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Peninsula residents take Council to task for actions, behavior

5/16/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

Peninsula Village residents packed the Council meeting room and several of them took turns voicing their displeasure at Council for its actions and behavior at last month’s meeting.

Close to 40 people attended the May 13 meeting and more than a half dozen spoke in support of Village Road Department Charles “Skip” Ausberk, whom Council, on a split vote, moved from a full- to a part-time position at Council’s April meeting.

Those who spoke during the citizens’ participation part of the meeting also expressed outrage with Council’s deportment during meetings, with some terming the behavior, which has included foul language during meetings, “embarrassing.”

“The behavior of Council members triggered a major reaction in town, and I think there will be more people here [at the meetings],” said resident Diane Seskes.

Seskes said the personal agendas and expressions of anger exhibited at Council meetings are “unacceptable to us.”

Paula Spencer, who described herself and her husband, six-year residents of the village, as “newbies” to the community, said she and her husband began attending Council meetings when they moved to the village. She said she could not persuade her husband to return after attending their first meeting, as he was appalled by the behavior of some Council members. She said after a while, she, too, stopped attending meetings, as she couldn’t stand the arguing and hearing people be told to sit down and shut up.

An unidentified woman questioned Council members about why they discussed Ausberk’s employment in open meetings. She said similar matters brought before other governmental bodies are discussed in executive session.

Mayor Doug Mayer said the matter probably should have been discussed in executive session, but Council did not make a request to do so.

Wendy Anderson, wife of Council President Doug Anderson, was the only speaker who did not use her time to protest Council’s action and behavior or defend Ausberk. She instead questioned whether portions of a news report on last month’s Council meeting in the West Side Leader were suggested by an outside source.

Her comments concerned inclusion of routine background information on Council’s past discussions of Ausberk’s employment. The background information she questioned originally was reported in August.

Mayer asked Wendy Anderson to address her comments to Council, not to the audience.

Lisa Ausberk, Charles Ausberk’s wife, said she and her family have been upset and embarrassed by Council’s action in reducing her husband’s hours and in their open meeting discussion of his job performance. Lisa Ausberk said her husband has saved the village thousands of dollars by making repairs on Road Department equipment and through his hard work, the village has never looked better.

“All he did was do a very good job for you people. You have no business running a community,” she said as the audience applauded.

Councilmen Brian Schall and Doug Anderson defended their positions at the end of the public comment portion of the meeting. Both said they had no personal agenda in reducing Ausberk’s hours and the move was strictly financial. Both said they had enjoyed long personal relationships with the Ausberk family and regretted the action they had to take.

“Except for a couple of snowplow situations, no one ever said anything about his work,” Doug Anderson said, adding the full financial impact of Ausberk’s employment on the village was “not common knowledge.”

Schall, citing financial concerns, at the April 8 meeting initiated action to make Ausberk a part-time employee. A full-time position had been budgeted for 2013.

The motion was approved on a split vote. Schall, Doug Anderson and Councilman Dan Schneider voted to reduce Ausberk’s hours. Councilman Charlie Moyer and Councilwoman Dee Holody voted against the motion. Councilwoman Mary Booth was absent.

Council members said at the May 13 meeting that Ausberk would be part-time, working 24 hours a week as of May 13.

Ausberk was a part-time village employee until June 2012, when Council agreed to hire him full-time at a rate of $12 per hour. As a full-time employee, Ausberk received health insurance benefits.

In other business, Mayer reported to Council that closing the village mayor’s court already is paying dividends. Mayer said the village has received two checks from Stow Municipal Court, where cases formerly handled by the village mayor’s court have been transferred. Mayer said the two checks totaled more than the village realized in all of 2012, when it maintained its own court.

“It is working,” Mayer said.

Council had second reading of legislation to place an income tax increase on the ballot in November. The tax issue asks voters — for the fourth time — to approve an increase in income tax from 1 percent to 2 percent.

Also on second reading were two pieces of legislation that would allow the village to institute paid parking through use of an electronic pay station and permit the village to secure a loan to pay for the equipment.

Council hosted an informational meeting on the implementation and operation of the parking station prior to the Council meeting. Several residents attended. Holody said she would host additional meetings if citizens requested them.

Peninsula residents would be exempt from paid parking under Holody’s plan.

Council sought an opinion from Township Solicitor Irv Sugerman on granting free parking privileges to Boston Township residents. Sugerman said Council could authorize free parking for township residents, but it opened the village to a possible legal challenge.

Council’s next regular meeting is set for June 10 at 7 p.m. It will be preceded at 6:30 p.m. by a public hearing on Peninsula’s cooperation with Boston Township in a Joint Economic Development District. Council meets in the second-floor Council room of Peninsula Village Hall, at the corner of state Route 303 and Akron-Peninsula Road.

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