Township trustees address negative advertisement

LaCROFT – Liverpool Township trustees addressed concerns Monday from a resident about an advertisement against the township’s proposed five-year, 3-mill building levy, which will be decided today by township voters.

The advertisement appeared in Monday’s paper, urging township voters to reject the measure, which would be used for the construction and maintenance of a new township administration building to be constructed along Ada Street, behind the VFD and across the roadway from the current township building. The new facility would serve as the both the headquarters for the police department and township administration.

The ad in question was paid for by Gary Bonnell, who expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed levy.

Township resident Jon Powell pointed out to trustees that Bonnell was in attendance during a previous meeting earlier this year, to which trustees selected Baker, Bednar, Snyder and Associates of Warren to serve as architects, and Bonnell approved.

“Didn’t he say that night that you hired the right people to look at the blueprints and how good they were?” Powell asked trustees Monday.

After trustees answered Powell in the affirmative, Powell then responded “What did you do to change his mind? Is the money not right?”

Trustee Steve Betteridge noted the levy would generate $1.242 million over a five year span. Trustee Mike Bahen said the estimated costs for construction would be around $850,000.

“The building comes in at an estimate $850,000,” Bahen said. “We won’t know the exact until they get it in.”

Bonnell, who did not attend Monday’s meeting due to illness and a death in the family, said via phone he didn’t believe the township needed to spend $1.242 million on a new facility. He mentioned that, prior to the recommendation by the architectural firm and decision by the trustees to build new facility, trustees first considered remodeling the former kindergarten building on Boring Lane, to which roof work was handled.

Although it later was reported that trustees were taking a new route in the matter, Bonnell said he was never contacted by the trustees, nor did he see the blueprints from the architectural firm. The designs are hanging in the administration building’s meeting hall.

“I never had seen the plans of Baker and Associates,” Bonnell said. “Never ever did they call me over or ask me, I know they were posted, I didn’t bother going.”

Bonnell suggested either converting the current building – using the meeting room for the police department and moving the trustees offices to the upstairs – or purchas e double-wide trailers to serve as the police department’s headquarters, which he said would cost around $400,000. Trustees could use the fire department’s garage as a meeting site, he said.

“Even if they said the building was beyond repair, it was a $400,000 figure, I could understand,” Bonnell said. “Then I would give them handicap accessible, and I used the analogy not meaning that had to be done, but dig a basement, put a double-wide-type structure there, or if they wanted to a build a structure from the base up, that $400,000 was plenty adequate.”

Bonnell also claimed the levy would result in a pay raise for the administration and the police department. He said that it would indirectly result in a raise based on the township’s budget each year. He placed that issue on political yard signs he purchased.

“Maybe I didn’t word it perfectly, but the fact is the total budget is what their salaries – the three trustees and the fiscal officer – is what is based on,” Bonnell said. “Now I do not know this, but Mike (Bahen) said it’s maxed out. It wouldn’t be maxed out as they pay things off so that would not apply. You’re not grandfathered once you’re maxed out. You don’t get it forever. It is based on your annual budget.”

However, Bahen stated during the meeting the allegation of a pay raise for the administration is false, noting he had Fiscal Officer Cristine Sell check on that matter.

“There’s also accusations on the signs that we’re getting a raise. We’re not going to get a raise,” Bahen said.

While thanking the trustees for their efforts on promoting the levy, Police Chief Jayson Jackson expressed dissatisfaction with Bonnell’s assessment of using double-wide trailers as the police department’s facility. Emphasizing he was speaking as a resident and not as the township’s police chief, Jackson also attested to Powell’s statement that Bonnell was in attendance for the meeting regarding approval of blueprints.

“I was here at the same meeting that Mr. Powell was when Mr. Bonnell said that we did the right thing, got the architect and was following the proper steps,” Jackson said. “I’m pretty frustrated as a taxpayer that there was false advertisement out there that you guys were getting a raise. I think that sends a bad message, but for community safety, police officer safety, I’m a member of this community and this township needs a new building it can be proud of. A couple double-wides smashed together isn’t going to do it.”