The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 19, 2014

Change ahead

Conneaut council will be briefed on ‘reorganization’

Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — City Manager Tim Eggelston will use an executive session Monday night to discuss a “reorganization” of some municipal departments with City Council members.

The topic surfaced at council’s work session. Eggleston told members he wanted to discuss “the reorganization of a couple of departments,” not identifying the departments or the changes he may propose. He indicated the changes could involve employee contracts and would elaborate during an executive session designed to brief council on contract talks.

“It’s not for public consumption,” he said.

Council President Nicholas Church, reached for comment Tuesday, said he has no idea what Eggleston wants to discuss. “I learned about it the same time you did,” he told a reporter.

Eggleston declined comment on his remarks when contacted on Tuesday. The city is negotiating with Local 2182 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents service department employees. A fact-finding hearing is scheduled for April, officials have said.

In other business, council learned the cost of hiring two full-time corrections officers for the city jail, a move meant to free police officers of the chore and return them to the streets. Two corrections officers would cost about $126,000 annually for wages and benefits, compared to $96,000 for one police officer, said Finance Director John Williams.

Council is mulling options aimed at beefing up police patrols. Initially, council looked at hiring another patrolman, but Police Chief Charles Burlingham suggested corrections officers as a cheaper alternative. Conneaut has no corrections officers, meaning police are pulled off the road to tend to inmates’ needs and supervise their activities.

While two jail officers, each working 12-hour shifts, wouldn’t fix the problem, their presence would help be a big boost to patrols, officials said. Police would then have the staff to handle the code enforcement crackdown that has been a priority with council.

The problem is finding money for the extra help. No cash was tucked into the 2014 budget for police personnel, council was told. Last week, Williams said some $80,000 set aside for vehicles may be used for hirings.

Contracts may also need to be examined before any changes are made. The police department has been without full-time corrections officers for a few years, council learned.

In related news, Eggleston said the city will handle fire dispatch duties for neighboring North Kingsville on a trial basis. The village, along with other communities, have been looking for a fire dispatch service since Ashtabula Township bowed out late last year, citing the cost. The one-year contract will pay Conneaut $5,280, the same