By Amanda Ensinger
As a local township continues to search for candidates to fill the fire chief position, the board held a special meeting to discuss how the application process is going and candidates to consider.
At the special meeting, Franklin Township Trustee Aryeh Alex discussed that the township posted and published an ad requesting eligible applicants to apply for the position of fire chief due to the upcoming retirement of Chief James Welch in January 2022.
“The township did not receive any external applications but did receive one internal application from a qualified employee of the township,” Alex said.
Robert Arnold, who has been with the fire department for 18 years, applied for the position.
“He began as a firefighter and worked his way to a fire lieutenant in unit three,” said Franklin Township trustee John Fleshman.
The trustees were in agreement about Arnold and the talents he could bring to the table.
Arnold said that if they would consider him for the role as fire chief, he would first like to work as a captain before taking on the role. A captain reports directly to Chief Welch. Then upon Welch’s retirement, he would be promoted to fire chief.
The board unanimously approved naming Robert Arnold fire chief immediately following Welch’s retirement in January 2022. In the meantime, Arnold will be acting as interim fire chief.
The township plans a formal presentation when Welch retires and Arnold is sworn in as the new fire chief.
In other news, the board discussed the renewal of the engagement letter between Jeff Wilcheck and Franklin Township for accounting services. At a recent meeting, Wilcheck said to continue his work with the township he would want a $10 an hour wage increase. This would take his pay to $47.50 an hour.
The trustees said if they agreed to this hourly pay rate, Wilcheck would be the highest paid person at the township. When questioned why Wilcheck is asking for a 26 percent pay increase, Wilcheck attributed it to inflation.
“Even fast-food chains have gone to paying in excess of $15 an hour, which is substantial in today’s market,” Wilcheck said. “Many employers are offering sign-on bonuses and have raised their hourly rate of pay substantially.”
However, Franklin Township Fiscal Officer Nick Dunn thinks the township should approve the pay increase and continue to work with Wilcheck.
“There is still much work that needs to be done in connection to the audit and Jeff is working on the pension reports,” Dunn said. “The township will not be able to find someone who will work at this rate with his quality of work.”
However, when questioned further about research Dunn has done to see if the rates Wilcheck is asking for are in line with others, he said he has done some research, but admitted he has not called around to speak to anyone else about their rates.
Previously, residents questioned why the township was paying a contract employee when they could hire a part-time employee for significantly less.
Trustee Ralph Horn and Alex voted in favor of extending Wilcheck’s contract another 200 hours until Nov. 2, and paying him $47.50 an hour, while Fleshman said he couldn’t support it.
“I would have preferred to have offered 100 hours versus the 200 hours to have had more time to discuss this since there was no negotiation,” Fleshman said.