Fire chief presents vehicle expenses to FT trustees

Tempers ran high at a special meeting held by the Franklin Township Board of Trustees on Oct 14.

Trustee Don Cook and Fire Chief Richard Howard remained at a stalemate on the issue of the use of the township car that the fire prevention officer/investigator uses to go back and forth from his home in Zanesville to Franklin Township.

Howard presented some calculations for the current usage versus reimbursing the officer for mileage and overtime, which Howard said are based on gas receipts and maintenance bills for the car from April 5, 2006, to Aug. 31, 2008.

Howard said gas costs for that time totaled $7,036. Maintenance and repairs totaled $3,816 but Howard said these expenses should be pro-rated since the fire department received the vehicle from the township police department.

“The fire prevention guy has invested 33 percent of the mileage in the vehicle. So major mechanical repairs are pro-rated based on the fact that the police department used the car 66 percent,” said Howard.

The amount of the repairs and maintenance that are attributed to fire department use are $1,758. Of that figure, Howard said 85.2 percent accounted directly to the investigator driving roundtrip between Zanesville and Columbus, so the wear and tear then goes down to $1,498.

“That 85.2 percent is the actual additional cost that that vehicle has incurred due to his taking it home. The other mileage would be considered other duty-time mileage,” said Howard.

An example of “duty-time mileage” is when the investigator is called to the scene of a fire. The total then is $8,534 over the course of 29 months with an average monthly amount of $294.

Howard said if the investigator had to be reimbursed for just the mileage and any associated overtime, the price tag would be $12,013. The amount of reimbursement for mileage and overtime when the investigator is responding to an on-call fire is $4,180.
Howard also included mileage for the investigator to drive to various trainings and meetings in places like Reynoldsburg and Mt. Gilead at $2,185. If he was not reimbursed for driving to these meetings and drove the township car instead the total would be $9,827, but Howard thinks the mileage reimbursement is justified.

“It’s not figured, but he’d have to drive the car there and then driving it back, in which the township would incur extra mileage instead of just driving it home. And if there would be extra time involved, it could involve overtime,” said Howard.

Cook said he does not trust the figures that Howard provided.

“You’re saying for 2006, 2007 and 2008 he only spent $7,036 dollars?” said Cook.

Cook said if he assumed 20 miles per gallon at $3 a gallon for 130 miles it should be $3,800 for 48 weeks of gas.

“Now wait a minute, for all of 2006 we were under contract for $1.95 a gallon. The second year, the first half was $2.38, the second half was $2.74, and from January till the end of August it was $3.11, so if you average it out it’s not $3 a gallon,” said Howard.

Howard explained the township has a contract that allows them to pay a discounted rate for fuel.

Cook disputed the 66 percent Howard is attributing to the police department as well.

“If you didn’t drive the car the amount of miles you’re driving it today, a lot of this stuff wouldn’t be there; you can’t put 60 percent of the maintenance back into the police department,” said Cook.

Howard disagreed and said he is just demonstrating which part of the maintenance fees are due to wear and tear from driving the car to Zanesville and which are not the investigator’s responsibility.

Howard emphasized to the trustees and the public that there were no deals between he and Cook to stop the investigator from using the car in exchange for Cook’s support on the levy, which Cook denied.

“I’m telling you he told me that he would do it,” said Cook.

Trustee Tim Guyton told Cook that trustees cannot make agreements without a majority vote of the trustees.

“You can’t go out and make deals and present it to the media like the board is saying these things because the board never ever went out to the union and asked for a meeting to alter the contract,” said Guyton. “It doesn’t matter what he told you, it doesn’t matter what you said, it’s what the majority of the board says.”

Guyton stressed that the reason for the delay in presenting the figures is that Guyton asked Howard to gather more information.
“Howard’s been asked for additional information by me, compounded by the fact he has to run his department on a day-to-day basis so some of this stuff had to fit in when time allowed. I never asked him to delay the information, to prolong the inevitable, to postpone until after the levy or anything that was alleged by Mr. Cook,” said Guyton.

Information Guyton requested included how many other townships allowed employees to take a vehicle home. Howard found only seven out of 16 townships let cars go home, but Howard said six of those seven do not have mileage restrictions on their vehicles.

“As you know, all departments function different ways. They’re funded by more money or less money than we are so that makes a difference in how we operate our department,” said Howard.

“Most township residents don’t know a lot about the car, but the little bit I do know, I think it’s way off base,” said resident Anita Justus. “This whole township has people that work outside of this jurisdiction and they have to provide their way to and from work. They’re struggling. Who isn’t at this point in time?”

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