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Richfield Council withdraws pay increase proposal

6/13/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Jeff Gorman

In response to public criticism, Richfield Village Council withdrew a plan to increase its members’ pay at the June 4 meeting.

However, Council President Rick Hudak and the sponsor of the ordinance, Councilman Michael Wheeler, both insisted the proposal was a good idea.

“The people who wrote the charter of this village would have encouraged the adoption of this,” Hudak said.

The proposal would have increased Council members’ pay by $3,000 per year. The Council president’s pay would have gone up to $8,000, while other members would have earned $7,500. Council members haven’t had a raise since Jan. 1, 2000, according to village officials.

“There has been some concern that this increase has been excessive and ill-timed,” Hudak said. “That is a healthy part of the democratic process, but personal attacks are unreasonable.”

Hudak said a Council member can devote between 500 and 1,000 hours per year, and that Wheeler’s proposal was based on his observation that the compensation was not keeping pace with the cost of living.

“This could potentially exclude capable citizens,” Hudak said. “Community service should not be limited to an elite few. Mr. Wheeler’s sponsorship was civic-minded, not selfish.”

Wheeler noted he would not have benefited from the pay increase, since he will reach his term limit at the end of the year and cannot run for Council for another two years. He also enumerated the other civic organizations that he and his wife had supported.

“Richfield has to look to the future to more and different people running for this position,” he said. “Unless one runs and is elected to the Richfield Council, one does not actually understand or realize the stress, pressure and time commitment associated with this position.

“You are currently getting a very talented Council for around $3 an hour after mandatory state deductions from their pay,” Wheeler added. “The people on this Council give much, much more than they take, and I am proud to serve with them.”

In other news, Summit County Councilman Nick Kostandaras (D-District 1) talked about the county’s partnership with Richfield Village and township, as well as Hinckley to seek a grant from Ohio Public Works for the renovation of Hawkins Road.

He added he is also working on securing more funds for the Moving Ohio Forward property demolition program, which provides funds for removing blighted properties.

In other business:

  • Council agreed to allow Mayor Bobbie Beshara to apply for State Issue No. 2 funds for the Briarwood sewer extension.
    Also, Council approved a resolution to apply for an $80,000 federal grant for the purchase of police radios. The village would have to provide $20,000 if the grant is approved, according to village officials.
    In addition, Council resolved to seek funding through the U.S. Department of Justice COPS Hiring program. The three-year grant would provide 75 percent of the funds for a school resource officer, according to village officials.
  • Ted Skwarski Jr. joined the Richfield Fire Department as a part-time firemedic. He is a full-time member of the Brecksville Fire Department, according to village officials. Beshara swore him in after Council approved her appointment of him.
    Skwarski has served on heavy rescue and rope rescue teams, and he also can repair fire hydrants.
    “Ted comes with high regards,” said Fire Chief Jason Mihalek. “He’s very mechanical, and he will help us with hydrants and maintenance issues.”
  • Beshara said the Garden Club is planning to plant flowers, donated by Constantine’s Nursery and Garden Center, at the corner of Brecksville and Streetsboro roads. Legislation is pending that would rename the corner “Oviatt Park,” the mayor said.
    Beshara also noted school is out and residents should keep an eye out for children, as well as for motorcycles on the road.
    Also, tickets for Richfield Night July 13 at the Akron Aeros game are available in Beshara’s office for $5. Richfield’s Honor Guard will present the colors, and resident Jay Nye will sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.
  • Police Chief Keith Morgan said 206 students graduated recently from the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.
  • Mihalek reported his department recently finished fire-safety training with local kindergarten classes.
  • Service Director Melanie Baker said due to contract issues, the Interstate 271 renovation project would be rebid in the fall and would start March 1, 2014.
  • Recreation Director Ruth Jocek reported the weekly Farmers’ Market in the center of town will begin June 19. More than 15 vendors will sell their wares on Wednesdays from 2:30 to 6 p.m.
  • Finance Director Sandy Turk reported May income-tax receipts came in 6.7 percent below those of last year. Overall, the year’s receipts are up 4.9 percent compared to 2012.
  • Councilman Ralph Waszak said the Planning and Zoning Commission worked on the master plan with Planning and Zoning Director Brian Frantz and planner Ken Crandall.
    Waszak also said the Tree and Landscape Commission is considering improvements to the Welcome to Richfield sign near the McDonald’s on Wheatley Road.
  • Wheeler said the Park Board met June 3 and discussed a change to the park rules that would increase the fees charged to for-profit soccer teams.
  • Councilwoman Barbara Lanford said the Streets and Highways Committee will meet June 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 4410 W. Streetsboro Road.

The next Richfield Village Council meeting is scheduled for June 18 at 8 p.m. at Town Hall.

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