by Sue Serdinak
Oct. 3 village council meeting
Procuring vehicles for Richfield Village safety forces has become a challenge.
Village council suspended readings on an ordinance to authorize purchasing a 2025 rescue squad for $361,923. According to Fire Chief George Seifert, the anticipated delivery date of the vehicle is 2026.
Finance Director Sandy Turk said this action locks in the price, which is expected to rise by the delivery date.
Seifert said the village has two squads that will have over 100,000 miles on each of their odometers by the time a new one arrives.
“They are workhorses, and they wear out pretty quickly,” he said.
He added that Bath Township, Akron and other communities keep a retired vehicle in their fleet so they always have two functional vehicles. Last year, Richfield borrowed Bath’s extra squad when one of Richfield’s was out of service for repairs.
“The situation is desperate for all of the departments,” Seifert said, adding that the village schedule for ordering rescue squads needs to be revisited.
Seifert also reported the resignation of Alex Haffner as a part-time fire medic to accept a full-time position in Brecksville. Seifert said the department has one open full-time position and is interviewing.
He also reported that the fire department is working with Super 8 Hotel, located on Brecksville Road south of the Turnpike, to resolve code violations that prompted a condemnation order in September.
Council suspended a reading and passed legislation to purchase a Ford Police Explorer from Montrose Ford at a cost not to exceed $154,000. The anticipated delivery of the vehicle is 2024.
Police Chief Michael Swanson reported that 10% of police calls involve a person with a mental illness. He has required all of Richfield’s full-time officers to receive crisis intervention training to help them deal with mental health issues using de-escalation principals.
The department is hosting a blood drive at Town Hall on Nov. 29. To donate, register on the Red Cross website, redcrossblood.org/give.html/donation-time.
He also announced the resignation of full-time officer Morgan Miller, to become part time.
Council did not take action on soliciting proposals to construct pickleball courts south and east of Town Hall because the exact locations have not been determined.
Mayor Michael Wheeler said he has prepared a budget for 2024 that is 1.5% less than the 2023 budget. With the bankruptcy of Yellow Freight and the decrease in income tax revenue overall, the village must be conservative in its spending, Wheeler said.
According to Turk, the village must reimburse $549,780 in income tax dollars collected for people employed by Richfield businesses, but who work from home. The village received $297,630 in reimbursements for village residents who work from their homes and are employed by companies not in Richfield.
The difference in the amount reimbursed to non-residents and the amount received for residents working in other cities was $252,150.
Real estate taxes
Law Director Ben Chojnacki reported that he has determined that there is no action that the village can take to help residents whose real estate taxes have been increased. The state required that the county increase real estate taxes in proportion to the increase in property values following the increased demand and prices of homes during the pandemic.
Recreation Director John Piepsny said it has cost the village $23,058 in 2023 for residents to be full members of the Broadview Heights Recreation Center.
He also is seeking instructors for fall and winter classes. Anyone with a hobby or skill they would like to teach should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wheeler reported that drivers are not obeying the road closure of eastbound Route 303, which is being lowered to remove a site distance problem. He said there is now a police officer at the site.
He also reported that although the construction on Brecksville Road, under the I-77 bridge, should be complete in November, Summit County will close the road again in 2024 for 180 days. During the closure, the county will replace a small bridge under which the Furnace Run creek flows.
Comprehensive land use
The public is invited to the next meeting of the comprehensive land use plan on Nov. 9 from 6-8 p.m. The location will be announced on the village website.
The sledding hill at Babb’s Orchard Park has been re-landscaped and seeded and should be ready for sledders on the first snowy day. It is located on Broadview Road, just south of Hawkins Road.
Council approved the negotiated agreement with the International Association of Firefighters, Local 4410, for a new three-year contract.
The agreement covers full-time members of the department, excluding the fire chief and assistant chief.
Wages for members in-training will be $21.08 per hour in 2024 and $31.22 per hour for those with 36 months or more of service. Pay will increase 3.5% in 2025 and 3% in 2026. Lieutenants will receive up to $43.97 per hour in 2024.
Employees will be on duty for 24 hours then be off for 48 hours. Overtime work will be paid at the rate of 1½ times the regular rate or in compensatory time off at the same rate.
Employees will receive a clothing allowance of $1,500 per year, and the village will reimburse 75% of college tuition costs for job-related courses.
Effective July 1, 2024, members will contribute 14% of the cost of their health insurance. The contribution will increase to 14.5% in 2025 and 15% in 2026. The village will pay the employees’ contribution to the Police & Firemen’s Disability Pension Fund.
Members can accumulate 6.47 hours of sick leave per pay period. Employees with at least 10 years of service will be paid for up to 597.6 hours of unused sick leave when they retire. Members will also receive longevity compensation based on years of service, up to a maximum of $2,400 per year.
The union agreed not to authorize a strike or work slowdown if there is a grievance and will follow the grievance procedures in the contract. The agreement includes an evaluation process to determine if a member is fit for duty.
Councilmembers thanked Wheeler for his work with the fire union to come up with a fair agreement. ∞
All new playground equipment has been installed at Richfield Woods Park. Photo by S. Serdinak