Franklin Township residents questioned township trustees at their Oct. 16 meeting regarding the upcoming fire levy, police protection and how township meetings are publicized to the public.
Resident Troy Justus questioned spending $613 to get a scratch that damaged one of the fire trucks fixed during the September windstorm.
“I don’t care if the thing is brand new… We’re sitting here debating whether to spend $700 to fix a scratch. Is it functionally usable? Is it going affect anything other than your aesthetics when you polish it?”
Fire Chief Richard Howard acknowledged the scratch does not affect the functioning of the truck but did explain later on in the meeting that not fixing the scratch would eventually have consequences.
“If we don’t address fixing that, that cabinet is going to rust out. Now we have to spend a whole lot more money to keep it from getting worse to where you’re going to have to figure out how we’re going to pay to replace a $200,000 truck sooner than we had to,” said Howard.
Justus indicated that due to economic conditions in the country, he could not stomach the idea of paying more in taxes.
“I’m going to retire someday…and you are adding an additional levy on top of a levy. I guarantee you if we pass this, which I don’t think we will, the police will want an additional levy,” said Justus.
Justus questioned each of the trustees to ask if they were in “favor of raising taxes,” to which Trustee Paul Johnson said he did not see that as a yes or no question.
“I support a particular tax, such as the fire levy. I support that,” said Johnson.
“Well I’m going to be quite frank, it’s nobody’s business,” said Trustee Chairman Tim Guyton. “What I do behind the curtain is nobody else’s business.”
Guyton later clarified through an e-mail to the Messenger that he was not clear if Justus was asking Guyton whether he was in favor of raising taxes in general, in which his answer would have been no, or if he was asking Guyton how he was voting on the fire levy.
Guyton stated the trustees only made this decision after reviewing Howard’s budget for 2009.
Howard explained the levy will finance vital services to the community
“The fire department and police department, we’re on a fixed income, too. We only have the funds that you vote for us. The same things that’s hurting your pocket is hurting us. Fuel costs, utility costs,” said Howard.
Later, Justus questioned why the township police department only has one officer on certain shifts.
Guyton responded that it because of the police officers’ schedules and that the department currently is short two officers.
“It’s because of time off,” he added. “The staffing we have is for 12 total bodies and we are at ten. We have two positions that were vacated that we need to fill.”
“I think people in the town would be aghast if they knew that sometimes there’s only one cop on duty. We’re going to hear about how the road crew’s stretched and fire crew’s stretched because this township is so stretched. And yet we got one cop to cover such a stretched township. You guys gotta pick your poison,” said Justus.
Guyton said the township does have back up from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office if needed.
He explained later in an e-mail that if everyone comes on duty as scheduled there are always two officers on duty and sometimes there are three, but if someone calls off sick or has a vacation day, there is one officer on the shift.
Guyton stressed that is not the norm, but it is dependent on day-to-day attendance. He was not sure if there is anything that can be done at this point.
“Payroll is our biggest expense. The levy, which just passed one year ago, would not support additional manpower and if we did decide to hire more officers, we would end up having to go back to the public sooner than planned for more levy money,” said Guyton.
In other township news, resident Mary Neymeyer questioned the method the township uses to publicize special meetings because she did not see anything was posted regarding the Oct. 14 special meeting.
“It’s on your door, but when your men passed out their literature on Saturday afternoon, which included this newsletter, along with the information on the fire levy, nothing was mentioned to us about the special meeting on Tuesday night,” said Neymeyer.
Guyton said the newsletter was drafted prior to a decision to have the special meeting and no one in the township is aware of or required to tell people about township meetings other than township trustees.
“We post all our meetings, we have to,” said Guyton.
Neymeyer said the meeting was also not posted on the Web site, so the only way township residents would know about the meeting is if they check the door for the township hall every day.
Guyton said the special meeting was discussed at the last regular trustees meeting on Oct 2.
“We don’t have anything to hide. I acknowledge what you said about the Web site. That’s an error on our part. We have just started using our Web site on a more frequent basis, so we should be utilizing it more,” said Guyton.
Guyton said the main method the trustees have to communicate with the residents is through local newspapers, the township newsletter and to post a sign on the door.
Later, Guyton said the trustees are required to post a special meetings 24-hours ahead of time and that the notice should include the date, time and topic of the meeting.