ST. PARIS – The village council accepted the resignation of council member Dave Palmer during Monday’s regular meeting.
The resignation was brought up by Mayor Joe Reneer during the “mayor’s notes” portion of the meeting.
Palmer had been on council since last August.
Reneer said council has 30 days to appoint a replacement. He said if anyone contacts him about the vacancy he would inform council at the next meeting.
Village Administrator Joe Sampson noted the council seat is up for re-election this November.
Council passes property sale ordinance
Council passed an ordinance authorizing advertising for bids for the sale of the village municipal building, 135 W. Main St., and police department headquarters,137 W. Main St.
The ordinance states the village desires to sell the real estate to the highest bidder, when an acceptable lease to own and joint occupancy contract has been accepted by council and after advertisement once a week for five consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation within the village.
A notice for bids document stated sealed bids would be received at the office of the administrator, 135 W. Main St., PO Box 572, St. Paris, Ohio 43072 until noon on April 28. The notice also states public bid openings will be held at the May 1 regular village council meeting at 7:30 p.m.
Council approved declaring the ordinance as an emergency measure by a vote of 4-1 with council member Tyler Adkins voting against it. Sampson said the ordinance was an emergency measure due to time restraints.
“By the time you do three readings it lays 30 days and then five weeks in the paper you’re getting clear out in the middle of summer,” Sampson said. “The last time we sold a piece of land it was told by the attorney that we were allowed to pass this on an emergency just to get the ball rolling.”
Sampson said at some point in the future the village might build another building, but for the time being village officials would stay in the municipal building as part of the joint occupancy contract.
The ordinance passed 4-1 with Adkins voting against it.
Village pay raises rejected again
Council again rejected four individual resolutions which would grant pay raises for village employees.
During the Feb. 6 meeting, resolutions which would authorize pay raises for four village employees were rejected by council. The resolutions proposed to give pay raises for office assistant Suzanne Oberly, streets, parks and land superintendent Diana Wallen, streets, parks and land employee James Copes and water and sewer department employee Ben Shuman.
During the March 6 meeting, council heard a presentation from resident Tim Bierbaugh comparing the salaries of the four village employees with those of employees in similar positions from other nearby villages. Council voted to table taking any action on pay raises during the meeting.
On Monday, four individual resolutions to grant pay raises for the respective employees were rejected 3-2 with council members Terry Ervin II, Niven Jester and Adkins voting against the raises and council members Jana Crawford and Lynn Miller voting for the raises.
Later during the public comments portion of the meeting, a resident asked the council members who voted against the raises why they voted the way they did.
Ervin said he voted against the raises because the information he found did not prove the village was ahead or behind the pay of other local villages.
“Right now the priority is the police department to get that up and running,” Ervin said. “I said it’s a matter of perception and the perception is if we were broke – which we were, we didn’t have enough money to run the police department – so we rescinded the tax credit. We’re not going to get all that money this year but I guess we’ll get caught up with it. I wanna get the police department up and running.
“The perception idea I think is important for two reasons: first off, if the money was set aside and was already planned, why weren’t they asking for the five percent pay raises while we were saying the police department is broke and we might have to get rid of it? It’s a matter of perception. The perception comes down to we’re going to be asking the village individuals to renew a street levy coming up not very long from now and if the perception is we just rescinded and got more money coming in pay raises for everybody, whether it comes out of different accounts or not, it’s taxpayer money they’re going to be looking at it like that.”
Ervin said he personally did not see a problem with a pay raise but said he probably would not vote for a five percent pay raise. He also questioned why Sampson was not included in the proposed pay raises.
“I had asked (Sampson) as a part of this and he said ‘no’ he doesn’t want one he wants to take care of his employees,” Reneer said in response to Ervin’s question.
Jester said his main concern is making sure the police department is running 24/7 and then the village can look at pay raises.
“Up until then I don’t think that’s something we need to be doing,” Jester said. “That was the whole purpose for rescinding the tax credit so let’s get the police department running 24/7, staffed with another full-time guy.”
Meeting suspended following argument
Prior to Ervin and Jester giving their reasons for voting against the raises, the meeting was temporarily suspended following an argument.
When asked why he voted against the proposed raises, Adkins said he voted that way because the village is paying contractors for work he felt village employees could do. He referenced a $4,000 bill for asphalt work last year and companies that were hired to address water main breaks.
“I’m paying contractors for work that our employees can do,” Adkins said. “That’s why I voted no.”
Reneer contended the village does not have the tools to do the work they hired companies to do.
“Keep in mind that we had an $8,000 bill we paid to the auditors because of Mr. Adkins,” Sampson said. “We also had about another $6,000 bill for attorney fees because of Mr. Adkins.”
Sampson was referencing Adkins turning him into the state auditor’s office which Sampson previously discussed during the Dec. 19, 2016, meeting.
“My findings to the state auditor were proven by the auditor,” Adkins replied. “I didn’t cost this village $8,000, I didn’t cost this village $6,000, that’s what you went out to protect yourself and get the attorney. Don’t blame me the auditor proved what I sent to them – unless you read the email that I sent to the auditor, don’t say a word because the auditor backed everything I said up.”
“What is it that you proved,” Sampson asked.
Adkins stated Sampson used water money to pay for sidewalks in the village.
“I’m not going to sit here and argue all night about what happened with the auditor, but you’ve accused me on several different times of using different water stuff for different bills it wasn’t supposed to be,” Sampson said to Adkins.
Sampson proceeded to present a pay request from Oct. 3, 2009, for $133,649.90 for a downtown project on Springfield Street. Sampson indicated Adkins signed the document.
As the argument between Sampson and Adkins continued, Reneer interjected to say he was allowing the conversation to continue to allow Sampson an opportunity to defend himself. After Adkins spoke during Reneer’s explanation, Reneer suspended the meeting and told everyone to leave the council room for five minutes.
Once the meeting resumed, Adkins was not present.
“The reason that I allowed this to go on this evening was because (Sampson) is my employee,” Reneer said. “I have asked him to bite his tongue for quite some time when snide comments have been made repeatedly, repeatedly and repeatedly. This evening he asked me – sitting here in front of everyone – ‘can I defend myself’ and I granted him that permission because for so long I’ve asked him to do it and there’s only so long you can ask someone to do that. I apologize to everyone in here that I had to get everyone out of here I apologize for that but I thought it was what was best at this situation.”
In other action:
•Reneer said he reached out to the director of the Graham Youth Athletic Association to inform them that the village is going to strictly enforce the no parking along Huffman Drive. Reneer said police are going to give warnings for drivers who violate this the first time and then proceed to giving parking tickets.
•Council authorized Sampson to enter into an a contract with A1 Able Pest Control for mosquito management services. The motion passed 4-1 with Adkins voting against it.
•The American Legion St. Paris, Post 148 will meet at 7 p.m. on April 12 at the municipal building.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.