Village will bring detective on board

MINGO JUNCTION — Village Council in a split vote Tuesday agreed to move forward with hiring a drug detective for the police department.

Council for the past two finance committee meetings had discussed the issue with Police Chief Joe Sagun. The village is sitting on $20,000 in the drug enforcement fund, plus revenue is coming in a little better than anticipated for the year, according to the village clerk’s office.

Council members Jeffrey Schuetz, Adam Peeler, George Irvin and Jodilynn Fitzgerald voted in favor of bringing forward the ordinance to hire the drug detective.

Councilmembers Michael Herrick and Jack Brettell voted in opposition.

Brettell said the village needs drug enforcement, but said he preferred to wait until the beginning of the year when revenue projections would be more clear.

“Why the big rush?” he said.

Sagun said the department this year has answered more than 2,250 calls, with only five officers including the chief. He said he has been keeping overtime down this year and maintaining the money allocated for wages to the department, which was $227,000.

The cost of the officer, with benefits, would be about $62,000 a year in the beginning and increase to $70,450 in the second year.

Sagun said the officer would be assigned to the drug task force, but would also fill in shifts on the road. He said the officer won’t be hired until January, following background checks and other issues related to the hiring.

The chief said he is going to retire next year and the department will probably lose at least one officer to another, better-paying department.

The clerk’s office the village took in about $100,000 in extra income tax so far this year, attributed to JSW Steel reopening the steel plant.

But councilmembers said there has been word of layoffs at the mill, and a slowdown in production.

Fitzgerald said there is a definite need for drug enforcement in the village.

Peeler agreed, but he is concerned about the loss of officers in the future.

Irvin said he wanted to give it a try for a year and see if the revenue holds up.

Village Administrator Bob Smith announced the village has received a $250,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the village’s state-mandated sewer-separation project. Smith said he applied for the grant to help ease the cost of the project.

Council gave the mayor authorization in August to advertise for bids and award a contract to build a 2 million gallon equalization tank, which will prevent overflows at the sewage plant during heavy rain events. A new grit system also will be installed as part of the project to remove rocks and other debris before the sewerage and storm water enters the treatment process.

The village has been under orders by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for more than 10 years to separate the storm water from the sanitary sewer pipes to prevent an overflow of untreated sewerage into Cross Creek and eventually the Ohio River.

A plan was devised several years ago to build the equalization tank.

Smith said some sewers will have to be separated, but not as many with the tank being built.

He said the cost of the project is around $6 million. Bids will be opened on Oct. 28.

Smith said the village received a zero-interest loan from the Ohio EPA for the work. The project has to be under contract by Dec. 1 to receive the loan.

Brettell again brought up the issue of his employment at the village park, while also serving as a councilman.

Brettell said council was informed by village Solicitor Ernest Wilson that Brettell working as a village employee was considered legal.

Brettell announced on Sept. 10 he had paid back the $1,800 he earned working at the park.

He now said he is receiving e-mails about his wife, who also did work at the park during the summer cleaning shelter houses. He said the e-mails indicated his wife didn’t do the work. Brettell said he has contacted an attorney, who said the statements border on slander.

Brettell said his attorney claims Wilson gave Brettell bad advice about taking the job at the park.

“It was a political move at election time,” Brettell said of the issue.

Mayor Edward Fithen said everyone knew he hired Brettell after nobody responded to a legal advertisement about the position.

Fitzgerald said she didn’t know Brettell was hired.

“No one did anything on purpose,” Fithen said.

Fithen announced trick-or-treat is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 31.