Standing on Main Street in downtown Alexandria, you can spot the local coffee shop, post office, art gallery, museum and village offices in one glance. With just 530 residents, Alexandria is one-stoplight town between New Albany and Newark.
That’s an attractive quality to Wes Roseberry, who left Grandview for the country two and a half years ago.
“We wanted that Andy Griffith kind of white picket fence life for our children,” Roseberry said.
And he found it in this Licking County town.
“We have chili cook-offs here in the village, we do a Santa parade during Christmas. I think a lot of it has to do with the identity of the village,” Roseberry said. “A lot of people love having this small village.”
Alexandria has one of the oldest government charters in the state, dating back to 1830. But that charter might soon go away. The Village Council voted last December to put an issue to dissolve, or unincorporate, on the May 8 ballot.
Alexandria has been hurting since former village fiscal officer Laura Vanscoy Andrews was charged with embezzling more than $167,000. Last November, she was sentenced to four years in prison. Now, the village must decide how to move forward.
"Nothing Efficient About It"
Former mayor Stan Robinson led the petition effort to dissolve and become part of neighboring St. Albans Township.
“The village government is just a mom and pop organization trying to compete with Walmart. There’s just nothing efficient about it,” Robinson said. “It’s just an overwhelming form of government for 200 houses. It should be controlled by the township. It’s just a duplication of services, a layer of government that just isn’t profitable or even reasonable.”
Part of the reason for Alexandria’s struggles lie with Robinson. As mayor in 2012, he refused to hold mayor’s court because he had a day job. That pushed the police chief to resign and then led to the departure of the entire police department.
“I was an over-the-road truck driver and I’m not here often enough to conduct mayor’s court,” Robinson said. “And mayor’s court in the past had been pretty bogged down with scandal.”
Despite his history with the village and his leading the effort to dissolve, Robinson ran again for mayor last year.
“My goal is the efficient use of tax money and to do it as mayor, I would be willing to do that,” Robinson said. “Or dissolve the village, then it will be automatically taken care of.”
"People Wasn't Being Heard"
Robinson lost last year’s election, though, to Jim Jasper. Jasper wants the village to be preserved, but he helped lead the petition effort to put the measure on the ballot.
“I began campaigning, if you will, last October to put it on the ballot. I felt that was some of the issue, that people wasn’t being heard,” Jasper said. “And they needed to be heard. One hundred forty signed something, you need to listen and it needs to happen.”
Jasper sees the vote as a way to become more responsive to residents’ complaints. They’re building a new public parking lot with 16 spots downtown and hope to have a functioning police department by the summer. They're also planning to post court records online.
“My biggest concern is the way cities and municipalities around us are growing. New Albany’s coming towards us,” Jasper said. “And I love New Albany, it’s a great town. But New Albany’s coming towards us quickly.”
Jasper sees a vote to keep the village in place as a way to stand their ground against the encroaching city.
“I’m certain when any of these municipalities get closer to us, they’ll be looking to annex,” Jasper said. “They’ll start annexing St. Alban’s Township and eventually take over our village and partially, if not mostly, for our sewer plant.”
No Concrete Answers
The village faces a huge vote in two weeks, but for now, life carries on. Steve Baldwin is putting the finishing touches on a new downtown boutique. He also created a Facebook page to support keeping the village in place.
“Having people stop, having people live here, pay rent, purchase local goods, is what it’s all about,” Jasper said.
Baldwin worries what a vote to dissolve would even look like.
“If it becomes dissolved, there hasn’t been any concrete answers as far as who’s gonna take this over, who’s gonna take that over, how is St. Alban’s Township going to pay for that, do they have to hire more people or add services and where does that money come from?” Baldwin said.
It’s hard to know what a post-charter future would look like since the current mayor hasn’t looked into it.
“If 340 people come out to the polls and vote to unincorporate, then I’ll support it because that’s what our government’s all about," Jasper says. "It’s by the people for the people. If 15 people come out and unincorporate the village, I’ll be very disappointed because that’s not the voice of the people.”