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Fire chief believes village is ‘out of the woods’ on 1500 hour limit



MILLERSPORT – Fire Chief Bob Price told village council members Tuesday night, “I think we are out of the 1500 hours woods.”

His optimism came out of a meeting last week with fire service attorney Larry Bennett of Cincinnati. Mayor Gary Matheny, Village Administrator Vince Popo and the village solicitor also attended the meeting.

The issue is an annual limit in the Ohio Revised Code of 1,500 hours for a part-time government worker. Some part-time firefighters/ EMTs started getting close to that threshold last month. Their cut-back in hours or unavailability, coupled with the loss of about six part-timers to full-time positions elsewhere, has made it difficult to recently staff the Fairfield Beach station 24/7.

Price said Bennett questions whether the 1,500 limit even applies to villages. The provision was enacted to address the part-time status of some township road workers. The Ohio Attorney General has not rendered an opinion on its scope or applicability.

Price was advised to write an administrative directive that the department will not schedule anyone beyond 1,500 hours in a year. However, part-timers wanting to work more than 1,500 hours in a calendar year will be able to sign up on the village’s monthly schedule, provided they have completed a waiver that they understand they are not eligible for any benefits including vacation and sick pay. “I think it is good news,” Price added. The department has also added about a dozen “very green” new part-timers in the last month or so, Price said. Until they get some experience, they will be scheduled very carefully, he told council members.

In other business Tuesday night, council members decided to take some time before hiring a firm to help them design an upgraded streetscape. Millersport is splitting a $250,000 state grant with the Village of Buckeye Lake for streetscape improvements. The allocation was included in the state’s recent capital budget to help the two villages cope with the effects of the Buckeye Lake dam replacement.

GGC Engineers, who have served as the village’s engineering consultants for years, submitted a nearly $60,000 proposal to develop a streetscape design and prepare grant applications for additional funds. Principal Mike Carder wanted to get started right away in order to meet the early October deadline for Ohio Public Works Commission grants.

Carder broke out the project into three phases. The first would be an OPWC grant to cover the safety improvements, then federal Transportation Alternatives Program funding for the “artsy” stuff and hopefully a third phase using Neighborhood Revitalization funds to extend the project from Lynn Avenue north to Lieb’s Island Road.

However, a Neighborhood Revialization grant is dependent on the village conducting an extensive income survey to demonstrate that it meets the required threshold of at least 51 percent low to moderate income.

After considerable discussion, council members, with Matheny’s support, opted to get started right away on the income survey to see if Neighborhood Revitalization funds can even be part of the package. A total of 247 specific addresses have been randomly selected by a computer. Survey rules require that they start at the top of the list and work down it even if that means frequently crisscrossing town.

Residents at the selected addresses will be asked to write down their address and then check an income box that is closest to the total household income. No names will be listed on the cards and all individual information is strictly confidential. Council members Donna Thogmartin, Beth Warner and Linda Willison have volunteered to do the door-to-door work. A minimum of 151 surveys must be completed to have a valid data base. Failure to get a minimum 151 sample or an average of less than 51 percent low or moderate income will mean the village is ineligible for a Neighborhood Revitalization Grant.

Several council members said they wanted to determine the eligibility issue before agreeing to spend nearly 50 percent of their awarded grant on design. Carder said the design work would have to start around January 1 to meet the April 1 application deadline for TAP funds.

In his report, Police Chief Mark Consolo said June was another relatively quiet month. He said reserve or unpaid officers donated 138 hours in June. Later in the meeting, he was asked whether a $300 clothing allowance after a volunteer officer has worked a year would help retain reserve officers. He thought it would help, noting that equipment/uniforms can cost a volunteer officer more $1,000 without considering the cost of a firearm. “Honestly, I think we need two more part-time positions,” Consolo told council members. “We can’t schedule reserves.” Reserves are required to donate 16 hours a month but that time has to be done around their full-time jobs.

In his report on the water and sewer departments, Popo reeled off a list of things that need to be done. The temporary iron filter that the village is renting while the existing iron filter is removed and replaced has arrived. He said the water plant’s plans called for two iron filters, but only one was installed. The temporary plant will require new electrical service but that could then be used for a second filter if they decide to install one.

Two wells are being cleaned at a cost of $15,000, but now they will be ready to be used if needed. Two pumps had to be replaced after they were damaged by improperly sized electrical service. The village still has some four digit water meters in service while the standard is now eight digits. Popo also noted that some village water lines can’t support fire hydrants since they are just two inch lines. A minimum of four inches is needed to support hydrant flow.

“We’re going to get this all taken care of,” he said. “We don’t want to kick the can further down the road.”

Popo also reported receiving an inquiry last week about selling the site of the now closed pool. The prospective purchaser wants to build three homes in the area. While the question of the ownership appears to have been resolved, the land isn’t in the village. There have been some reports that the land would revert back to the Lions Club when the pool was closed.

“It was sold to us for a dollar,” Matheny said. “We (including longtime Lions Club members) can’t find anything that says it goes back to them,” Popo added. “We’ve got a deed,” Matheny said. He also addressed some of the criticism about closing the 45-year old pool. “We were told that our license would be pulled if we opened up,” he said. “We did not have a choice.” He noted that Popo and few others including himself had spent a lot of time and effort in recent years trying to keep the pool open.

Matheny said the new BMX bike tracks along Deep Cut Road behind the water treatment plant were finished Monday. “I think it turned out really well,” he said. The entire $2,500 out-of-pocket cost has been covered by donations and fundraising efforts. Matheny said they need more water pressure out of the temporary storage tank to keep up with track maintenance.

He also briefly outline his goals for the next 3.5 years of his term:

• Streetscape project;

• New fire station and equipment; both tankers have been out of service with major leaks;

• Downtown parking lot with gazebo;

• Replace the tennis courts with basketball courts with the lights on timers; and

• Progress on storm sewers.

“These are on the top of my list,’ he said.



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