Liberty Township Trustees approved an appropriation to pay legal fees in the negotiations of the union labor contracts Monday but tabled a resolution authorizing the expenditure for private legal counsel to conduct the negotiations on the behalf of the township.
“We need to add $25,000 for legal fees to take care of the union negotiations,” said Nancy Denutte, township fiscal officer.
Denutte said, after the meeting, the money was part of the township’s general fund but had been amended as a permanent appropriation to the township’s 2018 appropriations for legal fees.
Matt Huffman, township administrator, said the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the United Steelworkers (USW) contact renewals were coming up soon and recommended a law firm the township was familiar with to represent the township in the negotiations.
“Basically, based off the recommendations of fiscal, fire, HR and administrative, we would recommend that we stay with Zashin & Rich, who has been helping us with issues over the last several months,” he said.
Trustee Melanie Leneghan immediately asked, “How many other folks have we reached out to for pricing and experience?”
“What are they charging us per hour on this?” she asked. “Have we gotten quotes from anybody else?”
Huffman told the trustees that the $25,000 appropriations amendment that had been approved earlier was the firm’s proposed cost to conduct both union contract negotiations.
Denutte pointed out that the law firm specializes in union contract negotiations.
“The whole law firm specializes in employment law, arbitration and meeting negotiations for townships, counties, municipalities, any governmental agencies,” she said.
Cathy Burhrer, human resources specialist, said she was quoted by the firm that the average contract negotiation cost $7,000 to $10,000.
Denutte said the cost for the attorney the township has been working with, Brad Bennett, was $175 per hour.
“He’s less expensive than many,” she said.
“Melanie, if you’re not comfortable with this and you want to have additional bids, then I think tabling it would be appropriate, but I think that it would have to be done in the next two weeks because we’re looking at doing the negotiations at the end of June,” said Trustee Shyra Eichhorn.
Leneghan then asked Huffman to contact other firms for quotes in contract negotiations.
“I think we’re going to be going in a circle,” said Denutte, “The time that we spend getting them up to speed on the different stories that have gone on in the township over the last couple of years, we will have spent a lot more than with Brad and his firm because they are up to speed.”
Trustees tabled the matter temporarily until quotes and qualifications could be obtained.
“I perceive it more like an interview process than a bid process,” said Trustee Mike Gemperline.
In other business, trustees and township officials received a round of applause when Huffman announced, “Manning Parkway is off the table.” He said the Delaware County Engineer’s Office had removed it, and that Manning Parkway will remain closed during the Jewett and Liberty roads roundabout construction project.
Since the announcement of the road improvements and closures, residents in the area were afraid Manning Parkway would be opened and then never closed again after the construction was finished.
In a previous trustees meeting, area resident Becca Mount said the end game of the county engineer has been to get connection built between Manning Parkway and Loch Lomond Drive.
“It is our greatest fear that it will get opened and then it will never shut,” she said. “Opening that connection is not a viable option … because it will just open something that may never get closed.”
Currently, the intersection at Jewett and Liberty roads is a three-way stop that becomes congested between the hours of 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays.
Proposed improvements from the Delaware County Engineer’s Office is to construct a roundabout to help smooth the flow of traffic during the peak hours of use.
To calm residents’ concerns about possible traffic problems at the intersection of state Route 315 and Jewett Road, trustees approved a resolution for up to $600 for a law enforcement officer to direct and monitor traffic at the intersection for the first three days of construction.
“We will pay for three days to get some feedback,” Leneghan said. “Then we can make our argument to the county engineer or not.”
Stated in an email from the county engineer’s office to the township, the engineer’s office will also monitor the traffic at the intersection after its closing.
Beginning June 4 with the closure of Jewett Road, the county will begin construction on the intersection.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902 or follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.