By Amanda Ensinger
The Franklin Township trustees heard concerns from a resident regarding the new public participation policy at board meetings.
“We are being told we can only speak during certain times of the meeting. We are limited on when we can speak and when our questions will be addressed,” said township resident Mike Blevins at a recent meeting. “You have said you don’t have to answer our questions and we are being silenced.”
Blevins’ frustration with the board stems from new rules enacted for public comment during the meeting. In an attempt to gain more control of the meeting, as well as keep it moving forward, the board approved a measure allowing public comments at the end of each meeting.
“Residents can speak for three minutes and after they are done speaking, the board can address their questions if they would like,” board president Aryeh Alex said. “Residents also must sign in at the beginning of the meeting to speak at the end.”
Previously, residents were interrupting the board during meetings and causing the delays. The new system streamlines the process and allows the trustees to get through their materials before addressing the public’s concerns, leadership said.
The board also listened to a resident’s concerns about money owed from township departments to the general fund.
“At a previous meeting, the fiscal officer brought up that money was owed to the general fund from other departments, particularly the police and fire departments,” Blevins said.
“What is being done about this to ensure they pay these funds back to the general fund?”
According to Franklin Township Fiscal Officer Lisa Morris, the township’s fire department owes $383,000 to the general fund and the police department owes $326,000 to the general fund. These advances to the departments are from 2013 through 2018.
“The state auditor said this money needs to be paid back,” Morris said. “However, the board has asked me to postpone this pay back until they can speak with the auditor.”
According to trustee Ralph Horn, if the departments have to pay back the entire amounts they owe, it could cause severe strain on the departments.
According to Morris, the departments asked for the advances because they didn’t have enough money for payroll and bills at the beginning of the year before their tax money comes in. However, as the tax revenue came in, the amount they owed got larger and they didn’t have the funds to pay it back.
“The departments were supposed to pay it back within one year and that didn’t happen,” Morris said. “The auditor is now saying they need to start paying these advances back, starting with the older advances first.”
The departments are no longer supposed to ask for advances, Morris said.