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Peninsula mayor proposes part-time police chief

2/14/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

The Feb. 11 Peninsula Village Council meeting was punctuated by several sharp exchanges as the mayor and Council members tried to iron out contentious money issues.

Mayor Doug Mayer opened the meeting with a recommendation to hire a part-time police chief instead of a full-time chief. The recommendation follows failure of a candidate for the full-time position to successfully complete prehire testing. Mayer said he is making the recommendation based on a review of village finances through 2015. Mayer said the village could afford a full-time chief through this year, but with anticipated reductions in local government funding from the state, the cost of a full-time chief and benefits would become a problem by 2015.

Councilman Dan Schneider protested, saying, “How can we operate with a part-time chief? That doesn’t even make … sense at all,” he said. “We’ve got enough problems here in this building with everything going on, without trying to operate with a … part-time police chief. I don’t know where all this … is coming from.”

Mayer said hiring and retaining a full-time chief eventually would mean cutting the budget in other places and possibly moving employees who now have full-time status to part-time.

Schneider said Council should place the three-times-failed 1 percent income tax increase back on the ballot in May.

Councilwoman Dee Holody said village residents have voted down the increase three times and Council could not count on anticipated revenue from a proposed tax increase.

Schneider said Council has not done a good job of explaining the issue, and a mailer sponsored by Council members prior to the last election was not properly timed. Schneider said the mailer reached most homes too late to have any effect on residents who voted absentee.

Mayer said he talked to several residents who did understand how they would be affected by the tax increase. Those residents don’t trust village government, he said.

The village has been without a permanent chief since Council members fired former chief Kevin James McCue in October 2009 for misfeasance and malfeasance of duty. Former Mayor Richard Fisher initiated the action when he filed a complaint about McCue’s conduct with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. A subsequent investigation by the Sheriff’s Office found no criminal wrongdoing on McCue’s part. Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Teodosio reversed Council’s decision in December 2010. McCue prevailed in a lawsuit he filed against the village, Fisher and Schneider and was awarded more than $120,000 in a settlement that will be paid through June 1, 2014. Police Sgt. Daniel Renz has been acting chief since McCue’s dismissal.

Council scheduled a special meeting Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. to discuss the village budget and whether to hire a full-time or part-time police chief. The meeting will take place in the second-floor Council room of Peninsula Village Hall, located at the corner of state Route 303 and Akron-Peninsula Road.

Council also again discussed implementation of paid parking for the village’s 50 on-street parking spaces. Holody said the 2013 proposed permanent budget did not include the purchase of equipment for a parking station, which conservatively would allow the village to generate as much as $30,000 in revenue in its first year of operation and $45,000 for each year thereafter. Holody said she and Fiscal Officer John Stiegel have looked at “very low cost” loans that could be used for the initial investment of $18,000. “I’m still an advocate of it. I think it’s much easier to do than trying to pass the 1 percent [income tax increase]. … We’re constantly saying, ‘How do we make a little bit of money off all these tourists who come into the Village of Peninsula’ and this is the start.”

Holody said she advocates establishing a special fund for 50 percent of the net revenue from the parking station. The fund would be used for investment in the village, citing a comprehensive parking plan, extension of sidewalks in the historic district and Town Hall building repair as possible projects.

The Peninsula Area Chamber of Commerce has asked Council to delay implementation of the parking station until a group of chamber members can meet with Council to discuss the impact on businesses, residents and the village financial situation, said Council President Doug Anderson.

Also during the meeting, Councilwoman Mary Booth, who has been spearheading a local group seeking to lease the Player’s Barn, asked Mayer to report on Zoning Commission action regarding the building. Councilman Charles Moyer, liaison to the Zoning Commission, was absent from the Council meeting.

Mayer said the Zoning Commission did not act on a proposed license agreement for the property.

Mayer said the village has spent $2,000 in legal fees to develop a lease or license that could be signed by the village and the nonprofit barn committee. Mayer said he told a member of the barn committee the village will spend no more money on developing a lease. He said the barn committee needed to develop the legal documents on its own.

Booth said she didn’t understand how the village could have incurred $2,000 in legal fees since Council had earlier agreed to a $500 cap.

Schneider made a motion to require the committee to repay the village for the amount it has spent in legal fees.

Booth said she didn’t think the village had the authority to compel the group to pay.

Schneider’s motion was tabled.

Village Engineer Charles Uray reminded Council he had evaluated the building and deemed it unfit for use because of the presence of asbestos.

Village Solicitor Irv Sugerman said he would review the line item charges in question.

In other action, Council:

  • approved a one-year extension of the agreement with Sugerman, of Goldman & Rosen;
  • approved an ordinance to adopt new height, material and permit requirements for fences, walls and hedges; and
  • agreed to accept a Summit-Akron Solid Waste Management Authority grant.

Council’s next meeting will take place March 11 at 7 p.m. in the second-floor Council room of Peninsula Village Hall.

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