Trustees debate hiring township administrator


By Amanda Ensinger
Staff Writer

The Franklin Township trustees are considering bringing on a township administrator. In order to fund this position, the trustees decided to make cuts elsewhere.

At a special meeting held earlier this month, the board approved legislation to eliminate the position of administrative coordinator, held by Jessica Rice. The trustees also approved a resolution to remove funding to pay the assistant fiscal officer and redirect those funds to be utilized for a future township administrator. The assistant fiscal officer position was held by Robyn Watkins.

During the regular board meeting, Franklin Township Fiscal Officer Lisa Morris questioned the legislation.

“The auditor has said I need full-time staff and part-time help, yet they are removing an item that pays the only help I have,” said Morris. “This department is the heart of the township and with the passing of this resolution, I once again have no help, leaving everything on me.”

Trustee Aryeh Alex, who proposed the hiring of a township administrator, said the ending of the administrative coordinator position and removing funding for the assistant fiscal officer simply has to do with the township’s need to hire a township administrator sooner rather than later.

“We have lost out on a variety of economic development in the township because we don’t have a professional,” Alex said. “We lack the strategic leadership and need someone who is an expert. We want to protect the township and the city is aggressively annexing the township. If we don’t move forward with hiring someone, we will get left behind.”

Alex also cited Westland Mall as an example of a growth opportunity for the township that they could miss out on if they don’t hire a township administrator. Using Jackson and Prairie townships as an example, Alex said hiring administrators have turned those communities around.

Jessica Rice, the former administrative coordinator, was paid approximately $34,320 a year and Robyn Watkins, the assistant to the fiscal officer, was paid approximately $35,000 a year. Township officials propose taking their salary and using it to pay for a firm to search for a township administrator, then pay the administrator a yearly salary.

Alex proposed paying Novak Consulting $21,500 to find candidates and then pay the new administrator between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.

However, despite voting in favor of ending the assistant coordinator position and removing funding in the fiscal office, trustees Ralph Horn and John Fleshman were hesitant about moving forward with hiring the consulting firm.

“When we originally talked about this in June, we said we would look at grants to support this position,” Horn said.

Fleshman agreed and said he doesn’t feel good about the way this decision was handled.

“I feel we made a mistake in how this was done and we should have done things differently,” Fleshman said. “I agree we need an administrator, but we should have given them (the employees) notice. Both Jessica and Robyn do a variety of things for this township and that should be acknowledged.”

The board tabled voting on contracting with Novak Consulting until a later date.

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