FT trustee questions use of township vehicle

Franklin Township Trustee Don Cook and Franklin Township Fire Chief Richard Howard clashed at the Aug. 21 trustees’  meeting over the use of a township vehicle.

Cook contends he and Howard had an agreement that Cook’s support of the levy was dependent upon the township’s fire prevention officer, who lives in Zanesville, getting mileage reimbursement instead of using a township vehicle in the course of his employment.

"He assured me when we were doing the levy that if I got on board, he would stop the car from going to Zanesville and I said okay," said Cook.

Howard denies there was any such arrangement between them.

"This is an issue he’s been fighting for eons. There was never an agreement. What I have is, I have a prevention officer and a fire investigator and as long as an investigator has existed, he has taken a car home because he’s on call 24-7. It’s required by law I have someone who can investigate fires," said Howard.

Cook said he understands that the concept of Home Rule in Ohio allows people to live outside the area in which they are employed, even if the job is tied to the government, but Cook says his concern is the extra wear and tear on the township vehicle from extensive driving. He says a better alternative is to reimburse the fire prevention officer at the state rate of 50 cents per mile, which Cook believes is the standard government rate.

"You just pay the mileage, that’s it. They take care of the car and do the maintenance. Here we do the maintenance, oil changes; we just put new tires on it. Anything it needs," said Cook.

Trustee Tim Guyton said it is not cost-effective to reimburse mileage to the fire inspector, rather than allowing him use of a township car.

"We have discussed the issue of the fire prevention officer/inspector driving the car back and forth to Zanesville for the last two years. The numbers that Chief Howard ran before reflected a cost savings to the township to continue the process versus paying mileage and overtime. Chief Howard is going to revisit the numbers, but I am guessing the answer will come back the same way," said Guyton.

Cook also says the trend in other areas is not to let the cars go home with the employees.

"When you’re reading in the paper, Columbus has stopped this and the county has stopped letting people drive the car home," said Cook.

Howard countered that the right questions were not asked for those areas Cook mentioned.

"If you ask how many people allow their arson investigator take home a car, out of 20 [fire departments], 18 are taking them home," said Howard.

Howard said he is not opposed to the idea of the fire prevention officer getting reimbursement instead of using the township car.

"If it proves prudent that he doesn’t get the car because it’s more expensive for him to do that, then we’ll reimburse him but that’s something that the board said we weren’t going to do until we had the facts and figures," said Howard.

Due to the rising cost of gas, Howard said he is in the process of refiguring the number to see what benefits the township the most, but he will need time to get that information to the trustees.

"It’ll take me a couple months. I don’t know why he (Cook) is in a hurry to do this," said Howard.

Cook said his point is to ensure constituents support the levy in November.

"If people know we’re cutting costs and we’re getting by on as little as we can, they’ll support it. If we’re paying to let someone drive to Zanesville, we must not need the money," said Cook.

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