SR 13 construction

Construction began July 7 on State Route 13 in Mount Vernon. It is expected to continue until November.

MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon resident Tom Cassell had a pointed question for council members and the administration at Monday night's council meeting:

“What are you, city government as a whole, going to do to correct the numerous traffic problems in the residential areas that the Sandusky Street work is causing?”

“'Sorry, it'll be done in five months,' is not the correct answer,” he told council. “Obviously, this was not well thought out what to do with the out-of-town traffic that ignores the detour signs or the sheer volume of local traffic that moves through the city on residential streets.”

Cassell said semis and a 45-foot motor home with a three-axle car trailer have moved through residential streets as well as the sheer volume of cars and pickups.

“Who's going to foot the bill for repair of these residential streets?” he asked.

Cassell charged city council and the administration to come up with a comprehensive plan to resolve the problems and present it at the July 26 meeting.

“We expect some answers, people, and we deserve them,” he said.

“We are constantly keeping an eye on the situation,” Safety-service Director Richard Dzik said.

The city requested that the Ohio Department of Transportation hire law enforcement officers to help direct traffic, but ODOT declined. ODOT moved some signage and extra signage has been added.

“The real problem is truck traffic. I counted no less than a dozen detour signs, flashing signs … At a certain point it's on the driver to follow the law or be cited,” Dzik said.

He said the city would have a plan at the next council meeting.

In two committee meetings prior to the legislative session, council focused on the city's safety forces.

Tony DiIuliis, administrator of the city's Civil Service Commission, outlined a plan to allow lateral transfers into the Mount Vernon Police Department.

A lateral transfer is when an officer leaves one police agency and joins another.

DiIuliis said the department is also trying to expand into a national testing site to get more entry-level candidates.

“We are competing with other cities. The numbers of people who are interested in taking a police position or firefighter position are going down,” he said. “We have to be a little bit more flexible.”

DiIuliis said he did not want to automatically go to lateral transfers as a way to staff the department.

“I don't want to go against open, competitive testing, but I also know that we have to be realistic about some things,” he said.

To transfer in, an officer has to have a minimum of two years experience. MVPD Capt. Scott McKnight said transfers would take the 16- to 18-week training course that new recruits undergo. Unlike new trainees, who typically have their training extended because everything is totally new, he expects the transfers to be ready in 16 to 18 weeks.

The pay scale for officers transferring in would be capped at five years. That means that even if an officer has 15 years of experience, he or she would be paid at the five-year experience level.

“We are probably going to pay more for these officers at the beginning, but we are getting their experience,” Dzik said, adding that the higher pay will be offset by saving the $3,000 to $5,000 it costs to send a new officer to the training academy.

Dzik said that while transfers might get higher pay, they will come in on the bottom in terms of seniority, vacation, and time off requests.

The MVPD has two upcoming vacancies to fill. Dzik said the test given a year ago did not have a lot of candidates.

DeIuliis said he has received phone calls from people in really big cities who want to get away and come to Mount Vernon.

City Auditor Terry Scott said he did not see the lateral transfer program as a budget-buster.

“Overall, you're getting an experienced person, but you're not paying for the experienced person,” he said.

He added that the program does not overstep on current personnel. Additionally, the city will save money if a transfer replaces a retiree because the transfer will come in at a lower rate yet bring experience to the position.

Council gave its support for DiIuliis and the MVPD to pursue the use of lateral transfers.

Seasonal fire personnel

Council also discussed using seasonal personnel in the fire department to flush hydrants and test hoses. The pay rate is $10 to $11 an hour.

It takes two people to do the testing and flushing. Fire Chief Chad Christopher said that when the department is fully staffed, he can spare the two individuals. When the department is on minimum staffing, he has to call in two people, which causes some overtime.

He noted, however, that the flushing and testing typically do not cause a lot of overtime. In 2019, the cost was $2,200. For 2020, the number is about $2,750.

The overtime rate for a firefighter averages $37.45 an hour.

The city has about 1,200 hydrants. A team can flush about 30 a day.

The city is divided into north and south divisions. The department flushes about half of the hydrants in each division each year. Christopher said that he would like to get back to testing all of the hydrants annually to improve the city's ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating.

In its legislative session, council waived the third reading and passed an ordinance allowing the seasonal personnel.

Council also took the following actions:

•Passed a resolution of no confidence in the city safety-service director

•Appointed council members Amber Keener to the Board of Directors of Main Street Mount Vernon and Julia Warga to the Foundation Park Conservancy Board

•Authorized the transfer of funds and approved supplemental appropriations, including $20,000 from Ariel Foundation (tree planting) and $2,050 from Mount Vernon Nazarene University (fire equipment)

•Adopted a revenue budget of $7.98 million for 2022

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