Members of a panel studying the feasibility of a joint police district to service the villages of Genoa and Clay Center and Allen and Clay townships have decided to disband until state lawmakers take action on a bill that would allow the formation of such a district.
John Hoeft, a Clay Township trustee who chairs the Joint Law Enforcement District Feasibility Commission, said the commission’s goals have been met and it will now wait to see if the legislature passes what is called “enabling legislation” that would allow townships and municipalities to form one district for police coverage.
Currently, the Ohio Revised Code doesn’t allow townships and municipalities to jointly form a police district.
“The Joint Law Enforcement District Commission believes it has met the objectives that were its founding purpose,” a commission report says. “After a thorough and complete study, the Commission believes that a joint law enforcement district is feasible and would be cost effective. However, without legislation that allows further development of the JLED, there is little the Commission can do.”
State Representative Dennis Murray (D-Sandusky) has been assisting JLEDFC members with the draft bill. An e-mail message left with his office for comment was not returned.
Darryl Bittner, a member of Genoa Village Council who represents the village on the commission, introduced a motion at the commission’s most recent meeting for the village to withdraw from the panel.
The motion was passed with the provision the village may return at will.
The commission’s report states that Genoa’s departure lowers the chances the enabling bill will actually be introduced to lawmakers.
Hoeft said last week all four entities need to be involved with the proposal before lawmakers would actively consider the needed legislation.
Eric Hise, a member of Genoa Village Council, last week said council’s vote reflects the will of village residents.
“Hands down, people in Genoa don’t want it,” he said.
Hise also said he favored keeping the village police department under local control.
“That’s my main concern. We’d be vacating our ability for local control and I’m just not for that,” he said.
In May, council voted 4-2 against a resolution requesting the state pass the enabling bill. Hise was joined by Ray St. Marie, Dave Adams, and Bittner in opposing the resolution. John Lewis and Dave Brown voted for it.
In 2008, the Ohio Department of Development awarded a $42,000 grant to fund a study of the feasibility of a district.
The study, conducted by Circuit Rider Management Group, Granville, O., found that the two villages and two townships budgeted a combined total of slightly more than $1 million for police service in 2008 – about $219,361 more than they actually spent.
A 5-mill property levy in the villages and townships would generate about $817,573 a year – about $19,100 more than they actually spent in 2008 for police protection, the study says. The levy figure was based on the current property valuation in the proposed district, which was about $168.1 million.
The report includes a hypothetical budget that allocates $652,721 for annual operating expenses.
Pay levels for full-time officers were based on the average pay in 2008 for officers in Genoa and Clay Township at each rank. Pay estimates for part-time officers were based on a $13 hourly rate for four officers working 24 hours a week.
The report doesn’t include a recommendation as to who would be named chief of a joint district but notes a board of trustees would at least consider the current full-time chiefs in Genoa and Clay Township. Current officers from the various departments would be the first to be hired if a district is formed but would have to re-apply for employment.
For fire and emergency medical service, the two villages and two townships are served by the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District, which was established in December 1999.
Hoeft said the formation of a joint police district would require a vote by the residents of the four jurisdictions.