A proposal to combine Johnstown's street and utility departments into a single service department brought about 20 residents to the Johnstown Village Council meeting on Tuesday.

A proposal to combine Johnstown's street and utility departments into a single service department brought about 20 residents to the Johnstown Village Council meeting on Tuesday.

Village Manager Judy Edwards told The Independent the idea to make the change is purely financial.

"Revenues are down and expenses are up," she said. "We want to keep full-time employees and their benefits. This is nothing personal. We have a budget crunch."

Jack Liggett, currently the utility director, would be the new service director. He would have the duty of overall supervision of all sewer and water plants, storm sewers and street responsibilities.

"Jack has seniority and six certifications from the Ohio EPA," Edwards told The Independent.

Many residents attended Tuesday's meeting in support of Randy Ashbrook, the village's 19-year street director who has also served several times as interim village manager.

Resident Jim Blair, a builder, said he comes from a background where water analysis is critical.

"I'm not sure if it's a good fit for Mr. Liggett to take over the streets," he said. "I'd rather have a certified engineer doing water than dealing with streets. Randy has been very professional."

Blair said he's against combining the two departments, as are many residents.

Life-long Johnstown resident Wayne Keyser said Ashbrook has served the village for many years and his work has been "phenomenal."

"Many times we've had storms and Randy was there with the street crew cutting up trees to clear streets," he said. "Randy cares about Johnstown, and I hate to see him leave that department."

Ashbrook, who currently supervises two employees in the street department, would become an employee under the service department umbrella. He would report to Liggett.

Edwards emphasized the change to merge the two departments into one would allow everyone to retain their jobs and benefits.

Resident Marvin Block said he has never had a problem with anyone in various village departments and the utility and street departments both do good work.

"When we get snow on the streets, Randy is out there," he said. " vote with an open mind."

Johnstown resident Scott Ashbrook (Randy Ashbrook's brother) said there are many responsibilities for the street and utility departments, and he thinks they should remain separate.

"To combine the two, I don't think it's a wise choice," he said.

Commenting on his brother's commitment to his work, he added, "Randy doesn't make it to a lot of family events because he's working for the village."

Edwards said the utility department brings in revenues for the village, while the street department is a major expense and produces no revenue.

"I anticipate the level of service improving," she said. "We charge for water and sewer and they bring in revenue. We talked to the utility guys and they understand what we're asking. They want to keep their jobs and benefits."

Two other readings will be heard concerning the proposal, on Aug. 18 and Sept. 1.

In council action, Edwards requested and council approved police chief Don Corbin to serve as acting village manager in the event of her absence.

In other discussion, Edwards said mayor Kevin Riffe brought it to her attention that some residents would like new hours for the village offices, currently open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

"I thought it could be beneficial to go to a four-day work week," Edwards said. "It would reduce employee fuel costs. I would like council's thoughts to see if you think it would work. I think it would be good for residents for us to be open earlier or later."

Council member Sharon Hendren said she thinks the decision should be left to the village employees.