FT still debating fire vehicle

Franklin Township Trustee Tim Guyton and Fire Chief Richard Howard are trying to quell residents’ concerns about the cost associated with the fire prevention officer/investigator’s commute. Their message is that the township is not spending money recklessly.

The issue of the officer, who lives in Zanesville and drives a township car to and from work, was brought up at the Sept. 4 meeting when Howard assured trustees he would have the official cost comparison of letting the investigator continue to use his car versus reimbursing him mileage. The issue was originally brought up in an August meeting.

"I will get the information, that’s what the board’s request was and we’ll go from there. Again, I’m not in favor of spending any extra money that’s not needed to be spent and we’ve been really frugal with our money," said Howard.

Guyton said this issue has been mulled over before numerous times and the results are always the same.

"There were no agreements made from the board to the chief on this car. In the past it was decided, based on the facts presented, that it was more cost effective to continue the process that’s been in place forever," said Guyton. "That being said, it’s my opinion we have never wasted money on this fire prevention vehicle because it’s always proven cheaper to run the way it’s running."

Trustee Don Cook has argued that his vote to put the levy on the ballot was contingent upon the investigator getting mileage reimbursement instead of driving a township car to Zanesville, but Guyton said either way, Cook cannot decide these things on his own.

"My point with Don thinking he had an agreement is that it doesn’t matter if he has an agreement or not. It takes two trustees to make changes like this, and there are not presently two trustees on board who want this change," said Guyton.

Cook said his reasoning for not wanting the 1997 Jeep Wagoneer driven back and forth to Zanesville every day is due to fuel costs and wear and tear on the vehicle.

"They need a new car next year; if he wasn’t driving it the last two and a half years to Zanesville, it would’ve lasted another five years," said Cook.

Cook said the previous figures Howard provided in the past did not include wear and tear.

According to Guyton, those figures were based on the state mileage reimbursement rate.   

According to Chuck Stang, administrator for the fleet of vehicles for the state of Ohio, the state reimbursement rate is 50 cents per mile and does include everything associated with the care of the vehicle.

"It really goes towards the cost of ownership, which is pretty much everything – fuel, oil, maintenance," said Stang.

Howard said it is about 120 miles round trip "plus or minus" for the investigator everyday. He has a four-day work week and the amount spent for fuel by itself was between $2,700 and $2,800 from January to August, but the figures for maintaining the vehicle are not yet available.

Cook’s argument is that other townships do not let their fire investigators take their cars home, although some neighboring departments had varying replies.

Chief David Long from Norwich Township said he has a team of people that are trained as fire investigators and they do let those employees take their cars home, but only if they live in what is considered the "service area," which is a 20-mile radius from the township.

"One of them has a car. The one guy not in the area doesn’t get a car because he lives too far," said Long.

Chief Steve Feustel from Prairie Township said they do not let their investigators take home vehicles because most do not live in the township. Their investigators are paid a mileage reimbursement if they have to drive in more than 20 miles.

Howard said people do not realize that the investigator also does pro-bono work for the township, such as assisting township administrators with computer programming.

"I spent two hours with him on the phone to get our computers back online. That saved the township from bringing in our computer company to do it for $100 per hour. He didn’t charge anything. He does programming, which is (normally) paid out of the fire fund. He’s helped Chief Castle with his new radio equipment and new computer equipment for his cars. Again, these are things that are taking up time from him doing his job," said Howard.

Cook said he is not convinced.

"I give you one last word; I campaigned for this job door-to-door and told people what my feelings where and that I would represent them. And if it continues that the car goes to Zanesville, I will campaign door-to-door against it," said Cook.

Howard said Cook is only hurting the township if he pursues that course of action.

"You’ve not only hamstrung the township people from not getting a service that they need, but you’re actually costing the people more because you’re causing that person to get paid more to do their job," said Howard.

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