Perry chief: State paid for traffic control

PERRY TWP. — Perry Township Police Chief Mike Emigh corrected what he termed some “misquoted” information at the previous trustees meeting earlier this month regarding a traffic detail on the bypass.

“The township did not pay one dime for a car and police officer,” he said.

Emigh wasn’t able to attend the previous meeting due to training in Medina, but read what was said about the traffic control detail done by the department at the request of the state for a construction project.

A resident who’s been raising an issue regarding a cut in hours for part-time officers and wanting another full-timer hired had questioned why the police department was out directing traffic. She had also asked how many officers are on the road during a shift.

Trustee Chair Cliff Mix said the numbers vary and at that time explained that the department had been requested for traffic control on that project by the state. He said the state was paying for the car while the township was paying for the officer, but Emigh said the cost was completely covered by the state and that the traffic detail “did not cost us one penny.”

The resident, Maria Harrold, was accompanied by fellow resident Linda Dickey, who’s also been vocal about wanting another full-time officer on the road and about having an officer on the Columbiana County Drug Task Force. During the previous meeting, Mix said that the chief didn’t want another full-time officer at this time. He told them no decision had been made yet regarding a full-timer or the DTF and that the trustees still had to review the finances.

Emigh was very clear in telling the two women, who attended Monday’s meeting, that in the future, if they have questions about the department, they should call him directly. He explained that he would like to have eight more full-time officers if he could, but until he sees the budget, he doesn’t want to hire a full-time officer and then find out in November that the person has to be laid off because there isn’t enough money.

When asked about the situation Tuesday, Emigh said there’s been no budget meeting and there’s too much uncertainty. The department currently has four full-time officers (which includes Emigh) and five part-time officers and the township has 24-hour coverage, round-the-clock police protection. He wants another full-time officer, but doesn’t want to risk someone losing their job in the fall.

“We are getting by with what they told me I have to work with,” he said.

Zoning Officer Allan Wolfgang, who said he was speaking as a citizen, said there’s been a lot of discussion about funding in the police department and he felt it was casting a bad light on the township’s police force and the way Emigh runs the department. He wanted to put out some positive information and said “I’m very pleased with the way the police department is being run.”

Wolfgang said he had no concerns and noted that he doesn’t see any major crimes in the police reports for Perry Township.

“I think they’re doing an excellent job,” he said.

Dickey spoke out and said she resented what Wolfgang said about a bad light being cast on the police department, saying she thinks the department does a great job, too. She said she never made a comment against the police department.

“We’re providing the best police force we can with the money we have available,” Trustee Jim Armeni said.

Emigh also asked trustees about the deferred compensation program and the issue that was brought up last month about the money taken out of paychecks not getting to the company running the program. He is one of five township employees with money in the program and said the issue needs taken care of now.

“You’re costing me interest,” he said, adding he’s going to have a lot of questions for any companies planning to present the township with a new plan.

A road employee with money in the deferred compensation program raised questions at the last meeting, asking what the trustees were doing about the situation, noting that he too was losing interest. Township Fiscal Officer Susan Johnston said she had learned that the company had not received the last two checks she sent for the employees’ contributions. She has always sent the money in monthly, but the last two checks had not been cashed and she was told the company can’t accept automated money transfers.

Trustees said this program is the same as the one used by the county and Armeni said he found it hard to believe that the county wasn’t sending contributions electronically. Trustee Don Rudibaugh said the employee money needs to be sent every pay.

Mix said the trustees can set up meetings for the involved employees to see what some local companies can offer, but said trustees have no say in it because they’re not part of it. He did acknowledge later that the township is the employer and is involved by providing employees access to a plan. Johnston is part of the program, but said she hasn’t been contributing.