The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

Oregon Mayor Mike Seferian expects to hire a new fire chief by next month.

Seferian wants to hire a chief from within the department.

“We’ll be talking to 24-26 different people within the department,” said Seferian. “We’re going to talk to all the captains, the assistant chiefs, chief of training, and a few part-time firefighters.”

He’s also seeking input from within the department on the selection process to improve morale.

“We want to open it up to get as much input from the department itself as we can,” he said.

”Not only do I want to be happy with the appointment, they have to have an appreciation for the process so we can have a happier department, then we can work on the issues,” he said.

“We’re hoping to name a chief within the first week of April,” he added.

The position has been vacant since Fire Chief Bill Wilkins left the post last month to take a job with the state fire marshal’s office.

Assistant Chief Paul Mullin is acting chief until a replacement is found.

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The Eastwood School District’s allocation of stimulus money is being used to help meet the costs of special education services and not for bonuses for administrators, Brent Welker, district superintendent, said.

He said a school board member received a phone call from a district resident who asked if administrators were paid bonuses through stimulus funding.

“You never know how some rumors get started,” Welker said. “This one is false and I felt the need to address it because as we head to the ballot in May to renew an existing levy, we do not want falsehoods and misstatements to hurt those efforts.”

The district has received about $350,000 in Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part-B stimulus funding.

The funding is meant for assisting children with disabilities through special education and related services.

Eastwood has until September, 2011 to spend its share, Welker said, adding that the district can use half of its funds to cover costs of special education services not covered by current state and federal revenues.

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Falling local revenues and doubts that reimbursements from the state will be sufficient to meet the costs of required programs and services prompted the Ottawa County commissioners to approve an emergency resolution that raises the sales/use tax by 0.25 percent.

With the increase, the total tax rate will be 6.75 percent, with the county share at 1.25 percent and the state portion at 5.5 percent.

The 0.25 percent increase will be in effect for three years and then automatically end, said commissioner Steve Arndt.

“State funding for many services has been dropping,” he said. “Unfortunately we are the delivery point for those services and it really puts a bind on us. We’re at the point it’s going to reach core services.”

Commissioners have cut the county’s operating budget by about $2.6 million over the past two years, he said, and the state is about six months in arrears in reimbursements to the county for service programs.

County officials said they expect the increase to go into effect in July. State law mandates a delay in the start of collections to allow for possible referendum challenges to an increase.

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Genoa officers claim hostile work environment

The Ottawa County sheriff is recommending Genoa village officials hire a special investigator immediately to look into allegations of a hostile work environment leveled by three village police officers against Chief Randy Hill.

The officers – Sgt. Todd Mocniak, Kevin Miller, and Mike Woods - recently gave several pages of written complaints and issues regarding Chief Hill to councilman Eric Hise.

The councilman then asked Sheriff Robert Bratton for his opinion on the seriousness of the complaints, Bratton said.

“They need a special investigator to review all their issues to be fair,” Bratton said after turning over his response to Hise on March 3. “They need to act immediately. We don’t know what the chief’s response will be to this.”

Chief Hill said he hasn’t seen the documents and declined to comment.

Sheriff Bratton emphasized he is not stating a hostile environment exists in the village department. However, once “these words are used,” action needs to be taken quickly, the sheriff said.

“There needs to be an investigation immediately conducted to find out the validity and if there is or is not this type of situation,” Bratton wrote in his response.

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A hearing to decide if the Ottawa County Humane Society unlawfully seized dehydrated and malnourished horses from a Carroll Township farm is scheduled for March 18 in Ottawa County Municipal Court.

Robin Vess, who has pled not guilty to charges of animal cruelty, filed a motion to suppress with the court, claiming the Humane Society entered the property without a search warrant and violated her Fourth Amendment rights as well as the Ohio Constitution.

“…The humane society…entered onto the property of the defendant, into a closed barn which is attached to the residence, without a warrant, and unlawfully seized approximately 40 horses,” the motion states. “Since the plaintiff entered without a warrant, the seizure of evidence was unlawful and cannot be used against the defendant. As such, the law requires suppression of all such evidence.”

Vess is represented by Toledo attorney Mark Davis. To support Vess’s contention, the motion cites federal as well as state cases.

“The Ohio Supreme Court has been particularly protective of a homeowner’s right to be free from unlawful seizure,” the motion says.

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