By Josh stipanovich
Absences in the zoning office have led to escalating expenses in Boardman Township.
The township is on target to spend $181,703 — or about $68,755 more — for staff wages within its zoning office this year. That’s on top of $738 paid year-to-date to Austintown Township for the services of its zoning inspector.
And the 2013 estimate is $82,700 more than the office spent in 2011.
Jason Loree, township administrator, said increased expenses are due to the need to replace the daily work of two workers; one who died and another on medical leave.
“We essentially had nobody in the zoning office. It put us in a little bit of a bind because we still have projects going on,” Loree said, specifically noting the expansion project at St. Elizabeth Health Center and an expansion to the Surgical Hospital at Southwoods.
In 2011, the township paid $99,003 in wages for four positions within the zoning office: a full-time secretary, assistant zoning inspector and two part-time field inspectors. In 2012, that number jumped to $112.948.85 for five employees — two part-time field inspectors, a part-time secretary, a zoning director.
As of May 22, the township filled two new positions — one to a retired employee of the Mahoning County Engineer’s office; approved a memorandum of understanding that would require it to pay for the services of Austintown’s zoning inspector; paid $14,928 to an employee who died and an additional $20,780 to an employee on leave whose return-to-work status is unknown, costing it $52,946.
Anna Mamone, then-zoning director making $48,500, injured her knee while off duty in late March. She has been off work since, and being paid her full salary because she is using her sick time through the Family Medical Leave Act, which is protected, Loree said. She had accrued nearly 14 weeks of sick time as of March. Her doctor has extended her return to work status to Tuesday, and the township still doesn’t know if she’ll be able to return to work, Loree said. If she does, he added, she’d come back as an assistant zoning inspector making the same wage.
Several unsuccessful phone calls and house visits were made in an attempt to contact Mamone.
Catherine Smolka-Widener, then assistant zoning inspector, who made $30,000, went on leave to battle Lou Gehrig’s disease. Her last day was May 6, and her position became vacant when she died. The township hired Marilyn Kenner, retired chief deputy Mahoning County engineer, in May for $40,000 to replace Smolka-Widener, shortly after it hired Sarah Gartland for $55,000 as its new zoning inspector in May.
Even Loree stepped in as the interim zoning inspector along with his daily duties administrator after Mamone’s injury.
Loree said the board discussed hiring a new zoning inspector before Mamone’s injury.
“The board knew we had to do some changing in the zoning office. We’ve had a lot of projects in the books for demolition. We have a motel that was coming down, so essentially we knew we had to get moving quickly,” Loree said. “What we were trying to do was find somebody that could come in here and basically step in and start working.”
Enter Darren Crivelli, Austintown Township’s zoning inspector.
Just weeks ago Crivelli, who once worked for Boardman, was formally introduced to Boardman’s board of trustees as its new zoning inspector after he agreed to be paid a $70,000 salary that included a company car and cellphone. Part of the deal, then, was Crivelli could work part-time with Austintown on nights and weekends until it hired a new zoning inspector.
But Crivelli decided to stay with Austintown after the township matched Boardman’s offer.
Jim Davis, Austintown trustee, was given the responsibility to make an offer to Crivelli. Crivelli was making $59,000 annually with Austintown, before agreeing to his new $70,000 deal, an 18.6 percent pay increase.
Davis said additional money became available through several ongoing construction projects in the township, including the racino and two hotels.
“We never spent money we didn’t have,” Davis said. “The funding was there.”
Crivelli has a cellphone and township vehicle he can now use for personal use, Davis said. He noted that Crivelli is responsible for recording his mileage for tax purposes.
“He ends up paying for it in the long run,” Davis said.
Boardman Township was then in need of a zoning inspector and assistant zoning inspector, Loree said.
Gartland was hired as the full-time zoning inspector, while Mamone was still off work.
“[Gartland] was a little bit of a knowledge share, which was good,” Loree said. “She knows a lot of the folks we have to work with.” Gartland is eligible for a raise pending a review in six months, Loree added.
The township’s board of trustees approved a 90-day memorandum of understanding on May 13 that allows Crivelli to assist Gartland. It was agreed that Boardman would reimburse Austintown for any time Crivelli worked there. The townships agreed on $41 an hour, which is based on Crivelli’s actual wage, Loree said.
Boardman has paid Austintown $738 year-to-date for 18 hours of work Crivelli has performed in Boardman, said George Platton, assistant to the fiscal officer in Boardman. Davis said that money is not additional compensation for Crivelli.
“Sarah’s called on [Crivelli] a couple times, but he’s not here every day,” Loree said.
Gartland has been dealing with several zoning hearings and compliance issues, since she started — something that, she said “was getting away.”
Shortly after Gartland was hired, she was given the responsibility to find a staff to work under her. That’s when Kenner’s name was floated as a potential candidate.
“I’m very happy to be here,” Kenner said.
She added that her background with the county has given her an upper hand. She and Gartland have similar backgrounds that work well within the department. Their ability to plan and Kenner’s ability to read prints is key, Kenner said.
In 2011, Kenner made $95,921 with the county. She saw a salary increase of nearly $10,000 in 2012, her last year with the county. She retired to avoid cuts in her Public Employees Retirement System benefits and would maintain her PERS with the township because it’s considered a retire-rehire situation.
“Marilyn brings another set of skills to the table,” Loree said regarding Kenner’s ability to inspect and understand storm-water plans.
Kenner will make $65,518 less with the township but doesn’t look at it as a pay decrease.
“It’s fine. I’m retired,” Kenner said. “I couldn’t face sitting on the couch.”
“We’re actually building our department slowly and surely,” Loree said. He added to get someone with Kenner’s background at the price they did, was unheard of and had to be taken advantage of.
Loree said he sent a letter to Mamone explaining the situation and the potential offer if she comes back but has yet to hear a response. He added that he did talk to Mamone’s husband and that she was still recovering and dealing with her injury. Gartland was paid $9,500 more than Mamone because of her background in the field, Loree said.
Gartland graduated from Youngstown State University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in English and admits she chose to work in this field because it meant she’d be working for a governmental entity.
But she said her 12 years of experience with the Mahoning County planning commission is why she was the right hire.
“[Gartland] understood a lot of the platting and replatting to different designations, what could go on those designations,” Loree said. “She’s not only done that for Boardman, she did that for the entire county. She brought another realm of knowledge to the table.”