During Genoa Township’s 2017 Reorganization Meeting, trustee chair Karl Gebhardt said 2016 was a good year for the township.
“A lot was accomplished during the past year,” Gebhardt said. “(Genoa Township Communications Director) Leslie (Strader) was brought on board to improve our communications and dialogue with the residents, staffing is in good shape, we have no vacancies, and we will have a new trustee coming on board soon.”
Gebhardt said the township is financially sound, in spite of reduced revenue from the state; and township voters have continued to support police, fire, and road issues on the ballot.
“We will continue to evaluate our goals and objectives as we go forward,” Gebhardt said. “One of our goals is to better understand how we’re doing things. Some of our trustee meetings last an hour, and some seem to go on for days. One of the things we’re going to work on is our residents need to see changes in the way things are done.”
When it came to reorganization votes, the trustees left as many items on the table as they managed to approve. What is usually a smooth process of approving rules, fees, and personnel polices for the year ahead ground to a halt several times during the evening, with the township’s two trustees disagreeing on several items, creating a deadlock without a third trustee at the dais as a tiebreaker.
Typical during the session was when Genoa Development and Zoning Director Joe Shafer presented the zoning fee schedule he recommended that fees not be increased during 2017.
“The fees were updated in June,” Shafer told Gebhardt and Dantonio, noting that zoning fees generated $64,000 in revenue during 2016. “They were compared to, and are similar to, other townships in the region.”
Dantonio, who does not want zoning fees for residential zoning applications, said township residents pay once through millage.
“Charging the zoning fee is double-dipping,” Dantonio said. “I have no concern with charging zoning fees for commercial development.”
Gebhardt disagreed with Dantonio, noting that zoning fees are user fees; that zoning fees pay for services provided by the township’s zoning department, zoning commission, and board of zoning appeals; and non-users of those services should not subsidize users.
“If you use zoning, you pay for it,” Gephardt said.
Gebhardt made a motion to retain the 2016 fee schedule presented by Shafer with the caveat that it be reviewed in six months. Gebhardt voted Yes to approve the zoning fee schedule, Dantonio voting No.
With the deadlock, Gebhardt immediately noted that there would be no zoning fees when the township zoning office opened the following morning. Dantonio then made a motion to continue with the current zoning fee schedule until April 1, giving the trustees three months to review the fees and come to an agreement.
A similar logjam occurred when setting 2017 employees wages and benefits. Dantonio said he disagreed with compensation differences between union employees like police and fire personnel versus non-union employees.
“One of the most difficult decisions for me is for nonunion employees, from a philosophical standpoint,” Dantonio said. “Union employees get a three-percent raise across the board, nonunion employees is based on performance. Nonunion should be three-percent, but some get more, some get less.”
Dantonio also said that he believes there are instances where some township employees have accrued vacation time in excess of what the township employee handbook allows.
“My vote would be to only approve monetary compensation, not carryover vacation or sick leave,” Dantonio said. “I won’t discuss the rest except in executive session.”
That created an issue for Genoa’s Personnel Director Linda Greco.
“Do we hold steady where we are and make corrections when you make a decision?” Greco asked. “Until that time we’re going to have to do it the way we always have. I don’t see how we can stop doing what the policy manual states.”
Gebhardt said he wanted to make certain the township was not in violation of any agreements or contracts; Dantonio said all township employees were employed at will.
“We are modifying the terms of the agreements,” Dantonio said. “Personnel policy trumps those agreements.”
The trustees agreed to discuss the matter in executive session and come to a finalized decision by the Thursday, January 19, Genoa Township Board of Trustees meeting.
Another roadblock came when approving 2017 cemetery fees.
Dantonio said Genoa Township residents should not have to pay for cemetery plots because the township owns the land. He said he was in favor of raising the cost of cemetery plots for non-Genoa residents.
Genoa Director of Roads, Buildings, and Grounds Bob Mathews said it was a moot point; that the township only had one unsold grave plot.
The cemetery fee schedule was tabled.
Dantonio said he disagreed with charging township residents a fee to use the township hall or park facilities.
“Taxpayers already pay for the facilities and people to be here to maintain them,” Dantonio said. “It’s onerous to me to be charging them. If they get it clean and leave it clean there should be no charge.”
“Is it right for taxpayers to subsidize you if you’re having a party?” Gebhardt asked. “I’m willing to look at other townships and see what they do.”
Rental fees for the township hall and park shelters were tabled, along with park rules.
As a side note, Genoa Police Chief Steve Gammill said Genoa Police Officers could not enforce park rules.
“We can only enforce criminal statutes,” Gammill said. “We have no enforcement authority in the parks.”
Asked about firearm open carry and conceal carry in Genoa Township parks, Gammill said concealed carry and open carry is allowed in the State of Ohio, including in parks.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.
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