BUCKEYE LAKE – Monday night, Buckeye Lake Village Council members spent the majority of the meeting discussing providing raises to village employees. Much of the discussion focused on Buckeye Lake Fire Department personnel, beginning with one EMT’s wages in particular.
Council member Peggy Wells said she wouldn’t approve the treasurer’s report because of a payroll issue. She said an EMT-Basic was being a higher hourly rate than authorized by council ordinance.
“I object,” said council member Arletta Ruton, who believes such matters should be discussed in committee, not during a village council meeting.
Wells continued, saying she strongly supports providing village employees a raise. “But, I don’t know how you can justify” paying one person more than their pay grade. “I understand it’s been a real bone of contention in the fire department,” Wells said. She said she heard that fire department employees were told that they didn’t receive a raise because the village finance committee tabled the issue. Wells said she didn’t remember that happening and asked Buckeye Lake Fire Department Capt. Dave Ruton to address council and answer that question and explain why one basic EMT makes more money than others.
“Have you discussed this with the mayor,” Ruton asked. He said Mayor Clay Carroll could answer all her questions. “He knows all about it,” he said.
“Can we discuss this in committee, please,” asked council president Kitty Zwissler. She suggested the personnel and finance committees meet to discuss wages.
Ruton said the finance committee was asked about raises back in March when they were discussing the MARCS radio tower, but he never heard back from committee members. “That’s why I asked about it again,” he said.
Wells said for two years the basic EMT has been with the village fire department and paid at a higher rate than the other basic EMT’s. “So, that’s in conflict with the ordinance. Is that not correct?” she asked.
Ruton said it really wasn’t his place to say. He said he only recently learned of the error. Mayor Clay Carroll said the pay rate has now been adjusted to be in line with the ordinance.
“Can we send this to committee,” Zwissler reiterated.
Council clerk Valerie Hans told council members discussion was deviating too far from merely approving the treasurer’s report and she asked members to progress with the meeting. A motion to approve the treasurer’s report was defeated by a 5-1 vote, with council member Tim Ryan voting to approve.
Later in the meeting Ruton said people have commented it’s council’s fault fire department personnel have not received raises. “That’s correct,” he said, adding that every time the issue is brought forward, council members say the need to look at raises for all village employees before the fire department receives a raise. “That’s why they haven’t had a raise in five years,” Ruton said. “They truly deserve a raise.” He said, “I checked with a department that’s our direct competition and they start with $12 and end at $14 per hour…Buckeye Lake isn’t even close.”
“It doesn’t affect me,” he said; Ruton would not receive a raise with the rest of fire department personnel. “They need it; they deserve it. It’s not something we felt we wanted to do, we have to.”
Members of the finance and personnel committees agreed to meet June 29 to have an in-depth discussion about village employee wages.
Arletta Ruton said according to council rules it was improper for Dave Ruton to be called in front of council to answer questions. “What you did, Peggy, was completely uncalled for,” she said. “This should’ve been handled through the chain of command.”
In other council news:
• Council member Tom Wolfe said zoning inspector Rod Riley is doing a good job dealing with property owners who won’t maintain lawns according to village rules. Wolfe said he knows it’s an overwhelming job and there are more weedy properties to enforce. He asked Riley if the village could do anything to make his job easier.
Riley said he’s just issuing violation notices and following procedure; however, more money and a second zoning inspector would help. He said he and a new zoning inspector could divide the village between them, but the job is so difficult and low paying that new zoning inspectors don’t last long after they’re hired.
Zwissler said Riley only makes $250 per month to perform a tough job where he’s basically always on call. “I think you do a great job,” she said. “I think that’s slave wages.”
• Council members approved entering into an agreement with GGC Engineers to develop a rightof way cost reimbursement program that allows the village to be reimbursed by utilities for its costs to maintain these village-owned right-of-ways used by utility companies. Carroll said the Village of Lithopolis is doing so and collected roughly $37,000 in revenue last year. He thought Buckeye Lake might potentially collect more.
“I’d like to speak strongly in support of this,” Wells said. She said it’s a badly needed new revenue stream for the village.
Council member Tim Ryan wondered why the village was only considering partnering with GGC. He was concerned there was only the one choice. Zwissler was concerned it would take a long time for the village to receive the funds.
• Wells said she understood one of the Buckeye Lake fire trucks had to be used for a squad run because both the department’s ambulances were inoperable. She said one wouldn’t start and the other had brake issues.
Carroll said both ambulances have since been repaired.
• In his report, Safety Committee chair Bob Masone said he has made several calls to ODNR and ASI about how they are monitoring and regulating their fugitive emissions. So far he hasn’t received any definitive answers but will continue to pursue the issue.
• Carroll said the annual Lakefest was successful. He thanked Phantom Fireworks for donating the fireworks show. Carroll wants to keep Lakefest small until the state finishes construction on the Buckeye Lake dam, which is slated for 2019. Once the dam is complete, he would like to work on expanding Lakefest.
• Carroll said the village would receive flags to help celebrate Independence Day. He said both he and Wells each donated $100 toward the flags, and Carroll will create flagpoles.
• Carroll said paving repairs would begin soon on Central and Highland avenues.
• Carroll reported that the long awaited turnout gear for firefighters has arrived.
• “We have a problem with the restrooms at Ryan/Braden Park,” Carroll said. He said the new park restrooms are locked most the time, and even then, there have been two instances of people defecating on the restroom floor. “We don’t have someone to clean them,” he said. Carroll said whatever group is using the restrooms for an event should be responsible for at least assuring the restrooms are at the same level of cleanliness at the end of the event as they were at the beginning.
Zwissler said it’s sad the park finally has good restrooms and there are problems. She wondered if the Parks and Recreation Commission could hire someone to clean the restrooms.
Carroll said the commission has little money. He said it’s easy to find someone to open and lock the restrooms, but cleaning services want $225 per week to clean them. Council members agreed to seek a solution.
• Council members agreed by a 5-2 vote to transfer $5,000 from the computer fund to pay phone bills. Computer fund revenue comes from mayor’s court fees .The transfer was needed after Carroll agreed to pay about $5,800 in February for fraudulent phone calls made on the village phone system in November.
Before the vote, Wells asked what actions would be taken to seek recovery of the $5,800 theft of services. Council Clerk Valerie Hans said that Time Warner didn’t offer much hope in recovering any of the lost funds. Wells said, “I think we would be negligent if we didn’t pursue an official investigation now that we have the phone records to hand over.” She said, “It may not go anywhere and it may take a long time, but we should make the effort.”
President Kitty Zwissler suggested that the mayor write a formal letter of complaint to the attorney general’s office. The mayor agreed to submit a letter. Council members Tom Wolfe and Ryan voted ‘no’ on the transfer of funds.