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Published: 2/15/2007

Who's essential? Mayor, council disagree

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Carty Finkbeiner Carty Finkbeiner
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Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and Toledo City Council disagreed again yesterday, but this time it wasn't over the budget or economic development.

The issue was the word "essential." As in, who is?

With snows drifting over some roads yesterday morning, Lucas County Sheriff James Telb ordered everyone except "essential" personnel off the roads at 4 a.m. Defying the order could lead to a fine or even arrest.

That meant businesses - even those that traditionally make big bucks on Valentine's Day - "are expected to comply," the sheriff said.

Courts? Closed. Malls? Closed.

Schools? Banks? The zoo? All closed.

Gerald Dendinger, city council's clerk, also phoned his nine employees yesterday, telling them to stay home.

"I don't think there's anything at city council that had to be done today," he said a short time later. And who does he consider "essential?"

He chuckled: "I'm so essential that I'm shoveling my own snow."

Council President Rob Ludeman said council members decided Tuesday night during a regular meeting that they, too, would not go to the office should the roads be deemed too dangerous yesterday morning.

In fact two council members had to be picked up for the regular late Tuesday afternoon meeting in a city Jeep and taken home the same way.

But yesterday on the floors above and below city council's mostly-empty 21st floor and in other city buildings, the city's 2,900 other employees were ordered in to work.

The rationale was easy, said Mr. Finkbeiner's spokesman, Brian Schwartz: "All city employees are essential."

Chief of Staff Bob Reinbolt e-mailed city employees Tuesday afternoon as the winds began whipping snow into drifts.

He told them they could leave at 4 p.m., but any time off would burn comp time, vacation time, or designated holiday hours. If they didn't have that time built up, they could go off payroll.

That was not, he told The Blade yesterday, an invitation to skip work.

"It was not our intent to shut down," Mr. Reinbolt said.

Though some employees were a bit late, it was not held against them, he said.

Asked about the mayor's directive to employees to report to work despite what emergency personnel said were treacherous roadways, Sheriff Telb would say only that the definition of "essential" falls into a gray area.

Lucas County was included in a list of 49 counties that the Ohio Department of Public Safety declared as being in weather emergency because of the storm.

That mean nonessential state employees were not to report to work yesterday, effective until 5 p.m. when agencies would resume normal schedules.

Other northwest Ohio counties included were Allen, Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Huron, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Sandusky, Seneca, Van Wert, Williams, and Wyandot.

Contact Robin Erb at:

robinerb@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133.



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