The newly reorganized Liberty Township Board of Trustees said Thursday during its first meeting of 2020 it is hitting the reset button on the hot-button issues of 2019.
After the reorganization of the board, discussions were opened up for the formation of several citizen-run committees.
“The whole idea is community involvement and giving people a chance to voice and make sure we’re getting the pulse of the community when it comes to some of our hotter-button issues,” said Trustee Bryan Newell. “We’re not looking to give away our power or give away our decision-making to citizens.”
The first committee discussed was the appointment of five representatives of the township to the Cooperative Economic Development Agreement (CEDA) Committee.
The mutually beneficial agreement was adopted by the township and the City of Powell in 2002 to foster strategic growth and economic development. The city’s legal counsel sent a formal letter to the township at the beginning of March 2019 requesting a meeting with the township — the trustees ignored the request.
Trustee Michael Gemperline made a motion to table the resolution to appointment members to the CEDA Committee, but he didn’t receive a second to carry it to a vote.
“The CEDA only exists for Powell when it is in their interest, and to my understanding, it has been violated to the point that … the CEDA no longer exists,” he said. “There is zero question there needs to be a binding consensus between Powell and the township with density and building standards that projects and directs what this community will look like from the way the property development we are and will be confronted with.”
Trustee Shyra Eichhorn told Gemperline that the resolution and appointment wasn’t anything new. “It’s just kind of housekeeping we’ve done every year.”
The board unanimously appointed the township’s five-member Zoning Committee to the CEDA Committee.
Many of the other hot-button issues revolved around the township’s fire-based emergency medical services (EMS). They included:
• Appointment of the Fire Chief Thomas O’Brien as the township’s representative on the Delaware County Pre-Hospital Care System Board of Directors.
“I think that (administrator) Michael Schuiling should be a part of this as he has the expertise and inside awareness unlike any other human being on this planet as far as Delaware County EMS …,” Gemperline said. “I want Mike Schuiling there to filter what the committee does.”
Gemperline also accused O’Brien of having a “bias” when it came to the township’s fire department.
Eichhorn explained to Gemperline that it wasn’t appropriate for Schuiling to be a part of the county’s board of directors.
“According to the pre-care hospitalization charter, only voting members can be the fire chiefs, and also, the Delaware County administrator,” she said. “As to the chief being bias, he is one of the most professional people that I have ever met.”
Newell and Eichhorn voted yes to approve the O’Brien to the board, while Gemperline voted no.
• The board exercised its right to terminate The Ohio State University medical director contract with the Wexner Medical Center and reopened the Request for Proposals (RFP) process to find a new medical director.
“This has nothing to do with Ohio State, this has everything to do with the process that was followed,” Newell said. “The township benefits by a little competition, and the last time we didn’t have any competition to see if we were getting the best deal.”
• The board appointed Dr.Warren Yamarick as the interim medical director for the township during the RFP process.
Yamarick was replaced with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center as Liberty Township’s medical director in January 2019 by the prior board after he stood up in a trustees meeting to voice his opinion about having only two paramedics to an ambulance.
In a 2-0 vote, Gemperline recused himself due to pending litigation between him and Yamarick, the board approved the resolution.
• At the request of O’Brien, the board discussed the establishment of a fire chief advisory committee.
But, before going any further, Newell said, “While I’m in favor of the idea since the chief has requested this, I think we need to look into this program … I think we need to establish what their roles are, because I don’t want to ask folks to volunteer their time and not really understand what they are doing.”
O’Brien said the department would be seeking accreditation moving forward and part of the process is to have an open community-driven strategic plan.
“We did a strategic plan a couple of years ago,” he said. “The big crux of this advisory committee will be that piece of our accreditation. It will be a transparent group that will help us.”
Gemperline stated he was concerned about the committee taking the board’s power of governance.
“Will the advisory committee be able to direct what the board does?” he asked.
“I’m the fire chief, by Ohio Revised Code, I’m the one that directs the fire department,” O’Brien told Gemperline. “They will be an open community input, but at the end of the day, I and my staff make the final decisions.”
Eichhorn assured Gemperline that “there is a difference between a binding board and having an advisory board.”