Separate Agendas At Odds At Swanton Village Council Meeting

Swanton Village and Swanton Township residents wait for a chance to voice their concerns about the proposed railyard.

Swanton Village and Swanton Township residents wait for a chance to voice their concerns about the proposed railyard.

Residents of the Village of Swanton and Swanton Township filled most of the seats at the Village Council chambers during the September 26 Council meeting, having only one item on their agenda, to learn more about the Village’s intentions regarding the quarter-acre of Village-owned property that Norfolk Southern Railroad wants to acquire as part of a proposed 120-acre railyard coal car staging project.

The rest of the site’s acreage is located in Swanton Township.

The residents, many with a vested interest in property within close proximity of the proposed railyard, were aware the Village had placed its property on the open market and that the Council would be discussing the sale of the property that evening in an executive session, this, according to the meeting’s agenda published a few days before.

However, to the disappointment and consternation of the crowd, their concerns were not part of the Village’s agenda and therefore, would not be allowed to be presented to the Council. This fact was not realized until, after all regular business had been concluded, Mayor Ann Roth called for a motion to adjourn before any questions could be asked.

Several people became upset and asked if they would be given an opportunity to speak where upon Rosanna Hoelzle, Village Administrator, answered “no” and said they would need to be placed on the official agenda. When asked how they could get on the agenda she explained that, according to the Village of Sawnton’s Rules of Council, they would need to contact her “before 12:00 noon on the Thursday immediately preceding the Monday on which the meeting is to be held.” Additionally, “All presentations to Council have a 15-minute time limit unless extended an affirmative vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the members present.”

The crowd then asked that the rules be suspended to allow them to pose questions to the Council. Mayor Roth asked the Council members if they would agree to do so and they summarily declined.

Swanton Township has obtained legal counsel to stop the project and a citizens group named CANS (Citizens Against Norfolk Southern) has been formed as well.

In personnel news, a letter was sent to Swanton Fire Department (SFD) employee Jennifer Harrison informing her she had been relieved of her duties. Ms. Harrison had stopped reporting for work and did not respond to several attempts to contact her. Her dismissal was approved by Council 6-0.

SFD Chief Mike Wolever has evaluated the current staffing model in the SFD. Minimum staffing each day is three people, two full-time and one part-time. Ideal staffing would have four people, two full-time and two part-time.

Employee probations have ended for Karla Sexton, Fiscal Officer and Stewart Graff, Wastewater Treatment Operator and Council voted unanimously to extend their employment.

A change in the Fair Labor Standards Act has set the minimum salary for exempt employees at $47,476 and will become effective December 1, 2016. Three positions, the Fiscal Officer at $44,000, the Chief of Police at $46,800 and the Superintendent of Public Services at $45,968, currently fall below the new threshold. To be in compliance with federal law, Administrator Hoelzle is recommending the salaries be raised to $50,000, $52,000 and $52,000 respectfully and become effective November 20, 2016.

The October meeting of the Planning Commission will have two major items for discussion. First will be to review the site plan for the proposed Taco Bell on Airport Highway. Second will be a review of a Conditional Use permit by the Swanton Local School’s Board of Education for the proposed additions to their elementary buildings.

Color-coded door hangers, similar to the ones for water shut-off notices will be hung on properties who are in violation of the nuisance ordinance (purple) or the grass/weeds ordinance (yellow). Dennis Brown has been surveying the community and will post the door hangers as needed.

The next meeting will be held on October 10, 2016 in the Council Conference room at 7:00 PM.

Bill O’Connell may be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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