The recommendation for the hiring of an administrative assistant for the Village of Newcomerstown was met with mixed opinion on Monday night (Nov. 16).
Village Mayor Jim Friel made the recommendation to council during its regular session saying that he felt there was much need for the additional office staff to assist Fiscal Officer Lisa Stiteler in keeping up with the current demands of the day to day operation of the Village Office.
"We have a new incoming Mayor (Pat Cadle) beginning his duties on Jan. 1st, and I don't think it is fair to have him starting as the new Mayor, and not having adequate help in the office. I'd like to see us have the assistant in place before he begins his duties," Mayor Friel said.
Friel said when Stiteler was originally hired that is was agreed that Stiteler would assist with some of the administrative tasks if/when the Mayor would be unavailable, and that once the village was financially able they would discuss possibly hiring an administrative assistant. The administrative assistant position would be at a cost of $10,000 per year.
Following Friel's recommendation, councilmember Jim Carr voiced his concerns about the recommendation saying that he felt it was too soon to consider hiring additional employees for the village unless it was a reason of absolute need.
"We are not out of the fiscal emergency yet. We are close to that goal. I think until that happens, and we (council) see that we will have more than sufficient funds to hire that additional staff member that we wait and re-visit that idea after the fiscal emergency has been officially ended," Carr said.
Carr recognized Stiteler's outstanding work since she began as the village's fiscal officer approximately two years ago, but said he did not recall that there was an agreement that Stiteler would eventually no longer be assisting with some of the administrative duties in the absence of the Mayor. He said he recalled that Stiteler had asked for a specific pay rate before she would accept the position, but that the village was financially unable to agree to the amount. He said it was then decided that the village would accept a similar rate, but would expect Stiteler to assist as the administrative assistant when necessary.
After Carr spoke, councilmember Jim Reed voiced a different opinion, saying he has been in the office more than once and noted that Stiteler was extremely busy with the day to day demands, and could have greatly used help at that specific time. Reed recognized Stiteler's outstanding work performance, and ability to
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multi-task with her position. Reed said he felt there is great need for the extra staff person to assist with the many, daily incoming phone calls, and directing/referring some of the citizen inquiries that could easily be taken care of by an assistant and freeing Stiteler's time to handle the more complex issues, or other routine tasks that are more involved that need her attention.
Councilmember Earl McCormick then voiced his concern, saying he also felt that since the village is not officially out of the fiscal emergency that there should be no additional hiring, or spending unless it would be of absolute necessity.
"We don't know when the fiscal emergency is officially going to end, as Mr. Carr stated. I think we should and see where we are with the finances once we are out of the fiscal emergency status, then we can discuss the administrative assistant at that point," McCormick said.
McCormick also recognized Stiteler's commitment to her job, and outstanding implementation to improve the village's financial status.
Incoming Mayor Pat Cadle was present during Monday night's regular session. He said he believed council should wait until the fiscal emergency is officially ended, then assess the village's financial status at that time to ensure sufficient capability to hire an additional staff member, and then possibly re-visit the recommendation of hiring an administrative assistant if finances are feasible.
Cadle said he plans to be very involved in the day to day operation once he begins his duties, and says he will attempt to offer what assistance possible in an effort to facilitate the Fiscal Officer's ability to focus on her necessary tasks that are vital to the village's daily operation. Cadle voiced his gratitude to Mayor Friel and council for their opinion of concern and support for the in-coming Mayor, and for the well-being of the village of Newcomerstown and its financial status. Mayor Friel said he understood the concerns with the fiscal emergency, and agrees that the village should remain cautious with spending, but still felt the need for an administrative assistant was still greatly needed in order to continue to provide efficient, quality service to the community.
Other business discussed during the Nov. 16 session included:
• Utilities Superintendent Ken Schweitzer said the department has discussed replacing a sixteen year old jet truck that is becoming worn, and will soon be in need of costly repair. Schweitzer said the old truck would bring an estimated $70,000 for scrap.
• During a report from Sewer & Public Works committee, Reed said it was reported that Board of Public Affairs is now requesting that there be a $2 per 1,000 gallons increase in the sewer rates instead of the original $1 per 1,000 gallons increase that was earlier planned to cover increases and future infrastructure development. Schweitzer said he believed the recent discovery of further sewer structures that are in questionable condition was not considered, and that BPA was simply looking ahead at possible costly repair/replacement of some of those pipes/structures. Schweitzer said some of the pipes are over 100 years old and some are connected to vital sewage structures that could be more costly than they had earlier estimated. Council requested Schweitzer gather more information, and a definite reason for the sudden requested increase in the rate. Schweitzer was agreeable to obtain information and present it to council during the next regular session.
• The Village Street Department is once again reminding citizens to refrain from sweeping any leaves or debris into the street as this will lead to obstruction of the sewer system. Obstruction could lead to back-flow into homeowner's sewer if the main sewage system cannot drain properly. They are requesting that citizens simply bag the leaves and leave on the curb strip.
• Stiteler said the village's website is now up and running and invites any feedback or suggestions. She is asking citizens to also "like" the webpage when they are visiting Facebook.
• Council approved to re-new the contract for Village Solicitor Robert Stephenson. The contract will remain unchanged, and at the same rate of $20,000 per year.
• The first reading was given for the 2016 permanent annual appropriations.
• Council approved retaining Fox as attorney for Riggle estate lawsuit. The township verses the village concerning previously inherited estate taxes.
• Council later entered executive session to discuss personnel. No action taken.
Council will meet again Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Newcomerstown Library Annex; sessions are open to the public.