MINGO JUNCTION - A new contract was offered to members of the village's safety forces during Tuesday's council meeting.
But whether police officers will accept the offer remains to be seen.
Council president Judy Ruckman led the meeting in the absence of Mayor Domenic Chappano, who will be out for a few days due to health reasons.
Ruckman and other council members - with the exception of Jim Morrocco, whose absence was excused - agreed to offer the safety forces a new contract following an executive session.
A copy of the contract was presented to union president Joe Sagun, with officials requesting an answer by midnight Thursday. That request may be extended should the safety forces' attorney ask for additional time, it was noted.
The safety forces' last contract expired Aug. 15, Chappano had said.
Solicitor Kristopher Haught said the contract is similar as far as wages, benefits and paid holidays are concerned. What is not yet clear is the length of time the contract will be in effect, he said. That issue will be determined in upcoming discussions, Haught added.
The contract that has been offered says the safety forces do not have to have two men working per turn, which would allow one officer to work per shift. It also states part-time officers can be hired.
The previous contract mandated two full-time officers work each turn.
The contract also encompasses members of the village fire department and emergency medical technicians, Ruckman said.
If the safety forces accept the contract, it would take effect the day of acceptance, Haught stated.
That does not mean, however, that officers would be immediately brought back to the force, because there is still no money to pay their salaries, officials said.
Council will review the budget figures in January and determine how many officers to bring back to the force.
Sagun addressed council Tuesday before the new contract was offered, saying he submitted a letter in their mailboxes Monday requesting negotiations take place. He said no response was given.
When asked several times by Ruckman to stop the discussion because council could not comment due to ongoing court matters, Sagun said he has a right to free speech and inquired why a signed memorandum of understanding to lay off one officer last year didn't occur, perhaps saving some of the officers' jobs.
Councilman John Bracone replied there were numerous times council spoke of the need to lay off three officers in March, which would have left enough money in the budget to cover the costs of five officers through the end of this year.
However, when an attempt to lay off the officers was made, the safety forces obtained an injunction from Jefferson County Common Pleas Court citing that would violate their contract.
Sagun replied to Bracone's comment of laying off the three officers in March, asking, "And what do we get out of it?"
"Five officers still working," was the reply.
The village's seven officers were laid off on Sept. 21 after Common Pleas Judge David Henderson ruled the mayor has a right to lay off officers, which Chappano did immediately.
Police Chief Steve Maguschak has been the only officer on the force since that time. Residents are advised to call 911 during emergency situations, after which a deputy from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department will respond, should the chief not be on duty at the time.
Also on Tuesday,
The community and council were invited to attend the second meeting of a neighborhood crime watch being formed in the village.
That meeting will take place at 7 p.m. today at the Mingo Senior Center. Many organizations and businesses attended the first meeting and now citizens are being asked if they are interested in becoming a part of the neighborhood watch.
Trick-or-treat hours have been set for 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 31.
Village Administrator Karen O'Leary again announced that residents should be advised rubbish pickup is collected only on the fourth Friday of the month. She said many people are leaving larger items such as couches and chairs out for pickup when crews only collect that one day a month. She also said residents should be aware even if there are five Fridays in the month, as in October, the collection takes place on the fourth Friday.
Council gave a second reading for an ordinance to establish bulk water rates.
Haught stated he and council are working on rules of decorum during upcoming council meetings, where an agenda would be put into place. Currently there are no agendas for the meetings.
Set the following upcoming committee meetings: ordinance, 3 p.m. Tuesday; water and sewer, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday; and recreation, 4 p.m. Tuesday.
(Ghrist can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)