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Windmills, wages and watchers of motorists

Jason Singer • Jul 23, 2010 at 11:26 AM

Q: Dear Jason: Can you please find out why the turbine by the police station runs sometimes and then other times it is sitting still? 

— Sharon on Fifth Street

A: Thank you for the question, Sharon, and sorry for the extremely delayed response.

For the past three weeks, the turbine hasn’t run because of a mechanical problem. The blades of the turbine normally have air breaks on them to slow them down during high-wind storms. Unfortunately last month, the electromagnet that releases those air breaks stopped working. Shawn Bickley, who owns Sheperd’s Shoreline Construction, which in turn owns the turbine, said he should have the turbine fixed and running again by next week. He is waiting on a new magnet, which he expects to receive this week.

But if you’re asking, in general, why the turbine doesn’t always spin, this is the reason: The turbine only generates power when the wind blows at least 9 miles per hour. Because of that, the company has it preset to only spin when the wind approaches that threshold. So even once it’s fixed, you may see the turbine sitting still from time to time.

Q: Jason, Since the city’s new finance director (Hank Solowiej) will supposedly being doing his old job and this new job, will he negotiate for a huge salary increase like interim city manager Don Iscman did when he began doing two jobs? I also heard the new finance director doesn’t live in the area. Isn’t that a requirement anymore? Will he move? 

— Sue on Monroe Street

A: I’m going to try to handle these questions one at a time.

As to your first question, Solowiej will receive a salary increase, but the two sides haven’t started those negotiations. Solowiej currently makes about $67,200 per year. The man he’s replacing, Ed Widman, made about $84,400 per year. Solowiej will receive a raise for two reasons: First, because he’s being promoted. Second, because at least temporarily, he will handle both jobs. He probably won’t make as much as Widman, because he has fewer years of experience. But I would expect his salary to move into the $70,000 to $80,000 range. 

Onto question No. 2: Last June, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that cities cannot impose residency requirements on employees. Sandusky did have a residency requirement on the books, but the Supreme Court’s ruling rendered it moot. So no, it’s not a requirement anymore.

Onto question No. 3: You are correct, Solowiej does not live in Sandusky. He lives in Amherst. If he does move, he said, it won’t happen in the immediate future. His wife works in Westlake, close to Cleveland. So the couple lives in Amherst, which works conveniently for both of them in terms of a daily commute.

Q: Jason, All over the country, voters have spoken up and rejected the use of speed and red-light cameras. Why would Sandusky try to enact something that the people clearly don’t support? 

— Jim on Filmore Street

A: Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister, once said there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. What he meant was that people can manipulate numbers to support any argument.

For example, someone could say statistics show Americans hate speed and red-light cameras. In November 2009, 72 percent of residents from Chillicothe voted against the cameras. Cincinnati and Steubenville have also banned the cameras after voters rejected them. Across the country, no city has ever had its voters approve the use of cameras, and at least 10 cities have voted “no.”

But you could say statistics also show Americans support red-light cameras. USA Today’s printed polls show 77 percent of New Jersey and New York residents, 80 percent of Arizonans and 66 percent of Missourians are in favor of red-light cameras.

Which set of data do you ultimately believe? In the end, Sandusky hasn’t decided anything yet. A Redflex representative will make a pitch to the city commission in August. Does the commission need the extra revenue? Yes. Will the cameras improve safety? Maybe. Are the cameras an invasion of privacy? Some think so.

The commission will have to weigh all these factors and make its decision. 

To ask Jason a question, send a letter to 314 W. Market St. or e-mail singer@sanduskyregister.com. Please include your first name and a location in the e-mail, e.g. “John from Decatur Street.”

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