Thursday, October 9, 2003

Before exit can be planned, there's plenty of spadework


Suburban Insider


LIBERTY TWP. - Stakeholders in a proposed new exit off Interstate 75 in this Butler County township are expected to select an interchange configuration and its cost on Oct. 16.

State and federal officials could give it the green light by the end of the year - or let local officials know if the project is a no-go.

Meanwhile, West Chester Township Trustee Catherine Stoker says she urged Administrator Dave Gully to help Liberty Township leaders push for their interchange.

Gully was instrumental in bringing the Union Centre Boulevard exit off Interstate 75 to fruition, she notes.

"I went to Dave and said, 'They need your help' and he said, 'I'll see what I can do,' " Stoker recalled. "The Liberty Township trustees have very little experience in highway building, whereas Dave Gully has extensive background in all aspects."

West Chester leaders have been taking heat for congestion on Tylersville Road, one of the most traffic-choked arteries along I-75 in Greater Cincinnati. They are eager for the new exit. It would be one of the best ways to relieve traffic jams on Tylersville, a main east-west thoroughfare linking Warren County to I-75, they say.

Liberty Township officials, however, have a slightly different version of how West Chester became involved in the interchange process.

Township Administrator Barry Tiffany said he recently contacted Gully and asked him to attend stakeholder meetings for the project. He also said he has told Deerfield Township and Mason leaders they should participate.

"My concern was ... these folks have not attended the meetings and I want to make sure they are informed and up to date with what is going on with this so there are no surprises," Tiffany said.

Controller on GFOA board

GREEN TWP. - Controller Linda K. Griswold recently was elected a township board trustee of the Ohio Government Finance Officers Association during its fall conference in West Chester Township.

Ohio GFOA is a professional organization of more than 100 members formed to act as a conduit for the flow of information among local governments.

Inmates set up for Fox rally

HAMILTON - Showing just how touchy Butler County Commissioner Mike Fox's re-election bid is, County Administrator Derek Conklin took the rare step recently of issuing a lengthy press release explaining why two jail inmates on work detail and their two county supervisors helped to set up chairs for Fox's campaign kickoff rally.

Prisoners on work detail routinely set up chairs and other outdoor equipment at the courthouse for community events, Conklin wrote.

So a county supervisor didn't think twice about instructing them to set up chairs for Fox's Sept. 24 rally at the county courthouse - the supervisor did not know the occasion was to be a political event, wrote Conklin in a statement he released the day after the rally.

When one of the supervisors learned that the chairs were for a campaign rally, he stopped the work and called Conklin immediately to report "his error," Conklin wrote.

Both supervisors each took one hour of vacation time to compensate for any time they may have spent on non-county activities in helping set up the chairs, the statement reads.

"No one from the Board of Commissioners or from the Fox campaign organization requested the help from the jail trustees or from any county employee who was working on county time," Conklin wrote. "The maintenance supervisor initiated the work on his own volition in error, but in good faith."

Fairfield resident Scott Lepsky, who is chairing the campaign of Greg Jolivette, Fox's primary opponent, videotaped the inmates and a supervisor setting up chairs - as volunteers wearing Fox rally T-shirts looked on. A pickup truck also was parked nearby with a Fox rally sign in view.

When they noticed his camera, however, they can be seen on the tape stopping work and walking away.

"Where are you going? You finished?" Lepsky can be heard asking them on the tape.

The supervisor tells him, "They aren't supposed to be doing that."

Fox denied involvement or knowledge of the blunder.

"Nobody was working on county time," he said. "In 40 years of planning rallies, I have never thought to say to my volunteers, 'If inmates come over and volunteer to help set up chairs, say no.' It never occurred to me that they would."

Pizza audit

HAMILTON - The eating habits of the Butler County commissioners have come under scrutiny.

Judge Leslie Spillane of Butler County Domestic Relations Court wants to find out how much pizza they have eaten at the taxpayers' expense over the past two years.

This week, she asked the county auditor's office for copies of the commissioners' purchase orders for Donato's Pizza for this year and last year.

Spillane said she's monitoring the commissioners' expenses because they objected earlier this year when she gave $1,000 bonuses to each of the 29 court employees. She said at the time she gave the bonuses because everyone assumed more work when she eliminated the court administrator's position, which carried a $52,000 yearly salary.

"I'm still angry about that letter accusing me of giving unwarranted raises," Spillane said.

She admitted that pizza expenses might not be that serious of an issue, but she said it's part of her effort to keep tabs on the commissioners' spending practices.

"We have a skeleton staff in domestic relations court," Spillane said. "We're really strapped for money. So I'm really interested in how the county is spending money."

"I don't know anything about pizzas," responded Fox. "She wants an itemized list of every pizza purchased by the county. So while we're trying to get to the bottom of what goes on behind the closed doors of Domestic Court, Judge Spillane is spending her time getting to the bottom of the pizza dough."

No more salsa dancing

HAMILTON - Fox may not know what's up with the pizzas, but he is calling for an end to the salsa dancing.

Fox says he has told Bruce Jewett, director of Butler County Job and Family Services that, after this year, the department cannot take any more retreats for team building and cooperation on the county's dime.

"It's not worth the aggravation," Fox said. "After this, that's it."

Last Friday, 100 staff members took a daylong, mandatory retreat that began with three hours of leadership training at Camp Campbell Gard and ended with health screenings and a selection of activities such as hot-tubbing, salsa dancing and yoga at a local YMCA.

This Friday, the rest of the staff, another 100 employees, must attend the retreat.

The cost to taxpayers: $6,000.

Suburban Insider is compiled by Jennifer Edwards with contributions this week from Steve Kemme. E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.




TOP STORIES
Ohio tuition program on hold
Miami U. service workers end strike
Blue Ash may require helmets
Firefighters hold memorial march

IN THE TRISTATE
I-75: No easy fix to woes
Bomb victim, 10, here for treatment
Delhi infantryman remembered as a hero
Council hopefuls fail to inspire
Thrifty solution way too costly
Art museum extends invitation to Colerain
Ex-priest awaits decision
Down syndrome tests show promise
Pet a pig, try kettle corn at Blue Ash fest
Juror mouths off, officers get off in Lawrenceburg
Ruling based on religion tossed
Mayor urges city action to get cop report released
Records request argued
Regional Report

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Pulfer: At NKU, it's really not about the buildings at all
Howard: Good Things Happening

BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Evidence re-checked in slaying
Hamilton to add officers for 911
Before exit can be planned, there's plenty of spadework
Something blue: Dress-less brides
Program spells out spelling
Mason waits on 3rd St. plan
Free-storage perk is over

OBITUARIES
John W. Devanney, 87, teacher, surgeon
Kentucky obituaries

OHIO
Cop killer challenges Ohio death penalty
50 years late, vet gets his medal
Ohio has to pay millions to drunk drivers
Dayton nervous over nerve gas residue
Lakefront owners, Ohio grapple over land rights
Ohio moments

KENTUCKY
Diocese suspends pastor in Gallatin Co.
Kentucky News Briefs
State Dems want Fletcher to pay for Bush's visit
Patton order to equalize state workers' health premiums
Cool-headed teenagers save bus driver
Memory expert gives tips to learn more, study less
Insurance tax draws seniors' fire
Kentucky to do
Turtles get lift back to sea