Athens And OU Officials Encourage Better Behavior At Spring Fests

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About 100 Athens community members and Ohio University students gathered on campus Wednesday evening for a town hall meeting about the city's spring street festivals.

The meeting came after a house caught fire at Palmer Fest two weeks ago and disruptive crowd behavior caused city officials to declare a riot.

Ohio University President Roderick McDavis, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl and local fire and police officials were at the meeting and hosted a community forum.

McDavis and Wiehl expressed disappointment for the outcome of Palmer Fest and encouraged students to respect the community at this weekend's Mill Fest.

"What matters is what we can do together as adults in this community to help these students understand what being a citizen is all about," said McDavis. "That it's not about me, it's about us. That it's not about I, it's about we. When we can help young people understand that it's about us, that it's about we, then we will have accomplished a great deal."

The university says it has created a new task force aimed at keeping this weekend's festival under control. At least 150 OU students have volunteered to be part of the "green team."

Student volunteers will wear an OU staff t-shirt and hat and will be matched with faculty or staff.

They are tasked with providing help when needed and will serve as a "conduit to police."

Volunteers will also receive a $50 gift card to Baker University Center and free food for their efforts.

In an email to students, OU Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi said the fests have been "an issue of great concern" for the Athens community and the university.

OU and city officials at the town hall meeting also discussed their plans to appropriately handle the fests next year, including the possibility of the city deciding to officially sanction the events.