Portage police expense criticized
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Written by BY DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Monday, 14 December 2009 11:21
PORTAGE - The village police department will stop operating this month, but that's not soon enough for one councilwoman.
At the Dec. 7 meeting, Tamara Sharp wanted to know why officers were still working when the village is in a huge deficit and the department is to be disbanded anyway, by Dec. 31.
Sharp said the police department worked more hours in November than it did in October.
"They're supposed to be winding down," she said, adding that the village isn't doing what the state auditor's office has recommended.
The auditors took over Portage's finances in April when a fiscal emergency was declared. The village is expected to be in a $130,000 deficit by the end of this year.
To emerge from the red, council voted in September to eliminate the police department and put a 1 percent income tax on the May ballot. It already implemented a 1 percent income tax in January to help with revenue.
Mayor Mark Wolford said the auditors are aware of the police department hours. He said the formal plan calls for the department to stop writing tickets and operating by Dec. 31. Mayor's court should end by February.
Wolford said Chief Bob Bartz would be working through New Year's Eve, but would be focused on dismantling the department during his last week.
"I still think it reflects poorly on us, that we are not taking this financial problem seriously," Sharp said, adding that the police department is "killing us. É I think it's shameful."
Councilwoman Marcia Wolford said there were numerous reasons that the village was in the hole, including the purchase earlier this year of an $18,000 mower. Sharp is the wife of Village Administrator Ron Sharp and the Wolfords are married.
At the November meeting, council had discussed ending police operations by Dec. 9, but a formal vote wasn't taken.
Also at the meeting, council:
¥ Heard the Ohio Department of Transportation had responded favorably to the village's request to investigate making Ohio 25 through Portage two lanes, creating on-street parking and relocating sidewalks.
¥ Heard resident Mike Schmitz ask if there were any plans in place if the income tax does not pass in May and Portage is dissolved. Mayor Wolford said the five-year plan, which is overseen by a state-appointed board, would have to be reviewed. "Whether we can tighten our belts to save enough, we don't know," he said.
¥ Voted 5-0 to approve new council rules. Councilman John Jividen was absent.
¥ Discussed renewing its insurance contract and memberships with the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments and the Ohio Municipal League. Council decided to postpone decisions until new members joined in January. Sharp, Jay Sockman and Doug Maas are leaving. Mike Brinkman, Carl Crawford and Rose Yoder are newly elected.
¥ Heard Crawford, who is on the planning commission, complain about the lack of council action on two recommendations: Making Hickory Street/Close Alley a one-way street and changing subdivision rules. Wolford said there would be a public hearing on both issues in January.
¥ Went into a 20-minute executive session to discuss police personnel compensation. No action was taken.