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Hartville Council votes to give fire department CARES Act money, but timing could be an issue

Brian Lisik
Suburbanite correspondent

HARTVILLE  Hartville village will use a portion of its $178,000 in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to partially pay for new turnout gear for the Hartville Fire Department.

Hartville Village Hall

The Fire Department requested a total of $43,284 for the turnout gear. Councilwoman Bev Green made the motion at the Nov. 17 village council meeting to appropriate half - or $21,642 – of that cost.

“That is what the CARES money is for and (the Fire Department) doesn’t receive CARES money because they are a private company,” Green said. “I do know that (Lake) Township has given some money to all three fire departments (Hartville, Uniontown, and Greentown) to offset their costs.”

The motion passed unanimously, but Fiscal Officer Scott Varney noted that timing is an issue.

“I just want to make sure we will meet the deadlines if we do it as COVID money,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we couldn’t do it some other way later, but I have to encumber the funds and make sure the purchase can be made and the money spent in time.”

The CARES Act states that funding must be spent on COVID-19 related expenses by the end of 2020.

The timing became more unclear later in the meeting when an ordinance to amend the 2020 budget for expenses through the end of the year failed to garner enough votes to pass by emergency, with Green and Councilman Jim Sullivan voting against emergency passage.

“I don’t feel we need to keep spending money – I think we need to cut back,” Green said. “I don’t think this (ordinance) and the (pending 2021 budget) is the way to go.”

Village Solicitor Ron Starkey explained that while there were enough votes to pass the legislation 4-2, the no votes prevented the rules to be suspended for first-reading passage.

Flak over finance meetings

Budget discussions continued later in the meeting when Green and Sullivan voted against emergency passage of the 2021 appropriations budget. This vote also delayed appropriating money into a new street paving fund, which Council approved the creation of at the Nov. 17 meeting.

Sullivan called for a finance meeting to further discuss the 2021 budget as well as possible appropriations remaining in 2020. That meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. Nov. 23, but Varney reiterated that not passing the budget amendments could affect how the village can spend its COVID-19 money.

Mayor Cynthia Billings asked why specific concerns with the budget have not been brought up “at three (previous) finance meetings.”

Sullivan said he believes that Council can reach unanimous agreement on the budget by having one more finance meeting. Green said she has not brought her concerns up at the previous finance meetings because she doesn’t believe those concerns are being given proper consideration.

“I’m not going to argue with people who don’t want to hear what I have to say,” Green said. “What I have been hearing in the village is that people want us to stop spending money. There are things in the budget that are not needed.”

Billings replied that “we are running a village; we can’t ‘stop spending money’.”

Councilwoman Kelly Ries asked Green why she has not brought this up at finance committee meetings.

“Because no one is listening,” Green replied.

Reis suggested that Green and Sullivan provide “specific discussion points” for the Nov. 23 meeting. Councilwoman Elizabeth Williams agreed.

“I agree that we’d like a list of what certain parts of the budget (are a concern) and hash it out and be done,” Williams said.

In other actions, council:

• Accepted a $600 donation to the Hartville Police Department from Big Oak Realty.

• Approved a resolution urging Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly to extend the deadline for operating public meetings electronically.