Since yours truly began publishing the Stark County Political Report (March 12, 2008), it has been clear that Plain Township is the best run government in all of Stark County.
So it was no surprise recently to have received this e-mail from lead trustee Louis G. Giavasis.
Plain Township Trustees: July 23 (2013)
Martin, just a FYI, At last night's Plain Township Board of Trustees meeting we received some great news I wanted to share.
Our Fiscal Officer presented the 2014 proposed alternative tax budget which estimates the township will have a general fund carryover of $2.6 million going into next year. Plain Township will continue to provide cost efficient services at current levels and our 2014 budget expenditures are estimated to be approximately $1 million lower than 2013.
I am proud that Plain Township will remain one of the most financially sound communities in Stark County.
Lou GiavasisTwo of the three trustees (Giavasis and Leno) are Democrats. So much for "tax and spend Democrats" at least in Plain Township.
Plain is Stark's largest township, coming in at about 52,000 population.
Particularly impressive to the SCPR has been the township's penchant for efficiency.
A place to look is at the cost of its police operations and to compare is in its policing operation to Stark's next largest township Jackson.
There has been relatively little increase in policing expenditures even has the township increases police visibility in the township.
Giavasis tells The Report that the township has one substation and has plans for another which means that many Plain residents will be "a stone's throw away" from a police station.
One station is presently located in Avondale and in August/September, Giavasis says, another will be set up in northeast Plain Township in the area of Diamond and Middlebranch.
And the substations are not only a place for the sheriff's deputies to hang out, they will be accessible to township residents who have business to conduct with the police.
Plain contracts with the Stark County sheriff's department for policing services at a projected cost of $1,536,162 annually.
Compared to Jackson township which comes in at about $7.5 million, what a deal $1.5 million is for Plain, no?
And, of course, the media has been full of accounts of personnel problems within the Jackson Police Department.
Incidentally, a majority of Jackson's trustees are Republicans (Walters and Hawke). But apparently they are not "less government is better government" Republicans.
Plain Township has none of the Jackson Township headaches (in addition to the expense) of administering a police department.
All Plain's police administration is handled by Stark County Sheriff George T. Maier and his staff.
There has a recent (June of this year) controversy involving Plain's fiscal responsibility.
The brouhaha has to do with the construction of a new central fire station on Schneider St NE going back to August of 2012.
The problem has to do with the fact that the facility is a two-story building and that Ohio's building code requires that an elevator be installed to allow for public access (this is a public building) to the second floor even though the second floor is "off limits" for the public inasmuch as it is resting area for "firemen only."
Giavasis believes the the trustees have taken prudent steps under the counsel and advice of the township's architects and feels that the trustees have been "left hung out to dry" (The Report's interpretation of his remarks) by government bureaucrats who cannot make common sense decisions.
Canton, he says, was given an exemption from having an elevator in 2011 when it built a new fire station and that the Plain Township trustees were told that they would get the very same exemption by the township architect.
A curiosity in all this is former commission Pete Ferguson weighing-in on the issue. Pete was at a meeting of Canton City Council on July 15th. In a brief conversation with yours truly, he unloaded on Giavasis for not being truthful as to what he knew and when he knew it in terms of knowing that the need for an elevator would not be waived.
Pete Ferguson needs to check Plain Township public meeting records. The record, Giavasis says, clearly shows that originally the architect was confident that Plain Township would get an exemption from the elevator requirement.
As it turns out, Giavasis further says, the architect was wrong to the tune of at least $100,000. Plain has paid the firm some $300,000 in fees for its services.
The project was expected to cost about $3.5 million. The bids came in at $3.1 million (without the elevator being in the specifications) and even with the the addition of the elevator, the total cost will be about $3.2 million which is some $300,000 under the budgeted $3.5 million.
Giavasis says that the township may sue (on his recommendation) the architectural firm for the extra $100,000 is costs because had the township been given accurate information on the need for access to the second floor, the township could have installed a relatively inexpensive wheel-chair lift with the adjustment of making the stairwell wider.
Giavasis speculates that Ferguson may be weighing-in because he might have some kind of affinity with the architectural firm. However, he was quick to add that whether or not he did is beside the point.
He concludes that he thinks Ferguson needs to check the actual record of township proceedings (with the architect speaking) and then apologizes to himself, Al Leno and Scott Haws for his allegation that the trustees (personified by Giavasis) of being untruthful.
Plain Township is showing too that it is willing to put aside turfism by agreeing to abandon its fire and police dispatching service in favor of merging its operation into an evolving countywide call receiving and dispatch redundant center (the sheriff's department and the city of Canton Communications Center).
Back in January, the township sent its dispatchers to the sheriff's department for cross-training (police and fire).
Last month, trustees signed a contract with the sheriff for the department to provide fire and ambulance dispatching (by virtue of the policing contract, the sheriff already dispatches for Plain-based police calls) at the rate of $35 per call.
The saving to the township?
Probably about $120,000 but maybe as much as $140,000 annually. Plus, perhaps, another one-time $500,000 for updated dispatching technology.
The Plain trustees had considered having Nimishillen Township's CenCom Dispatch Center do fire dispatching (at the same cost of $35 per call), however, Giavasis says that for the same cost it made much more sense to go with the sheriff because in the sheriff configuration, all of the Plain dispatching will be in one room which has to be more effective in getting emergency forces to Plain residents.
Plain like all of Ohio's local governments has been hurt by the elimination of the estate tax, the public utility tax, and cuts in local government funding.
For example, take a look at the evaporation of the estate tax which was eliminated as of January 1, 2013.
It is not as if the SCPR has not been critical of Plain Township officials and Louis Giavasis.
And Giavasis like so many subjects of the SCPR has complained about the critiques.
But he is different than many of the complainers in that he accepts the "check and balance" function of the media vis-a-vis government.
Most of the criticism has had to do with the township's hiring of its administrator.
On the strict criterion of running a ship-shape government, it is clear to the SCPR that Plain Township is top-notch in Stark County.
For anyone who gets elected as a new trustee on other Stark County townships this fall, he or she would do well to get on the Plain Township website and view each and every township meeting.
In doing so, the new trustee will become much better prepared to making an immediate impact on his/her township.
The SCPR analysis is that Plain Township government is the best in all of Stark County and, indeed, a model for all other Stark County-based local government to follow.