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City hears views on finance director position

3/13/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

NEW FRANKLIN — Former New Franklin clerk/treasurer Kathy Witwer spoke out against a proposal under review at the March 6 New Franklin Council meeting to hire a full-time finance director.

Mayor Al Bollas announced earlier this year state auditors suggested the city hire a full-time finance director, and the city’s Charter Review Commission is reviewing the matter. Currently, the charter calls for a part-time finance director with a college degree in accounting or related field and a minimum of five years’ experience.

Susan Cooke is serving as the city’s part-time finance director since her appointment in March 2012. City officials stated at the time that Cooke had nine years of experience as a clerk/treasurer, including: for Franklin Township from June 1997 to December 2004; for Franklin Village from January 2005 to February 2006; and for the city of New Franklin in March 2006. She has a bachelor’s degree in education, has taken some accounting classes and also has certification in an accounting field, according to city officials.

Cooke replaced Scott Svab, who served in the position from 2010 to 2012, when he resigned to take a full-time position with the city of Macedonia. Svab had a master’s degree in business administration from Ashland University, a master’s degree in public administration from The University of Akron (UA) and a bachelor’s degree in political science from UA. At that time, he was enrolled in a tax preparation course at Stark State Technical College in preparation for the CPA exam.

Bollas has stated it has been difficult to find someone that meets the charter requirements for the finance director position and is willing to work part-time.

Witwer, speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, worked part-time for the city from April 2006 to March 2010 after defeating Cooke for the position in the November 2005 General Election. She was unable to take over as finance director after that period because the new charter separated the clerk and treasurer positions and Witwer did not meet the college requirement. She worked as an assistant to the treasurer of the Summit County Educational Service Center.

“A full-time finance director is unwarranted,” she said to city officials at the Council meeting. “This is a time for belt tightening, not belt loosening.”

Witwer also questioned why the city has needed to hire a consulting firm to do its bank reconciliations.

“That is a waste of money,” she said. “If the work was being done before without a problem, why isn’t it getting done now?”

Witwer said she plans to speak to the Charter Review Commission about the matter.

The Charter Review Commission meets on Thursdays at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 5611 Manchester Road. A meeting took place last night, March 13, and the next is set for March 20.

In other business at the meeting, Council approved an agreement with Agricultural Design Inc. for renovations to Sisler Field after a first reading in the hopes of getting an early start on needed improvements. The work, to cost $13,760, will include repairing the top layer of three fields on West Nimisila Road next to Manchester Middle School. According to Parks Board member Jason Zittle, the repairs will improve the safety and playability of the ball fields, which he said have sustained some erosion over time and are holding water in certain areas.

“The fields have not been worked on since their installation in 2004,” he said. “This work should be done every two years.”

Zittle added the work could start as early as April 17 and would take three to four days to complete if the weather cooperates.

Also at the meeting, Council approved a final payment of $131,045 to Cavanaugh Building Corp. for the storm water improvement demonstration project completed last fall. The $236,000 project, built on Center Road in front of City Hall, was paid for using an $186,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and $50,000 in local funds. It includes a retention basin, green space, wetland, porous parking lot with 31 spaces and a three-quarter mile walking path around the project that will be linked to a nearby walking path and exercise stations that will be constructed later this spring using $30,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, along with $30,000 in city funds.

Bollas also made the following announcements:

  • A number of traffic disruptions are slated for this year. A portion of Vanderhoof Road will be closed this summer to replace the bridge over the Tuscarawas River. The bridge, built in 1929, is located between Grove and Van Buren roads. Also, state Route 93 will be resurfaced this summer, and the realignment project of South Turkeyfoot Road and Point Comfort Drive across state Route 619 will resume work as soon as the weather permits.
  • Legislation to amend a city agreement with Republic Services to change from an 18-gallon recycle bin picked up weekly to a 96-gallon roll-out bin to be picked up every other week will be needed if city officials agree to the plan. The change would cost customers about 43 cents extra per month. More details will be announced at the next meeting.
  • Insurance Service Office Inc. has reclassified New Franklin, thanks to its Fire Department, and increased its rating. That change may result in lower insurance premiums for city residents.

Bollas also asked Council for guidance on a plan to purchase a property on Renninger Road for $35,000 for a flood control project to cost $95,000 that would alleviate problems in the area. He added the project may cost less if the Road Department does the work.

City officials also briefly discussed a proposal to adopt a citywide property assessment to raise funds for storm water projects needed to address other flooding issues.

Councilman Paul Adamson (Ward 1) suggested the city should get some professional help to prioritize these flood control projects, and Law Director Tom Musarra suggested the Summit Soil & Water Conservation District may be able to help in that matter.

Musarra also stated the Summit County engineer also is considering a countywide levy to raise funds for similar purposes, but no decision has been made on that proposal.

City officials agreed to discuss the assessment matter further, along with a police levy, at the March 24 Committee-of-the-Whole meeting on finances. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. and take place at City Hall.

The next regular meeting will take place March 19 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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