Athens And OU Plan Town Hall Meeting In Light Of Palmerfest Riot

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Athens officials and Ohio University administrators say they are planning a town hall meeting to discuss student and community relations, just days after a fire broke out during the annual block party known as Palmerfest.

While the meeting is not yet official, it is expected to take place next Wednesday evening on campus.

Ron Lucas, deputy service-safety director, said it's obvious the Athens community is disappointed in the behavior of the fest's participants.

"That's not our community," he said. "That's not the window that we want to keep open for people to look into us and see. We're better than that. And the vast majority of the people who live here understand that, and the events that occurred this past weekend do not represent this community."

Lucas and Ohio University President's Chief of Staff, Becky Watts, were part of a meeting Tuesday afternoon. Watts said they have these kind of meetings all the time to better relations between Athens and OU. She said what happened at Palmerfest has damaged the reputation of both.

"We need to be sure folks understand what it means to be a member of this community and the kinds of expectations that we have for friends and neighbors who live alongside each other," she said.

John Hicks, an OU student who lived in one of the four one-bedroom apartments in the house at 11 Palmer St., said the residents won't be able to move in for another two or three months.

Hicks says he will live with friends while the house is uninhabitable.

"As far as me couch surfing until the lease at my new place starts in July, it's really uncomfortable," he said. "Not only that, but you never really feel, even though it's your friend's house and you can relax and everything, it's not your house at the end of the day."

The basement fire at the Palmer Street residence was ruled arson this week.