Gregory Huffman became the Sylvania Township public works manager 25 years ago and he has recently left that position, although he will stay employed part time in the department for the rest of this year.
The idea of Mr. Huffman having one part-time job is a little difficult to get used to. While managing a department which is never without plenty of work to do, as well as responding to emergency situations, he found time to earn a degree in engineering from the University of Toledo in 1998.
With that, he also has been a member of the Ohio Army National Guard. He was deployed to combat zones in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004. He retired last year from the guard with the rank of sergeant major.
After having such a full plate for so long, Mr. Huffman will let the world come to him for awhile.He will still have his temporary job with the township, but otherwise he has no immediate plans.
Mr. Huffman noted that when he took over management of the department there were 15 employees. As time passed and the township grew, the workforce increased to 21, but then began to decline.There are now 14 employees in the department, one fewer than when he started. In that same time span, the miles of township roadways has grown from about 80 miles to 133 miles.
He ducks any suggestion that his management skills are involved in handling the extra workload with the same level of service township residents expect.
"The workforce is what makes things happen," he said. He is proud that the township provides continuing training for the department workers and said their skill set is equal or better than any. As an example, he said, there are seven employees who operate snowplows on the township roads. He did not want to make specific comparisons with other political units, but said "our efficiency is incredible."
Most people recognize the department when it is busy making road repairs or during the township leaf pickup and household goods pickup, but the department is also busy maintaining the township buildings and performing maintenance and repairs on all township vehicles. In addition to the streets, the department repairs curbs, drains, street signs and when necessary clears roadways of fallen trees or other obstructions.
It also cares for the buildings and parking areas for all township buildings.How it all gets done he said again, "is a highly-skilled and cooperative workforce." Mr. Huffman also noted the contribution of the "silent workforce."
He said they are the clerical workers who keep things moving by processing purchase orders and other necessary paperwork through the system so his department has the tools and other items necessary to handle issues they are responsible for.
John Zeilter, township administrator, said Mr. Huffman has been an asset to the township.
He praised his knowledge and experience in a multi-faceted job which he said is handled smoothly on a day-to-day basis.
In a department where mistakes can create safety issues, he noted it has been an advantage for the township having someone in charge who for years has shown dependability, consistency and the ability to react quickly in emergency situations.
Sylvania Township trustees, during an organizational session at their most recent meeting, decided to change the starting time of meetings to be held the first Tuesday of each month.
The first-Tuesday meeting will now have a starting time of 5 p.m., one hour later than that meeting was held last year.
John Jennewine, trustee, said some people had suggested to him that more citizens might be able to attend if the starting time was moved back from 4 p.m.
The other regularly scheduled meeting of the trustees will continue to be held at 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month.
Sylvania Township trustees unanimously approved rezoning for an expansion at Sunset Village, 9640 Sylvania-Metamora Rd., and by a 2-1 vote, the development of a senior-oriented complex at 5350 Mitchaw Rd.
The latter proposal had been the target of criticism from some residents of the area who complained that Mitchaw Rd. is not sufficient for increased traffic and that the likelihood of more emergency vehicles coming to the area would be detrimental to living conditions. Developers said there is a clear need for more senior-oriented developments in the area.
They added that as a for-profit corporation they will be paying their share of taxes for public services.
John Jennewine, trustee, who voted against the project said he agreed with the design and purpose of the project, but sided with current residents in objecting to the Mitchaw site.
The project is designed to have 15 duplexes for independent living and an 85-bed residential care facility. It is planned for 15 acres north of Brint Rd.
The Sunset expansion involves the construction of 16 residential duplexes and a clubhouse on the southeast corner of its 70 acres east of Mitchaw.
Sunset currently provides assisted living and nursing care at its 90,000 sq. ft. building on the site.
Both projects are likely to begin this spring.
Neal Mahoney has been elected chairman of the Sylvania Township board of trustees for the current year.
He succeeds John Jennewine whom he thanked for steering the board through some controversial issues.
John Crandall was elected vice-chairman. The votes for each position were
When your father and two uncles are firefighters, it is probably no surprise that the son grows up hoping to be a firefighter too.
The goal was achieved late last year when Ben Coppes was offered a full-time position on the Sylvania Township Fire Department by Chief Jeffrey Kowalski.
The chief noted that Mr. Coppes has been a part-time firefighter for the township for about two years and said his commitment to the job and overall ability made it clear he would be an asset to the department.
The full realization of Mr. Coppes ambition, however, has been delayed. "Just days after I accepted the job, I got the papers that I was being deployed," said Mr. Coppes who is also a sergeant in the Army National Guard.
After less than a week on duty as a full-time firefighter, he had to report to Ft. Hood, Texas for about two months training before he and his unit report to Kuwait to support operations in the Middle East.
He serves as a crew chief on Blackhawk helicopters, but what his particular assignment will be unknown.
It's also uncertain when he will return, but he said assignments of this sort generally run for about a year.
Whenever it is, Chief Kowalski said, Mr. Coppes will have a job as a firefighter when he gets home.
The last time he was deployed, in Iraq in 2009, his return was less pleasant. He had been working in a hospital emergency room, but when he came back from active duty he was told his job had been eliminated.
They did offer a different position, but he said he did not like it and left. They told him to check the hospital website and apply for jobs when they became available. He said he applied for a number of positions, but the hospital never responded.
"I was pretty sure the chief would understand, but based on the last experience I was a little nervous when I had to go to him so soon to tell him I had been deployed."
He said the chiefs reaction and the reaction of other members of the fire department has been heartening.
"The chief completely accepted what happened and offered whatever help he could. The guys here have given me their phone numbers, email addresses and said to contact them if I need anything.
"That is just the way it is around here."
Everyone, he said, has urged him to contact them if something needs to be done or if he needs to be represented in some way locally.
"I cannot think right now of any help I might need, but it is good to know I have good support if something does come up.
"That, and the assurance that I will have a job when I get back, will help me focus on the job I am gong to."
Sylvania Township has launched an alert system which will allow for a message to be sent to a resident's phone and/or email address when Lucas County or the township issue notice of an emergency, such as a tornado warning.
Those who choose to can add features such as reminders of township public meetings, planned road closures and other things of significance to local residents.
Sylvania Township is offering the service for free, although some message fees may apply.
To obtain the service, a resident should go to www.sylvaniatownship.com. On the home page there is a link which will take you to the form to sign up for the service. Then just fill out the application and click "sign up now" at the bottom of the page.
When police and fire departments are faced with emergency situations one of their problems is dealing with members of the public who have unexpectedly arrived at the scene. Just trying to manage traffic and control crowds becomes a job in itself. With the alert system, people on their way to a destination can be warned that there is a problem at a given site and will be able to drive around the area. They won't have as much inconvenience and safety forces will be able to concentrate on the issue to which they responded.
Of a more benign nature, a resident may be following an issue in the township and can receive a reminder of the next public meeting dealing with the issue.
By signing up for Sylvania Alerts you will automatically get emergency alerts issued by the Lucas County and can choose from a number of options for alerts offered by the township.
The service was earlier approved by Sylvania Township trustees and has been purchased by the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency. To participate, the township has agreed to pay no more than $2,500 annually. That cost could be reduced if enough other jurisdictions join the service.
Township officials said none of those who sign up will receive unsolicited calls nor will contact numbers be sold to other parties.
Township residents who sign up for the program may also choose to be notified of such things as the annual leaf and brush pick up and other events of general interest.
Use the form on the Home Page to sign up.