Belpre juniors work with, sit in for council

BELPRE – Belpre High School juniors got to see how the city government works when they worked with and sat in for city council during the council meeting Monday.

Students in the State and Local Government class at Belpre High School spent time on Monday with members of city council, the mayor and other city officials discussing the job of city government and the issues the officials encounter. Other students spent time at the Belpre police and fire departments seeing how those departments operated.

The students sat in for council members at Monday’s council meeting with the council members sitting next to them offering guidance.

Cranston Johnson, acting as mayor, read Mayor Mike Lorentz’s Mayor’s Report and other students presented the reports of their city official.

Student Matthew Lopreste conducted the meeting as council president with Council President Will Neff sitting next to him.

When votes were taken to accept reports and other action, both the student and the city council member voted together.

“Often in education, the kids have read about it, heard me talk about it and written about it,” said Chris Palmer, teacher. “Now, they actually get to do it.

“It provides them with an authentic experience to see, hands on, what it takes to run the government at the local level.”

Palmer said a former student who participated in this program has gone on to become a student government leader at Ohio State University.

“This is a chance to make contacts and get their foot in the door,” Palmer said.

As a way for the students to participate on a topic they could have a valuable perspective on, Lorentz said city officials have begun talking with representatives of Kimble Recycling & Disposal this past week to discuss the option of bringing curbside recycling to the city.

Lorentz explained that if the city decides to go forward with this plan, residents would be issued a big plastic bin to put their recyclables in to put on the curb to be picked up every other week. This would be instead of residents having to transport their recyclables to the recycling dumpster at Civitan Park.

City residents asked if the curbside bins would be for plastics, paper, cardboard or other materials. They asked if the materials would have to be separated or if everything could be put in the bins together.

Others asked what the cost would be to do this.

Lorentz said the materials could be put in there together and collected at once.

“I thought this would be a wonderful way to get rid of that dumpster down at the park,” he said. “Everyone has seen the mess down around that dumpster.”

The mayor said city officials are negotiating the cost of the service.

Amy Treciak, Kimble Recycling Business Development, said the company would provide education to residents about recycling.

“The reason why people don’t recycle is they are not educated about it,” she said. “They think it is hard.

“We want to explain to them that it is not hard; it is actually pretty easy.”

The actual council members asked their student counterparts what they thought of this idea, how their parents might react and what they thought about recycling.

“I think it would be very good for the community,” said Emily Bowen, who was sitting in for Safety Service Director Dave Ferguson. “My parents do recycling.

“We don’t live in town and we go (to the big recycling dumpster at the park) at least twice a week.”

Treciak said people are busy these days and it is hard for many to transport their recyclables to a drop-off point. Having a bin people can fill up themselves and put on the curb for pickup is an easier alternative.

“I have seen communities where their recycling has doubled because they had these containers,” she said.

Student Joey Hunt, who sat in for Councilwoman Susan Abdella, said he was honored to sit in Monday and he had a great experience doing it.

“I am thankful for it,” he said. “It was neat to feel like I sort of had a little power. It was neat to see how everything in the city works together.”

Having the students present throughout the day provided a learning opportunity for them, Neff said.

“It gives them a little more hands-on experience in what it takes to run municipal government and make things happen,” he said. “People see things happening around the city. It all begins here with the legislative process.

“(Council members) are the decision makers for the city. These are the folks who make the decisions that affect the city,” Neff said.