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Published: Saturday, 11/5/2005

Kelleys Island to decide police issues

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

KELLEYS ISLAND - After a year of controversy over police operations, residents will vote Tuesday on a levy for the department, decide two police-related ballot issues, and select four Village Council members.

After public protests, the council in May tabled two ordinances to switch the chief's job to part-time and ended a requirement that the chief be an island resident.

Mayor Rob Quinn proposed the changes, citing a consultant's report that said a part-time chief would save money and allow the hiring of more part-time officers for busy summer weekends.

However, some islanders said the proposals were aimed at forcing longtime Chief Ron Schnittker to quit by cutting the chief's salary nearly in half.

Despite the vote to table the proposals, Chief Schnittker resigned in July. The job is vacant.

At the time the changes were tabled, Mr. Quinn said council wanted to see if a tax to support police operations would pass.

A three-year, 0.95-mill levy on Tuesday's ballot would raise $65,000 for the department. This tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $29.09 a year.

Mr. Quinn said last month he would support a full-time chief if the levy won. The department has one full-time officer and five part-timers. "If that levy passes, then that other deal, to me, is dead," he said.

The two ballot issues were intended to pre-empt council from changing the chief's position. One calls for keeping a full-time chief; the other calls for retaining the residency rule.

However, an apparent mix-up at the Erie County Board of Elections may have invalidated the initiatives. Language in both ballot issues refers correctly to "re-adopting" the ordinances providing for a full-time, resident police chief, but wording near the bottom contains the incorrect term "reinstate."

"In my opinion, the initiatives should be valid," said Leslie Korenko, secretary of the landowners association. "Voters are voting on the language of the issue and not whether it should be re-adopted or reinstated."

Mr. Quinn, however, said the mix-up has confused residents, making the initiatives useless as a way of gauging public opinion. The police department is a key issue in the race for council. Candidates include:

w●Gary Finger, 47, a three-term councilman who is seeking re-election. Mr. Finger, who owns the Village Pump restaurant downtown, said the current council and Mr. Quinn have balanced the village's budget and brought a more business-like approach to government.

"Certainly, we would prefer a full-time police chief, but we must remember we also have to balance our budget," he said.

w●Paul Hiller, 71, a retired electrician making his first run for office. Mr. Hiller said Mr. Quinn and council undermined ex-Chief Schnittker, and alternative voices need to be heard.

"We need some council people who will stand up to the mayor and represent the people," he said. "Obviously, the council people haven't been representing the people, especially in this police chief situation, where all the people supported the chief - 90 percent of the people, anyhow - and council still didn't back him up."

w●John Hostal, 63, a retired die-shop supervisor who is running for office for the first time. Mr. Hostal said he wants council to hold meetings year-round, instead of skipping January and February, and the police department to be restructured.

He said he supports the ballot initiatives and the police levy and thinks the recommendation to change the chief's job status was used to get Mr. Schnittker to leave. "I believe it was aimed toward Ron," Mr. Hostal said.

w●John Kilko, 51, a councilman who is seeking a second term. Mr. Kilko, a maintenance worker at the LaFarge quarry on the island, believes the village must start planning for the installation of sanitary sewers on the island, especially downtown.

Mr. Kilko said he supports the police levy, but thinks the village should choose a new chief and then tailor the position to that person. "Right now it's going to depend on who wants the job when we advertise it," he said.

w●Jacqueline Kranyak, 50, who owns a Cleveland-area public relations firm, is seeking a second term on council. Ms. Kranyak said she wants to pursue infrastructure projects, such as water and sewer improvements and equipment purchases.

She said she is waiting until after the election to decide what the village should do about the chief's position. "I think there's a core group that we heard from before, that they think it should be full-time and a resident," Ms. Kranyak said. "But I think I have felt all along there was more that didn't care or were more for it being a part-time person as far as the financial savings."

w●Barbara Schnittker, the wife of former Chief Schnittker. Mrs. Schnittker could not be reached by phone for an interview. But in a letter to village residents, she said she decided to run for council "because I believe we need to return to good government." She wrote that the island needs a full-time, resident police chief to ensure safety, but she opposes the police levy because "I am not convinced from the present administration that we need the revenue for the police."

w●Dennis Kaminski, who owns the Country Store on the island. Mr. Kaminski did not return phone calls from The Blade.

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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