The traditional ball drop that heralds the new year in Yellow Springs is officially sanctioned for the first time in the village, where police and citizens clashed during the last New Year’s Eve celebration.
Miami Twp. Fire and Rescue is officially sponsoring the event and their equipment − along with the village’s public works truck − will be on-hand to block traffic on U.S. 68 as 2017 comes to an end Sunday night.
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The road is expected to be blocked to traffic from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., or when the crowd disperses, said Miami Twp. Fire Chief Colin Altman.
In years’ past, U.S. 68 traffic was blocked by a barricade or two as residents gathered to watch the ball drop and celebrate with friends and family.
This year the fire equipment will provide a more secure blockade to motorized traffic, and the hope is the event will be as fun and “family-friendly” as it always has been, said Police Chief Brian Carlson. “We want to bring back the way it used to feel for everybody,” Carlson said. “Last year was kind of a fluke.”
Last year as people continued to celebrate after the ball drop, a near riot ensued as police attempted to clear the streets using cruisers, sirens and Tasers.
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The incident drew harsh criticism from residents, who attended village council meetings by the dozens in an effort to push for a change in policing procedures.
Change came swiftly, as then Police Chief David Hale resigned his post within days in an effort to “heal the rift” that developed between the community and its residents. Carlson was subsequently named interim chief and was made permanent for the position months later.
Two police officers who were working that night are no longer employed by the village. Officer Allison Saurber resigned her position in February, citing differences of opinion on police procedures, and Officer R.J. Hawley’s employment ended with a separation agreement in May.