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Girard council propels raises

Mayor ready to veto proposal

GIRARD — While Girard City Council advanced pay raises for council and council president in a second reading Tuesday, Mayor James Melfi reiterated his intent to veto the hikes.

Council and city administrators did agree to have a finance meeting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 25, before the next regular council meeting, to discuss pay raises and other money matters.

Melfi has said he will veto any pay raises for council.

He noted that the city is going into a negotiating year with the city’s various unions and employees on their next three-year contracts. Melfi said some city positions are poorly paid.

“In a very short time, the safety service director and I will be meeting with the various unions about their contracts. I think my position on council pay raises is clear,” he said.

Three readings be council and the mayor’s approval are required for the increase to be effective in January 2024.

Council President Reynald Paolone said no pay raises can be in-term but can go into effect with the start of the new term. Council and council president are two-year terms.

They make $7,900 annually, which does not qualify for credit toward the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System because the amount paid in is too low.

Being proposed is to increase the pay for council and council president in 2024 to $8,658. Other increases would be to $8,809 in 2025, $8,963 in 2026, $9,118 in 2027, $9,287 in 2028, and $9,443 in 2029.

Council also has proposed a pay increase for the treasurer, giving a first reading Tuesday by a 5-1 vote. But because that is a four-year term, the increase would be effective January 2026 for the start of the next four-year term.

The treasurer would receive $8,964 in January 2026 — just $2 more than the salary now — to meet the minimum required for Ohio PERS.

Paolone said council plans to recommend proceeding with pay raises and said he will see what is discussed at the finance meeting.

He said the total cost for the seven council members and council president over six years for pay raises is $8,152.

Melfi said the role of city treasurer has greatly diminished, previously being responsible for two full-time employees. He said a statutory city does require a city treasurer, something that has changed over the years with fewer responsibilities.

Law Director Brian Kren said because the treasurer does not legislate, that pay raise could start in 2022 instead of 2026 — but council by a 5-1 vote wanted the pay increase to start in 2026 at $8,964.

Second Ward Councilman Mark Standohar, who cast the “no” vote on the treasurer’s raise, said he recommends council follow Kren’s recommendation on the pay increase starting in 2022.

“The law director gave a legal opinion that it would not be unethical to start in 2022. The auditor and treasurer positions are not inherently involved in legislating and can receive the $1 more to receive service credit for PERS.” he said.

In other business, officials expressed their frustration at the delay for the demolition of properties at 15 and 25 W. Liberty St. owned by Dan Penza of Girard and Robert Penza of North Jackson.

“I feel confident that we will be successful and getting the buildings torn down. We have known about this problem for a long time but the court system slows us down. What we experience every day is very frustrating. We as city officials are doing our best,” Melfi said.

He said the building owners notified the police that they will have a dumpster at the building this week to remove items from the building.

Melfi said both buildings were condemned by the Trumbull Combined Health District.

“We will see where it goes and keep council informed,” he said.

Kren said Trumbull County Common Pleas Court ruled that the owners have 90 days to get the properties cleaned up, halting demolition.

Councilwoman-at-Large Lily Martuccio said she photographed a dead bird inside the window of one of the buildings.

“Some businesses in the downtown are blighting are city because of the condition they are in. This did not just happen overnight. This is clearly a sign of problems,” she said.

Martuccio said other business owners nearby who keep their properties looking nice are upset over the poor condition.

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