Council clears way for part-time cops

Police Chief J.T. Panezott said he wants to get part-time police officers on the street as soon as possible, with a just a few details to be worked out now that city council granted its approval.

City council voted favorably Tuesday for changes in the wage ordinance and fringe benefits ordinance to account for permanent part-time police officers. The idea had been discussed last week during a joint meeting of the Traffic & Safety Committee and Finance Committee.

Both committees recommended the plan to hire six part-time police officers to work set schedules, with one part-time officer per shift each day, as a means to increase the manpower while decreasing the amount of overtime.

The plan will give the department an extra person on each shift, covering three shifts per day, seven days a week, to help keep the department at the three-man minimum or above each shift. Currently if the department falls below the three-man minimum, another officer has to be called in on overtime to cover the shift. Overtime last year cost $83,092.

Part-timers will likely work 24 hours one week and 32 hours the next week for a total of 56 hours every two weeks.

After the meeting, Panezott said he has enough applications now with a lot of qualified people, all with the necessary Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy certification. He just needs to work out the details regarding drug testing and psychological evaluations he requested be required for candidates.

On behalf of himself and the entire police department, he offered thanks to city council, Mayor John Berlin, city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst, city Auditor Betty Brothers and anyone else who had a part in making the hiring of part-timers possible.

“I think it’s going to be a great thing safetywise for the officers and the public,” Panezott said.

A report prepared by Brothers showed the cost of six part-time officers using a step system from when they’re on probation, then experienced after 90 days and then senior experienced after one year. The costs were calculated based on a 28-hour work week for 52 weeks, noting they cannot average more than 29 hours per week for the year.

At a starting rate of $12.50 per hour for the first 90 days, the total cost for six was estimated at $29,094, which includes the required retirement and Medicare contributions. After 90 days, the rates will increase to $13.50 per hour and officers will receive a $150 uniform allowance, two personal days and accumulate sick leave retroactive to the first day of employment for a total cost of $106,933 for six part-time officers.

After one year, the total cost for six part-time officers will increase to $148,536, representing an hourly rate of $14.50, along with the required contributions, uniform allowance and personal days.

Part-timers won’t receive hospitalization or vacation time.

In other action, council approved an ordinance authorizing appropriations and transfers which included appropriating $50,000 into the line item for housing inspectors. Brothers explained that the total includes $24,600 in revenue received so far for the occupancy permit. The fee for the permit and associated costs related to housing inspections were increased recently, with the city agreeing to place all funds for the fee into a separate line item for housing inspector operations.

For now, she noted some general fund money had to be placed in that fund to cover the operating costs until more revenue is received from the fees.

Council also passed a resolution giving Kenst permission to sell the city’s surplus asphalt grindings collected during various street repair and resurfacing projects, with no less than 50 percent of the sale proceeds going to the capital improvement fund and the rest going to streets.

Brothers explained that council previously passed a similar ordinance in 2012 when the city had a large surplus built over many years. The new ordinance will allow the sale when there is a surplus without having to go to council each time. She also noted that the decision can be made to put all the proceeds into capital if necessary.

During the meeting, Councilman Clyde Brown asked city Law Director Brooke Zellers to explain a recent decision by the city Planning Commission where an ordinance regarding plot diagram requirements for construction projects was rejected, with changes suggested. He questioned the commission’s ability to outright reject an ordinance sent by council for review.

Zellers explained that the commission has the option to review an ordinance and leave it alone or make changes to it. He didn’t believe they had the authority to just reject it, but believed it was more a case of wording. They rejected it as presented and suggested changes. The topic of the plot diagram requirement amendment will come up again at a future meeting.

The following committee meetings were announced:

– Committee of the Whole, 6 p.m. March 4, council chambers, regarding a speaker from the Better Landlord program.

– Rules & Ordinances Committee, 6:30 p.m. March 11, council chambers, regarding more changes to Chapter 1147 of the city ordinances dealing with Planning & Zoning permits and fees, along with odds and ends from last year, such as indoor shooting ranges and the shale issue.

Council entered into executive session at the request of Zellers regarding litigation, with no action taken.