Trustees approve new full-time road department employee after divided vote


By Sarah Lehr

slehr@vindy.com

LIBERTY

A few dozen residents packed a township trustee meeting Monday afternoon and, judging from those who gave public comments, they all had the same complaints – road conditions and road department staffing.

Trustees disagreed about whether the township should hire an additional full-time road-department employee.

After a debate, trustees hired Tim Munroe as a full-time road-department employee at a cost of about $55,000 per year including benefits. Trustees Stan Nudell and Jason Rubin voted for the hire. Jodi Stoyak voted against it.

The department employs four full-time workers, and Senior Foreman Gino Bidinotto said that was not enough people to get the job done. He pointed out that oftentimes, there are only three employees working on a given day due to vacation and sick time and said this typically means there is no one redirecting traffic.

“We have no safety at all,” Bidinotto said. “That’s not the way to do it, and I’m not proud of it.”

Stoyak opposed hiring a full-time employee, stating she would rather put the money toward road resurfacing, which would hopefully lead to matching funding from the state. Stoyak said approximately $28,000 in overtime has been paid to road department employees this year, and said that amount didn’t prove a need for a new full-time employee, given that it was cheaper than the $55,000 a year it would cost for a new hire with benefits.

Bidinotto said the current union contract prohibited mandatory overtime in his department, except for cases of emergency, and also prohibited the department from hiring any part-time employees at this time. Going forward, Bidinotto and trustees all expressed interest in renegotiating the contract to change some of these restrictions, especially those against hiring part-timers, but Nudell argued the township couldn’t wait to correct the department’s understaffing.

The township will begin contract negotiations in 2016.

“My hands are tied,” Bidinotto said. “Believe me, we want to work and ... we all want to work something out that works for us and works for the township.”

Stoyak expressed concern about the hire, particularly in light of the township’s financial troubles. The township is still in a state of fiscal caution, first designated by the state auditor in 2013, and the general fund, as of September 2015, has a negative balance of $57,887.

“We’re only resurfacing two roads [in 2016],” Stoyak said. “To continue hiring now instead of resurfacing, in my opinion, could be construed as malfeasance.”

Next year, the township will resurface Will-o-Wood Drive, at an estimated cost of $183,118, and Yvonne Drive, at an estimated cost of $99,880. Trustees applied for state funding to cover 39 percent of the cost to resurface Will-O-Wood and 61 percent of the cost to resurface Yvonne. The township will foot the rest of the bill using road-levy money.

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