Commissioners bump heads over new position

WARREN — Two Trumbull County commissioners who have been bumping heads for months continued a disagreement Wednesday over the creation of a new non-union position in the building inspection department.

Commissioner Frank Fuda accused Commissioner Dan Polivka of lying when Polivka said Fuda has been pushing, as recently as two weeks ago, for an increase in the county’s sales tax.

“It is evident that you don’t want to try anything the budget review committee has recommended, except putting a tax on. You are being an obstructionist on any revenue-generating positions. You want the status quo and that hasn’t served us well,” Polivka said.

Fuda responded, “That is a total lie, Mr. Polivka.” Polivka banged the gavel and said he had the floor, and Fuda said, “Don’t lie at this meeting.”

The two have been at odds most recently over the creation of a non-union position in the building inspection department for an administrative specialist, which is someone to enforce the permit process.

Enforcement in the building department was recommended last summer by the Trumbull County Citizen Budget Review Committee as one of the things the county could do to help cushion the general fund as money from the state and some tax revenue declines and is eliminated.

Polivka and Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa voted Wednesday to create the job. It has not been filled. Commissioners will have to vote to place someone in the position.

Fuda said he wanted to speak more to Mike Sliwinski, head of the department, before voting on the issue.

“I’d prefer to table this this week. There are a lot of questions and concerns I still have,” Fuda said. “So, I’d like to meet with Mr. Sliwinski this week to go over those concerns and questions and make sure we have everything in the right place before we hire someone.”

But Polivka said Fuda has had months to talk to Sliwinski, who says the position is necessary.

“Commissioner, in the 10 years I’ve been the building official, that department has lost money every year. There is no reason for that department, in a jurisdiction that size, should lose money. You should not have to reach into the general fund to fund that department. That department should stand on its own. It does that through permits. We need someone out there making sure people get permits. It’s just that simple,” Sliwinski said.

Fuda said he wants to see a clause in the job description that ties employment to the revenue generated by the position.

Sliwinski said it is already understood that if the employee does not perform, employment will end, but there is so much lacking in the enforcement area that the position will easilyy pay for itself — about $60,000 a year with benefits. It pays about $23 an hour.

Fuda said if the county is going to hire for the position, he wants to ensure it is advertised.

Cantalamessa and Polivka said they trust the recommendation of Sliwinski to fill the position. Sliwinski knows the type of attitude required to be successful in the position, which is tough because it requires the employee to confront people doing work without permits, Polivka said.

“People just don’t want to get permits. It’s not a pleasant thing. They don’t like it. We need to encourage them to do it, we need an officer to do that. Right now, people are saying, ‘Don’t go down there, they aren’t going to catch you, just do what you are going to do and if they catch you, so be it.’ I want someone to say, ‘Hey, they got a guy out there looking, you better go get your permit, or you’re going to get fined.’ That’s the story we want out there,” Sliwinski said.

Fuda said he isn’t necessarily against the position, but is worried it is outside the union and it doesn’t seem enough even though the commissioners are going to advertise it to ensure everyone in the county who is qualified can apply.

Polivka and Fuda also have disagreed about hiring a county administrator, filling other positions and how to handle the tightening general fund budget.