ST. PARIS – Village council took steps to place a police levy on the Nov. 8 ballot during its last two meetings.
Prior to the June 20 meeting, council held a work session. Conversation involved staffing for the St. Paris Police Department and how a levy would help fund the department.
At the conclusion of the June 20 regular meeting, council agreed to request information from the county Auditor’s Office for a resolution for a levy on the November ballot. A St. Paris Police Fund would be established to pay salaries, wages, training, communications and other costs.
On Monday, council unanimously passed a resolution, 4-0, to certify the current tax valuation from the auditor’s office for a police levy. Council members Niven Jester and Larry Watkins were not present.
The resolution states the village would like to place a 4.9-mill police levy on the November ballot for motor vehicles, communications, other equipment, buildings, and sites for the operation of a police department, or the payment of salaries of permanent or part-time police, communications, or administrative personnel to operate the same including the payment of any employer contributions required for such personnel under state law.
If the levy passes, Village Administrator Joe Sampson said, it would support the police department for five years.
Prior to voting on the resolution, council was asked multiple questions about how the police department is impacting the budget.
During the June 20 meeting, council approved a resolution for supplemental appropriations to move money within the general fund to allow for the payment of wages to part-time police officers for hours completed.The minutes of the June 20 meeting state this year’s budget was modeled on last year’s original budget where the appropriations for the same fund needed to be increased due to a wage increase for part-time officers from $8 per hour to $10 per hour among other things.
Council approved moving $5,000 into this fund to take care of paying officers who had already worked as well as to keep enough funds available until the exact numbers could be worked and appropriations for the fund are straightened out for the rest of the year.
During the same meeting, council accepted resignation letters from Officers David Patrick, Cody Compton and Carter Jenkins.
On Monday, residents asked if there had recently been any changes that has prevented police officers from being paid.
Mayor Joe Reneer said prior to the housing crisis of 2008, the village had over $100,000 in additional funding coming into the general fund off of taxes. Since then, Reneer said the village has been squeaking by every year since trying to stretch every dollar.
In addition to part-time pay increases, council member Terry Ervin II said, other costs have increased including vehicle costs. He said one of the purposes of the levy is to hire another full-time police officer to provide better training, consistency and to improve the service citizens are receiving.
Council noted the department has two full-time officers and current Chief Jim Pence is set to retire on July 8. Pence was recently on medical leave leaving the department with one full-time officer.
“These guys who are here pulling all these shifts, working all these hours are doing a superb job,” Reneer said. “They’re doing an excellent job, but there are several of these officers who are working other jobs and they’re only working one day a month, two days a month. We want to provide the best service to the citizens of this village to where if you have a guy where this is his job – St. Paris (police department) is his job that’s what he does and you can get a better consistency, a better product from that police officer.”
Council accepts fiscal officer resignation
Council accepted a resignation letter from Village Fiscal Officer Penni Zerkle, effective immediately. Zerkle’s resignation letter was submitted on June 22.
Zerkle was appointed as the village’s full-time fiscal officer in January.
Later in the meeting, council approved a contract with Richard Ford for a temporary fiscal officer position. The contract states the term of service shall be until a permanent fiscal officer is appointed and trained and can take the responsibility over.
Compensation will be at a rate of $20 per hour for services rendered.
Council later authorized Sampson to advertise job openings for the village’s fiscal officer, mayor’s court clerk and village police chief.
Budget hearing scheduled for July 11
Council scheduled a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. on July 11 in the municipal building, 135 W. Main St. The purpose of the meeting is to hold a public hearing on the proposed 2017 budget.
Reneer asked that following the hearing, council hold a special meeting to address any issues that may arise.
In other action:
•Reneer thanked the Johnson-St. Paris Volunteer Firefighters Association for the June 25 fireworks show. He reminded residents that the show is funded through donations and asked residents to give whatever donations they can.
•Council tabled taking action on an ordinance that would put an electric aggregation issue on the November ballot until the July 18 meeting. Previously, council listened to a presentation from a representative from Affordable Gas and Electric on the topic during the June 6 meeting.
•Council approved shutting down a section of Springfield Street July 11-15 from 5:30 to 8:45 p.m. at the request of the Saint Paris First Church of God for Bible School.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.