David Remy

Mansfield Public Works Director David Remy discusses fire hydrant issues in the city during a City Council meeting Tuesday evening.

MANSFIELD -- In a rare sign of unity, the City of Mansfield's Human Resources Director and the head of AFSCME Local 3088 stood side by side before City Council on Tuesday with a joint proposal.

The power of their agreed-upon idea, which would raise the classification and starting pay of city Laborers by 9 percent, struck a chord and was unanimously approved by Council with no real questions or opposition.

It came from an Aug. 8 Labor-Management Committee meeting, during which the pay status of 18 Laborer positions in five city departments were discussed.

Laborers were starting at $11.41 per hour at a Grade 9 classification, working in the sewer, water, street, police and Clear Fork Reservoir.

"We had a great discussion about this," said HR Director Ken Coontz, who retired as the city's police chief this spring and took over the HR department. "We were posting these (Laborer) jobs on a regular basis. It's very hard to keep people in these positions. It's a tough job. It's called laborer for a reason, right.

 "We are asking these employees to come to work for the city and work for $11.41 as a laborer. I don't understand how some of these families are even making it," Coontz said. "I asked some how they survived with a spouse and children and they all said they had to work two jobs and work every overtime detail available."

Coontz and union President Danny Mapes looked at the job duties of Laborers and found them remarkably similar to park equipment operators (grade 11). Under the collective bargaining agreement, a consolidation into the higher classification would be appropriate, Coontz said.

Coontz said the the increase would move the starting wage to $12.54 per hour, an increase of about or $2,300 annually.

"It's a minimal move, but it's a move in the right direction," said Coontz, pointing out OhioHealth and OSU-Mansfield have announced their minimum wages will be raised to $15 per hour this year. "I fully support this move and I know the mayor does, as well."

Mapes said the increase would reduce the number of employers the city goes through each year.

"These guys come in, start work, pay for their insurance and once they get their first couple of checks, they say they can't make any more and they seek employment elsewhere. Then we go through the whole (hiring) process again. It's like two one step forward and two steps back.

"This increase is a minimal amount. But will allow us to get better people in here and we won't be going through this over and over again," Mapes said.

Also on Tuesday, City Council heard a preliminary report from Public Works Director David Remy regarding fire hydrants in the city that are either inoperable or have pressure issues. Remy said the city has about 2,800 hydrants and about 100 have been identified with performance issues.

He said the hydrants are handled by the water department, fire department and the engineer's office and that he expects to have a final report prepared by the end of the year.

Fire Chief Steve Strickling said firefighters arrive on the scene of a fire with 500 to 700 gallons on a truck, giving them five to seven and a half minutes of water to begin battling a blaze. He said firefighters know which hydrants are problematic and can locate a better hydrant usually within 1,000 feet.

"We can put an initial stop on most fires with the water (on the truck)," Strickling said.

Questions over hydrants rose this summer after a Mansfield girl died in an arson fire on South Foster Street. A hydrant across the street from the burning house did not work properly.

Also on Tuesday, City Council:

-- Approved naming the new police training facility the "Chief Lawrence E. Harper Training Facility" in honor of the late, long-time chief, who was also the city's first black police chief. His son, Mansfield attorney Roeliff Harper, spoke to council and said his father would be honored with the decision.

-- Approved payment of damage claims to a trio of residents: Troy Ernsberger, 234 Park Ave., ($600 for damages from sewer back-up), Bruce Young, 873 Greenfield Drive, ($700 for damage to driveway caused by fire truck) and Mary Heminger, 70 N. Linden Road ($4,986 for damages caused by sewer back-up). At-Large Council member Cliff Mears and 1st Ward Councilman David Falquette voted against award in the third claim.

-- heard public praise from long-time downtown developer John Fernyak, representing Engwiller Properties. Fernyak said recent city decisions to convert Mulberry Street into a two-way street and add a mid-block crosswalk on Fourth Street were both "home runs."

-- Approved demolition of dilapidated structures at 238 Park Ave. East, 259 W. Fifth St., 263 Myers Ave., 283 W. Longview Ave., 315 W. Fifth St. and 871 Bowman St.

-- Approved formal consent to an $89 million ODOT  U.S. 30 rehabilitation project. which will extend from the Ohio 309 interchange to the Fifth Avenue interchange, a total of 3.8 miles. The construction project is expected begin in May and take three years to complete.

-- Authorized acceptance of a gift from Chuck Hahn for the purchase and planting of two Gingkgo trees along Fourth Street.

-- Authorized the acceptance of a $1,500 donation from Jessica VanBuskirk and Bryan Damron of True Blue Dumpsters for the police department's K-9 unit.

-- Approved the transfer of appropriations in the amount of $3,300 to provide cell phone forensic download training for a member of the MPD.

-- Authorized a payment of $48,604.80 to the City of Ontario for paving a portion of Lexington-Springmill Street this summer that is within City of Mansfield limits.

-- Authorized the acceptance of a $250,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice under the Forensic DNA Backlog Reduction Program.

-- Appropriated the sum of $312,854.05 for a 2019 IT Security and Server infrastructure upgrade.

Mansfield City Council meets again Oct. 15.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"