Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Bedford Twp. board rejects end to retirement benefit

Trustees balk at timing, last-second addition

TEMPERANCE — A motion to end the taxpayer-funded retirement benefit for Bedford Township trustees went down to defeat last week when the board voted 4-3 against the proposed change.

The subject had been introduced by Trustee Nancy Tienvieri at the new board’s first meeting on Nov. 20.

She said that as a matter of fairness, the board’s four trustees, who are part-time, should be treated the same as the township’s part-time employees, who are not entitled to benefits.

At last week’s meeting, the issue did not appear on the agenda but was added at Ms. Tienvieri’s behest. She also opposed the $20,000 of life-insurance coverage trustees receive, but the board ended up voting on a motion by Paul Pirrone to eliminate only the retirement benefit.

Voting against the motion were Trustees Larry O’Dell and Rick Steiner, Clerk Trudy Hershberger, and Treasurer Paul Francis. Supervisor Greg Stewart joined Ms. Tienvieri and Mr. Pirrone in supporting it.

None of the nay voters expressed outright support for the retirement benefit, but some said they didn’t like the way the issue was added to the agenda at the last minute.

Mr. Steiner noted that the benefit cost the township $1,600 per trustee annually in addition to the trustees’ $12,400 salary.

A new trustee, he said he had declined the retirement-fund contribution by not filing the needed paperwork. But he said he disapproved of the way the topic was “dropped on the agenda with no details.”

Ms. Hershberger said she cast a “no” vote because she did not want to vote on it at last week’s meeting.

The nearly three-hour board meeting featured discussion on other topics raised by Ms. Tienvieri on which no votes were taken.

She said she believed the 12.5 holidays the township offices were closed each year were excessive. She said she favored making Martin Luther King Day, Veterans Day, Presidents Day, and the half day at Good Friday regular business days for Bedford government. These holidays have been in effect since 1994, with the exception of Veterans Day, which was added after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“Thirteen days is only two days shy of three weeks,” Ms. Tienvieri said, adding that this was an expensive holiday schedule.

Mr. Stewart said paid holidays would have to be eliminated with the involvement of the township’s employees.

Ms. Tienvieri also proposed starting board meetings with a prayer led by a guest member of the clergy, which led to an exchange about the complications this could pose.

Mr. Francis said he agreed with the value of prayer, but asked rhetorically if all the clergy members would be Christian, and what happened if someone who was “Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, or atheist” wanted to deliver an invocation.

He said the township attorneys had advised him that to be safe, the prayer should be “generic.”

Mr. Steiner described the matter as “a slippery slope.” He said the township would run the risk of particular worshippers promoting their religion, and this could be interpreted as the township doing the same.

Mr. Stewart said any prayer would have to be strictly nondenominational to avoid criticism. He noted that during his tenure as Luna Pier administrator, a Jewish citizen told him he stayed away from council meetings because of the prayer recitation.

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