"Can we afford a street superintendent when we are in fiscal emergency?" said Newcomerstown Mayor Jim Friel at last Monday's village council meeting.
"Can we afford not to?" responded councilman Dave Hickman.
Mike Bryant, acting superintendent for both street and cemetery, suggested the village hire two or three temporary or seasonal employees to help out, especially with mowing the cemeteries, since the combined departments now have one full-time (Bryant) and one part-time employee. The other part-time employee Dustin Lehman left the department for the village's water department.
Village residents have been voicing their concerns at both the Mayor's Office and at village council meetings regarding village streets as well as the upkeep of the cemeteries.
Mayor Friel said hiring two or three individuals at $7.85 an hour would make more sense then hiring one full-time individual with a salary and benefits.
Hickman said the village's finance and personnel committees will look into the matter further. However, he said he has posted an ad on Craig's List seeking an individual to fill a street superintendent position vacancy. He said that individual must have good communication skills and would be considered a department head who would be under the guidance of Mayor Friel.
Meanwhile, Newcomerstown Cemetery Board member Dave Mason spoke before council on behalf of Bryant and his job as both the street and cemetery superintendents.
"He has been catching a lot of guff for something he has no control of," Mason said. "Mike has been picked on rather unfairly. You (council) put him in a no-win situation"
Since the untimely death of Bob Martin, former street superintendent, earlier this year, Bryant has taken over both duties in the village with no other full-time employees.
"Mike needs help," Mason said. "We don't need any more department heads. We need to get this guy some help."
Mason said the deficit in the cemetery fund continues to grow because the state has not given the village's cemeteries any government funds. He said they are relying on the sale of lots. He also said the fund was hurt even more when Martin's unused vacation time was paid from the cemetery fund.
Mason said the growing cemetery fund deficit makes it look like the cemetery board doesn't know what they are doing but when monies are taken out of a fund with a negative balance and no state monies are coming in, that can only hurt the fund more.
"We know what we are doing," Mason said, "and we need to get him some help."
He said if the village can have nine lifeguards, the village can certainly have more than two people working on both the street and cemetery departments.
In other business, resident Joyce Walters brought before council pictures of uneven sidewalks in the village. In particular, one sidewalk on Main Street where she tripped and fell recently. That fall caused damage to her knee that will require surgery to repair. She said she has seen uneven and torn up sidewalks all across the village. She said she saw a man fall from an uneven sidewalk on the corner of River and State streets.
Mayor Friel said he would look into it. However, council member Sue Simmons said it is the owner's responsibility to repair and maintain an even sidewalk.
Walters said she hoped the village would do something about them but understands the village's financial problems.
Newcomerstown Police Chief Gary Holland asked council to consider purchasing at least one newer police cruiser through either a lease purchase program or bank financing. He also said he hired four part-time police officers. They are: Jennifer Smith, Shane Porter, Christopher Edward and Opha Lawson. However, they were unable to attend the council meeting to introduce themselves.
In other business, council thanked Darr Johnson of Newcomerstown for volunteering to mow the Southside Park recently.
Council also agreed to pay the family of the late Ken Fish, water department employee, the remainder of his 42 hours of unused sick, personal and vacation time that he had incurred. The money will be paid to the family.
Also, mosquito spraying in the village takes place on Sunday evenings, weather permitting.
Council will meet again in regular session on Monday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. at the David Barber Civic Center, Newcomerstown.