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Dupler continues to attack fire department

MILLERSPORT – Walnut Township Trustee Sonny Dupler isn’t letting his tiny two-vote unofficial lead over Millersport Fire Chief Bill Yates temper his attacks on the department.

Dupler was in full attack mode at Tuesday morning’s trustees meeting. When the fire/EMS contract came up in old business, he said he had looked over the Thurston-Walnut Township Fire Department budget, while noting it requests $3,040 more for next year. Dupler quickly said he cut out the increase and then moved to approve $412,000 for the department.

When Trustee-elect Terry Horn asked him how this would affect the Millersport contract, Dupler said, “That will be looked at later.”

Trustee Ralph Zollinger seconded his motion and it was approved by a 2-1 vote with Trustee Wally Gabriel voting “no.”

Dupler acknowledged getting a budget from Millersport, but called it, “A bunch of numbers which really doesn’t tell you anything.” He then proceeded to compare some items with Thurston – $7,200 a year for the Millersport chief, nothing for the Thurston chief; $3,500 a year for Millersport officers, nothing for Thurston officers; and $10 an hour for Thurston wages versus $11 an hour for Millersport. “They have the same quality of personnel,” he claimed. “They should be paid equal.”

Dupler then quickly moved down a list of his cuts to the Millersport budget, including eliminating $8,000 for medications that he claims they can get for free; cutting equipment repair by $6,000; reducing copy machine and telephone expense; and reducing “excess fuel expense” caused by “running up and down the road.” His cuts totalled $76,528, leading Dupler to claim that, unless the department “does some stupid spending” in the last two months of the year, it will have enough money in carryover to pay for 24/7 coverage at Fairfield Beach without an increase.

“We will write the contract,” he emphasized. “We’ve done it in the past.” Dupler does want to add some type of stipulation that Fairfield Beach personnel stay on station unless they are on a run or participating in training. He wants some kind of dollar penalty to “shake them up a little bit.”

Dupler then asked Gabriel his thoughts. “I said my piece at the last meeting,” he told Dupler. Gabriel proposed accepting the Millersport contract proposal with some mutually agreeable changes and some language addressing on-station status for Fairfield Beach staff. His motion died for lack of a second.

Zollinger told Dupler he favored just a one-year contract rather than the three-year contract that all three trustees appeared to support before the election. He wants to look at a fire district next year.

Horn told trustees that his son works part-time for an area department and they get to go to lunch. He noted that the parttimers aren’t getting paid much and they deserve an opportunity to get out.

Dupler responded that his review of the department’s records show that 65-75 percent of the time when calls come in for Fairfield Beach the staff isn’t on-station. “If those (percentages) are wrong, the records are wrong,” Dupler said. When asked if the same penalty would apply to Thurston, he said the discussion wasn’t about Thurston. “We should be treating each the same,” Horn said. “But we are discussing Fairfield Beach station,” Dupler responded.

“Why don’t we pay for an independent audit on both departments on response time and availability.” Gabriel proposed. “Let’s do it independently.”

“You don’t have to go to that expense,” Dupler retorted. As Dupler continued to protest the need for an audit, Zollinger seconded Gabriel’s motion for the audit. It was approved unanimously. Since he is the only cur- rent trustee assured a post next year, Zollinger will head up the audit. That vote ended discussion of the contract.

In other business Tuesday morning, road supervisor Randy Kemmerer reported that the first phase – from the county line to Blacklick Road – to reconstruct Cherry Lane is nearly complete. The township’ narrowest road at 12-14 feet has been widened to a uniform 18 feet with two foot berms on each side. Seeding and mulching the new sloped ditches was done Monday. The last step is to line it which should be done this week if weather permits.

Trustees also unanimously agreed to use a $22,310.57 carryover in county funds for bridges and culverts to install guard rail on Deep Cut Road. Kemmerer isn’t sure how much it will cost to put guardrail on the canal side of the road from the Millersport limits to the big curve. He noted that the cost of guard rail on the Cherry Lane project was $12.50 per foot installed.

During public comments, Horn asked to be copied on emails and correspondence between now and when he takes office in January. “Welcome aboard,” Dupler told him.

Resident Richard Hill referenced an ad in The Beacon
for Union Township Trustee about franchising residential waste pickup. He complained about the high costs in the township plus the damage to the roads caused by the multiple waste trucks each week. Zollinger said it has been looked at previously, but agreed to “check into it.”

Trustees’ next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at the township offices. That’s also the deadline for the Fairfield County Board of Elections to certify the results of the Nov. 3 election. Yates said he’s heard there are 20-some provisional ballots to be reviewed plus the possibility of a few late arriving, but still valid, absentee ballots to be counted.

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