By DAVID GREEN
Fayette village council members focused on police issues at their meeting Wednesday, including hiring a new officer and a traffic violation by the chief.
Councilors gave their support at a committee-of-the-whole meeting March 13 to hire a full-time police officer to bring the staff back to three. Council is expected to vote on the hiring at the regular March 27 meeting.
Police chief Jason Simon recommended hiring a current part-time officer who has done a good job for the village—if he’s available.
The officer is also in line for another job and may choose that one, Simon said, although he has stated a preference for raising his children in a smaller community. He’s willing to relocate to Fayette at the end of the school year.
Council member Julia Ruger stated her support for the new officer, but wondered if the hiring might be coupled with a reduction in total hours covered by police. A review of the annual statistics showing when calls to police are generally made could give guidance to reduce coverage.
She also wondered about compensation procedures to have officers on call but not actually on duty.
Mayor Ruth Marlatt asked if the county sheriff’s department could be called when a Fayette officer is not on duty. That could be done, Simon said, but at a cost. A contract for services would have to be signed. Deputies often serve as back-up help for an incident, but not as the primary responder. The response would likely be slower unless a deputy was in the northwest part of the county when a call came in.
Chief Simon spoke of the continuing difficulty he has scheduling part-time staff because they often have other obligations. Several part-time officers have been lost in recent months when they accepted full-time positions elsewhere, and two others might soon be leaving.
Simon said there are at least nine officers currently working with Fulton County departments who initially started with Fayette.
In addition to a new full-time officer, he also suggested hiring two additional part-timers, if they can be found. A part-time crew is needed to control the amount of overtime for the full-time officers. Simon said the amount spent on overtime in the last three years is phenomenal.
“The money spent on overtime could, in itself, almost warrant another officer,” he said. “What it boils down to is not a new officer but a replacement. The third full-time officer is not a new position, it’s just replacing Troy [Stewart].”
“It makes sense to me to hire another person full-time and use part-time sparingly when you need them,” Ruger said.
INCREASE—The Public Safety committee also gave its support for Chief Simon’s request to raise the pay of part-time officer Josh Rodriguez to $12 an hour.
Simon said Rodriguez is in a supervisory position when the chief is absent and he deserves to have a higher pay than the other part-time officers.
ATTORNEY—The committee recommended renewing a contract with Mark Powers to serve as the village’s prosecuting attorney at a rate of $75 an hour.
CITATION—The final discussion from the Public Safety committee involved a complaint filed against Chief Simon for violation of the law regarding a stopped school bus with flashing red lights.
The driver of another vehicle that was stopped behind the bus on Feb. 20 reported the incident to the school. Because the alleged incident occurred inside the village limits, it was turned over to the county sheriff’s department for investigation.
Simon told council members that he had not been served a notice of the violation, but he urged the chief deputy at the sheriff’s department to move forward with the process.
“I’m no different than anyone else,” he said. “If I ran the lights, then I deserve a ticket.”
Simon said he will pay the fine and expect a written notice to be placed in his personnel file.
“I drive 25- to 30,000 miles a year around the village and I’ve only had one violation,” he said later. “I feel pretty good about that.”
SEWER WORK—Ruger said she’s heard more inquiries about construction on the former school property and wants assurance that it’s all right to dig there. The settlement with the school regarding contamination on the site declared that the area was to remain a green space and prohibited subsurface activities.
Village administrator Steve Blue said he met at the site with representatives from the Ohio EPA, the village’s engineering firm and Camille Ajaka who oversees cleanup for the property. There was agreement that the sewer work did not pose a problem.
DIKE—During a discussion about excess soil from the sewer project, council member Diane Brubaker asked if it would possible to place dirt along the south side of the running track on Eagle Street to prevent flooding onto the property.