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Coventry trustees, IAFF come to terms

3/21/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

Like numerous professionals part of today’s work force, the union employees of the Coventry Township Fire Department will not receive a wage increase in the next couple of years.

The Coventry Board of Trustees held a regular meeting March 14 and accepted a labor agreement with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2286, retroactive to Feb. 1, 2013, through Aug. 31, 2015.

Fire Chief John Dolensky confirmed IAFF personnel would not get a pay raise during the two-and-a-half-year agreement.

However, he said the negotiations yielded a change in the health care provided to union employees.

Dolensky explained the health care insurance now is being offered at a lower cost to the IAFF workers, and the coverage is better than in years past.

He added the vacation scale also was adjusted slightly.

The board praised Dolensky and the IAFF for reaching a “fair” agreement, and thanked the fire chief for being active in the negotiations.

The board also adopted a new vacation schedule for noncontract employees of the township, so it is matches the one now being followed by the IAFF.

Board President Dave Calderone said the same benchmarks were set for all township employees.

He added longtime employees would no longer have the opportunity to take six weeks of vacation time. The highest amount of vacation time now available is five weeks, Calderone said.

“We just could not be that generous anymore,” he said.

Also during the meeting, the board held a brief discussion concerning the Workers’ Compensation benefits being offered to Joseph DeWitt, a Fire Department employee currently off work for an injury sustained during off-hours.

Board member Tom Seese said legal counsel advised the township to compensate DeWitt for being off of work from Coventry and from his other part-time position with the Springfield Township Fire Department.

“It just goes against my grain,” he said.

Calderone said the board should come up with a “strategy” to resolve the situation.

The board did approve eight days of additional Workers’ Compensation pay for DeWitt.

Also during the meeting, Zoning Inspector George Beckham updated the board on the township’s involvement in the Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program, which helps fund the demolition of abandoned and nuisance properties in Summit County.

He said 50 vacant homes initially were identified in the township, and that list was sent to county officials overseeing the program. After the homes were viewed by health and building inspectors, the demolition list was narrowed down to 11 homes, because they specifically meet the requirements of the program, Beckham explained. He told the board the properties on the list have been abandoned for at least three years and are tax delinquent.

According to Beckham, the board is going to have to declare the homes as nuisance properties to continue the process. Afterward, public hearings would be held concerning the demolition of the 11 homes. He said letters would be sent out to the property owners and notices would be posted stating the structures would be razed in 30 days.

Beckham estimates it would cost about $6,000 to take each house down, but it could be up to $10,000 if asbestos is found in a home. He is hopeful the $72,000 grant from the county and $15,000 being provided by the board would completely fund the demolition of the 11 homes.

Before the meeting’s close, the board heard an update on the happenings of Coventry Local Schools by school board member Vicki Tavenier and was challenged by local resident Laura McGraw to fully support the district’s combined 5.99-mill levy and bond issue on the May 7 Primary/Special Election ballot.

Calderone told McGraw he understands the financial burdens the district is attempting to address and said the township is facing difficult fiscal issues, as well.

“Our budget is being slashed like everybody else’s,” he said.

According to Calderone, the township and school district are in support of each other, and both entities have tough decisions to make.

He said the board does publicly support the ballot issue.

“We need strong schools for a strong community,” he said. “We have been trying to encourage the voters to get informed.”

Seese said he would love to go “on record” and ask the community to support the combined issue. He said he also would place his name on any literature being sent out to generate more voter support.

Board member Gary Zoldesy, a former superintendent of Coventry Local Schools, agreed that he supports the district’s “endeavors,” as well.

In other business, the board:

  • announced the Portage Lakes Advisory Board Council Litter Cleanup will take place April 20 from 9 a.m. to noon, with participants to meet at the first parking lot on Christman Road;
  • announced applications are being accepted through March 25 for an open alternate position on the Board of Zoning Appeals;
  • discussed the temporary closure of the Coventry Senior Community Center, which took place March 7-18 so coordinator Phyllis Palmer could take care of her ailing husband. Seese said the decision to close the center should have been made by the board, however, and it would be in the future. Seese said he would have kept the center open and could volunteer to open and close the facility in the future if the coordinator must be off work;
  • heard from Road Supervisor Lael Stouffer concerning safety measures being approved upon as part of a recent safety audit;
  • discussed measures, specifically smoke bombs, that could encourage cormorants — nuisance birds — to stop damaging several areas of the Portage Lakes and nest elsewhere [see related News & Notes item on Page 3];
  • announced a final budget would be approved before the end of March, with details to be released at that time; and
  • encouraged local traffic to find an alternate route to Manchester Road from just south of Proehl Avenue to just north of Cormany Road, as road improvements — including the addition of three lanes — are being made by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). Also, the eastern intersection of Robinson Avenue and Manchester Road will be closed through early May, according to ODOT.

The next regular Coventry Township Board of Trusteesmeeting is set for April 11 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall, 68 Portage Lakes Drive.

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