending jigsaw puzzles in to be completed.

He just recently completed a 2,000-piece puzzle of a place in Italy that took about 10 days to finish.

“This one was a struggle … you can’t work on it all the time, you can come back. You have your life to live, you just can’t live on that puzzle,” he said.

Generally, he can complete a 1,000-piece puzzle in two days.

As Butler’s puzzles became more popular, people began to offer money for the puzzles to hang as art. Butler and Fletcher have taken that money and donated it to local causes, like the emergency kits for the East Palestine school district, and now the fire department.

Fletcher is also a retired firefighter from Anadarko department in Oklahoma.

“No strangers to the fire service, David and Cindy are well aware that frequent exposure to carcinogens when fighting fire that may then sit around contaminating their gear and equipment has led to a higher rate of cancer within the fire service,” East Palestine Fire Chief Josh Brown said.

The department was able to take their $500 donation and purchase two flame and heat resistant Nomex hoods for each firefighter on the department.

Brown said that with the hoods currently in use, the purchase of the additional hoods will help enhance a department cancer prevention program.

He explained that in addition to gross decontamination by hosing off equipment before returning to the station after an alarm, firefighters will conduct a gear exchange with Nomex hoods and gloves. Contaminated hoods and gloves will be placed in a sealed bin and firefighters will take a clean hood and pair of gloves from an additional sealed bin. After returning to the station all equipment will then be thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated before being returned to service, he said.