BUCKEYE LAKE – Buckeye Lake’s Charter Review Commission proposed some changes at Monday night’s council meeting, but not too many.
“We want to be sure we don’t have too many changes to turn voters off from all the changes,” said commission secretary and former Buckeye Lake Mayor Frank Foster. Commission members gave a preview of their proposed changes priortoa6p.m.meetingonMonday, May 6, where they plan to complete their recommendations. The proposed changes will ultimately be submitted to Buckeye Lake Village voters at the November election.
Foster said first, the commission wants the charter to allow the mayor – with council’s approval – to appoint one person to manage several village departments and combine those departments if possible. “It doesn’t require it; it allows them to do it,” Foster explained. That change could reduce personnel costs. Currently, the charter requires separate individuals to head each department, such as the finance, public works, police, fire, and development departments.
Another proposed change would allow the mayor to add additional requirements to a department head position if it helps the mayor to combine department head duties.
Commission chair Annetta Macedonia said another change would allow non-residents to serve on commissions such as planning, and parks and recreation. Macedonia said non-residents could never make up the majority of a commission’s membership. She said the change would expand the base to select members.
Another proposed change, Macedonia said, would remove the requirement that the planning commission meet once per month. In other council news:
• Former council member Brenda Hileman told council she was disappointed that no village officials attended Hebron’s ribbon cutting ceremony and open house for its renovated and expanded fire station last Saturday afternoon. “I thought that was kind of rude,” she said.
• Most comments from the public and council members concerned the fire department. An extensive and continuing investigation by The Beacon revealed large gaps in the department’s scheduling and management of its part-time paid staff that continues to affect response times and patient care.
Former council member Peggy Wells said a part-time employee that is on paid administrative leave from Hebron for medical reasons was scheduled to work 12 shifts in May. She said having him on duty under those conditions represents a tremendous liability to the village, the staffer and any one needing medical help.
Wells added that the leadership knew about his status but scheduled him to work anyway. “They don’t care about their duties to village taxpayers or patients. They just want to fill slots on a schedule,” she said.
Wells said Mayor Rick Baker was tipped off about the issue and the individual is off the work schedule. She asked, “ What are the consequences for putting this individual and all of us at risk due to his medical condition?” She said it was another example of what has been going on for months and months. Wells called on the mayor to hold department leadership accountable.
Wells added that, “Hebron has given us an excellent offer. It’s time to put patients first and get the deal done with Hebron,”
Regarding the fire department, former council member Donna Thompson said, “I don’t want someone to make decisions for me. I want to make my own,” adding that she didn’t want Wells to decide the fire department’s fate.
A part-time employee and volunteer said, “Give some support to the fire department. It’s sad having people say it’s a bad department. I’ll support it no matter what.”
“We have a good fire department,” said council president Charlene Hayden, adding that all the controversy surrounding it is a “shame.”
Council’s newest member, Mickey McCormick, said, “I don’t go back far enough to understand all the drama with the fire department… If there is a problem with Mr. Leindecker, we need to address it but do we have someone really qualified to take over. We can’t get rid of someone if we don’t have someone to take over.”
She asked, “Have we really talked to him and explained to him what we need him to do? Is he just not doing what we ask him to or are we not giving him the help that he needs?”
“I really should bite my tongue but I’m not going to,” Council member Barry Herron said. “I really agree with Peggy Wells in regard to certain things about the fire department… about schedules and there’s definitely some leadership issues that need to be addressed.”
He continued, “I sat with several members of this council in a meeting with Pete Leindecker a few weeks ago and I’ll be quite honest with you, I am not Pete Leindecker’s biggest fan. There are other people on this council that are. I’m not. But I’m also not of the persuasion that The Beacon is and Peggy Wells is that the fire district is the best option for this village.. (Editor’s Note: Neither The Beacon nor Wells support a fire district. We support a contract with Hebron.)
Herron continued, “And mark my words, Hebron cannot run this fire department on $225,000. They can’t do it. And two years from now if we go to a fire district with Hebron or Millersport or Heath, two years from now .. three years from now, they’re goin’ be screaming and we’re goin’ all of a sudden see an 8 mill levy jammed down our throat because they can’t offer the service that we need for this village.”
He concluded, “We need to decide what we want and what we can afford and we need to quit bickering amongst ourselves and calling each other (names). It just drives me nuts that people are so disrespectful to other people. It’s crazy! We’re all adults…”
Baker said Tuesday that he understands people are becoming impatient with the process of exploring EMS options. “We’re talking about multiple people involved with this,” he said. Baker said every option must be weighed and the process moves slowly. “We have to run it through all its phases,” he said, adding there are many committees and contracts involved as well. He said the village administration supports the fire department. “We just want to do what’s right,” said Baker. “We’ll put our numbers together, our heads together, and see what will work.”
Baker also said the village may begin soft billing within a month. “Soft billing” for EMS services means the department will accept whatever it receives from insurance companies for patient transports. There’s no balance billing or co-pay, there are no charges for uninsured residents, and there’s a provision for waiver in case of hardship. . Unpaid bills will be written off.