Middleport council rejects nomination

MIDDLEPORT — Middleport Village Council and Mayor Michael Gerlach were again at odds during their regular meeting Tuesday night.

With Gerlach, recorder Susan Baker and Council members Dick Vaughan, Roger Manley, Doug Dixon, Penny Burge and Emerson Heighton present, council failed to approve Gerlach’s nomination of Sherri Hoffman as the third member the Middleport Board of Public Affairs by a 3-2 vote.

Two Board of Public Affairs members were presented by Gerlach and approved by council during the June 8 meeting, but a third member is needed before the board can begin to move forward with the oversight of water and sewer for the village.

Gerlach, as mayor, is responsible for the appointments that must be approved by council. Gerlach questioned Vaughan, Manley and Dixon about why they voted to reject the nomination, given that Hoffman is a former physical officer and well qualified for the position.

Vaughan said the mayor should have allowed council members to put forward their suggestions for the positions and been kept informed during the decision-making process.

“Don’t wait until the meeting to put the name on the table and expect us to vote on it,” Vaughn said. “You should communicate more with council. We don’t feel we have any input.”

“This vote is on your head, not mine,” Gerlach responded. “You, the council, created the problem (with eliminating the administrator position).”

The conversation then degraded into back-and-forth finger-pointing. Members of the audience asked to speak, but were denied because they were not on the agenda.

Discussion centered on purchase and financing of new lawn mowers and flooding of basements during the rain event on June 19.

Salisbury Township EMS services are provided, in part, by Middeport and Pomeroy, with the understanding that most of the cost will be repaid. Middleport provides approximately $10,000 in services to Salisbury per year. Although council claimed the township had spent $25,000 on dust control, they were unwilling to put a tax on the ballot to address the issue of payment for EMS services. A motion was approved to draft a letter to the township asking them to make good on the amount they have accrued as a result of not paying for past services.

A motion was approved to purchase two new movers at a cost of not more than $25,000 to be purchased and financed at the best possible price and rate available.

Visitors July Kleski, Clarence Might and Rush Philson shared concerns of water and sewage damage to their residences and questioned if the water valves had been properly installed during the construction of the new water system

Kleski presented emails from the Environmental Protection Agency indicating they were not. Gerlach said that at the time of the EPA response, they were misinformed as to the type of valve and later indicated the valves were installed properly. He further explained that the backup of waste and sewage was due to the size of pipes into which the water was being directed.

Gerlach said it would take a major monetary investment that Middleport does not have and federal funds would be required to complete the water and sewer project that would be necessary to prevent future occurrences.

“We know the solution,” Gerlach said. “We would need federal money to undertake such a large water project, like the funds we received from the stimulus that allowed us to replace a large part of our old sewer and water lines.”

Council member Dixon then asked Dustin Butcher to speak. Gerlach had stated to council that Butcher, a former employee of Middleport village, resigned due to on-the-job harassment by council members.

Butcher now alleges that was not correct; instead, he said he was called into Gerlach’s office and told he could either resign or be fired.

“He didn’t tell me why,” Butcher said. “He just said I had a choice between being fired or resigning. I don’t know what I did wrong.”

Gerlach said Butcher was not being truthful.

In other business, Manley questioned Baker’s availability and asked if she kept regular hours.

Baker responded that she was available, kept regular hours and returned calls in a timely manner that were left when she was out of the office.

Council adjourned. The next meeting of Middleport Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 27.

Lorna Hart can be reached at 770-8-992-2155 EXT.2551.