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Bench, Sheahan unseat Gray, Graffis; levy loses

Newcomers David Bench and Ron Sheahan will take their seats on the Jerusalem Township board of trustees next year, while a police levy that would have funded current police services from the sheriff’s department was defeated on Tuesday.

Bench and Sheahan unseated incumbents Joe Gray and Rodney Graffis.

Bench, 59, is a self-employed farmer at Bench Farms. He received the top vote, 974 votes, or 41.10 percent of the vote cast.

Bench attributed his win to name recognition of his business, and voters’ desire for change.

“I’ve been going to the meetings for about a year, and nothing ever seemed to get done,” he said. “I kept telling trustees that they work for the people. We pay their wages.”

Sheahan, 45, is a project manager at Dimech Services, Inc. He received 581 votes, or 24.51 percent of the vote.

 

Gray received 181 votes, or 7.64 percent of the vote, and Graffis received 125, or 5.27 percent of the vote. Both were often locked in battle with Trustee Joe Kiss and Fiscal Officer Julie Van Nest, since Kiss and Van Nest were elected in 2007. Meetings were frequently marked by conflict that sometimes involved members of the audience.

Kiss said he looked forward to working with Bench and Sheahan.

“They have good business sense and common sense. They bring a lot to the table,” said Kiss.

Meanwhile, voters rejected by over a two to one margin a 3.5-mill, one year police levy that would have raised revenue to pay the sheriff to patrol the township.

The township currently receives sheriff’s patrols at no charge from Lucas County. That will end on Jan. 1. Lucas County commissioners last summer notified nine unincorporated areas in the county, including Jerusalem Township, that they will be charged for sheriff’s patrols due to budgetary constraints. Commissioners plan to cut over $5 million from the sheriff’s budget.

The notification sent townships scrambling for ways to raise funds to continue getting their current level of services from the sheriff, or contract with adjacent communities for police protection. To maintain sheriff patrols, Jerusalem Township, which has a population of 3,181 within a 30.4 square mile area, would have been charged $347,000 annually by the sheriff.

Commissioners had agreed to allow the township to pay just 65 percent of $347,000 for the first year, 80 percent the second year, then 100 percent the third year had the levy passed.

If the township does not pay $347,000 to the county, the sheriff will only respond to emergency calls and will no longer patrol the township.

Without the levy, township trustees say they cannot afford to pay for sheriff’s patrols. The budget, passed earlier this spring, is $1.7 million.

Kiss said he believed the levy lost because the costs were high and unexpected.

“I think it lost because it was such an unexpected, sudden thing and it was dropped in everyone’s lap. Commissioners wanted us to pay thousands at their convenience,” he said.

“Secondly, I think people are just taxed to the hilt. They realized it was the commissioners’ mismanagement of funds, and not the sheriff’s,” he added.

Kiss said the township will have to find other options for police protection.

“I don’t think it is good enough for the township to have the sheriff respond only to 911 calls,” he said.  “We’re still going to have to evaluate what we’re going to do, and find out what the sheriff is going to do. The sheriff said he is now going to have to trim his budget. I think he should have made some cuts to begin with.”

Kiss said he will wait until Bench and Sheahan take their seats to discuss the matter further.

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