Township fire prevention officer will no be replaced

LAKE TWP.: Lake trustees said Monday they have decided not to replace the township fire prevention officer who recently resigned.

Instead, the board voted to have the fire chiefs of the Greentown, Hartville and Uniontown volunteer departments take on those additional duties on a rotating basis for six months at a time. Chief Vince Harris of the Greentown Fire Department will serve the first six months.

Each department will conduct its own fire safety inspections.

Hartville Police Chief Larry Dordea, a candidate for Stark County sheriff, outlined his views on township policing and said he would work with whatever entities the voters decide on for township-wide police services.

Trustee Ellis Erb said the board will make a decision on whether to place a police levy on the November ballot before the August deadline.

Trustees accepted the resignation of auxiliary patrolman Harry H. Lovejoy Jr., from the Uniontown Police Department.

Uniontown officer Daniel Stiles honored at memorial ceremony

captStilesA member of the Uniontown Police Department is among six law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty last year being honored during a ceremony in London, Ohio.

Thursday’s gathering at a training academy in London, west of Columbus, marks the 25th annual Ohio Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony. The attorney general’s office says the event honors six Ohio officers who died in 2011.

They include Capt. Daniel Stiles from the Uniontown Police Department. He was hit by a car while directing traffic on Feb. 15, 2011.

The other officers who died were from the Columbus, Sandusky and Stow police departments and the Warren and Clark county sheriff’s departments.

Officials also are adding six historical inductees to a memorial wall for fallen officers.

The state says 749 Ohio officers have been killed in the line of duty since 1823.

Levy suit progressing in Lake Township

By Nancy Molnar

LAKE TWP.: Attorneys representing various parties are to submit written arguments by Monday to the Ohio Supreme Court in a lawsuit over a Lake Township police levy.

Township trustees and a citizens group are appealing the Jan. 25 decision by Stark County Common Pleas Judge John Haas that overturned passage of a continuing 4.5-mill police levy because of a ballot error.

Language on the Nov. 6 ballot understated the cost of the levy by a factor of 10, saying it would cost 45 cents per $1,000 of property valuation.

The office of Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero is representing township trustees in the appeal.

On the same side of the issue is Citizens in Support of Township Police, chaired by Robert A. Moss, who was treasurer of the levy campaign committee. Canton attorney Charles Hall III, who also is the township trustees’ legal adviser, is representing the citizens group.

Citizens contesting the election, led by Greentown Auto & Truck Parts owner James Miller, are represented by North Canton attorneys Melvin Lute and Eric Stecz, as well as Michael Grady of Lake Township.

Grady is a Republican candidate for county prosecutor.

After initial arguments are filed, each side will have 10 days to respond, taking the time for written argument to March 29.

The state’s high court normally takes four to six months to decide, but a court spokesman said this case might be expedited because it concerns an election.

During the appeal, the Lake Township Police Department continues to serve the entire township. It was known as the Uniontown Police Department when its taxing authority was limited to nine square miles in the northwest corner of the township.

Property owners in the entire township are paying the new levy.

Vote on Lake Township police levy continues to divide community

By Nancy Molnar
Special to the Beacon Journal

greentown BarberLAKE TWP.: Imagine walking into the voting booth and facing this option: You can vote for a service and still lower your taxes.

That’s what some Uniontown police district residents did Nov. 8, when they voted to expand their Uniontown Police Department and its tax base to the remainder of Lake Township, including the area’s other unincorporated community of Greentown.

The 4.5-mill permanent tax replaced 6.7 mills. It passed in 10 of the 11 precincts in the former Uniontown police district.

It failed in all 11 precincts in the remainder of the township.

“I would certainly, if I was in Uniontown, I would vote for it,” said Charles Heisroth of Spur Circle. “I don’t think I’ve ever voted to lower my tax.

“So why wouldn’t they vote for the police levy? I don’t think that’s very fair.”

Heisroth estimated his taxes will rise by $160 to $200 a year.

“But I’ll still be paying for the sheriff of the county and I’ll be paying for the Uniontown Police Department,” said Heisroth, 73, who has lived in the township for 46 years.

The status of the tax is in the hands of the Ohio Supreme Court, following a ruling from Stark County Common Pleas Judge John Haas that invalidated the election result on the basis of a ballot error. The mistake understated the cost of the tax by a factor of 10.

Last month, Haas continued an order allowing the Lake Township Police Department to patrol the entire township until a status and appeal hearing April 9.

Among those supporting the expansion of the Uniontown police district to the rest of the township was Howard R. Miller Jr., whose HRM Enterprises Inc. owns the Hartville MarketPlace shops and flea market, Hartville Kitchen restaurant and Hartville Hardware store.

Miller was the largest contributor to Citizens for Lake Township Police, the campaign committee that supported expanding the Uniontown Police Department to township-wide coverage. He gave $7,500.

That amount raises questions for Michael Grady, a Republican candidate for county prosecutor and one of three attorneys working to have the court invalidate the police levy’s passage based on the ballot error.

“You seldom would see anybody dishing that kind of money into an issue,” Grady said. “Was this about public safety, or was this about return on investment?”

Miller said he did know how much of a difference the expansion of the Uniontown Police District would make in his taxes.

“We are pleased with the Uniontown police service that we have received and they were in favor of this, so we wanted to support them,” Miller said in an email.

Miller’s businesses, along West Maple Street (state Route 619), are equal parts tourist attraction and staples of local life.

His new hardware store, being built by township Trustee Ellis Erb, will be a 245,000-square-foot, two-story building west of its current location.

Stark County Building Department records show an estimated construction cost of $13.3 million. If that building is taxed for police services at the new Lake Township rate of 4.5 mills, it would cost $10,532 less annually than if it is taxed at the 6.7-mill rate of the old Uniontown police district, which covered only 9 square miles in the northwest section of the township that borders southern Summit County.

The difference in taxes represents 2.6 percent of Miller’s total property tax bill of $404,992 for this year, an increase from last year’s $401,106.

Aside from Miller, most other police levy campaign contributors were township officials. Giving $1,000 each were Erb’s construction business, Trustee Galen Stoll and the businesses of Trustee John Arnold and township Fiscal Officer Ben Sommers.

Erb said the need for police to address crime throughout the township caused him to support the issue, even though it increased his property taxes because most of his holdings are outside Uniontown.

He said emergency medical services were among the leading proponents of a township-wide police service.

“It makes their job safer,” Erb said. “They get a suicide, or they get a young kid that’s high on drugs and he’s got a gun.

“What is a poor mother supposed to do? And this happens. I mean, this is not just one incident.”

Resident annoyed

To Russell “Rusty” McCoy, a barber in Greentown, the Uniontown Police Department, with its Special Response Team and Humvees, is more than the area needs.

“Greentown is a lot like Mayberry,” he said. “It really is. You just don’t go into Mayberry and tell Andy and Barney that, ‘Oh, by the way, you need all this extra protection,’ when all they’re doing is catching a few chicken thieves.”

He is irked that township officials are pressing to have the new police tax validated in court despite the ballot error.

“It just seems like it is taxation with misrepresentation,” said McCoy, 50, a U.S. Navy veteran who also works as a parking-garage assistant manager.

Like some others in Greentown, he would have preferred township trustees consider hiring the Stark County Sheriff’s Office for extra patrols.

Neighboring Plain Township has a 2.25-mill property tax for that purpose.

“The fact is they wouldn’t even entertain speaking to the sheriff’s department,” said Grady, the attorney who is working pro bono for citizens opposing the levy. “That’s what I found somewhat disturbing, particularly after this issue had been voted on twice before.”

Similar issues to the one now being contested failed in 2005 and 1998.

Trustee supports issue

Erb said the area has not had good service from the sheriff.

The office of Sheriff Timothy Swanson was at a low point in 2011, when the Lake police levy appeared on the ballot, due to a shortage of county funding. He since has rehired staff due to the passage of a sales tax in the same Nov. 8 election.

Erb said deputies would waste time driving to and from their headquarters in Canton. Further, the sheriff’s offer to provide enhanced service for $1.85 million a year did not include cruisers. He said he would prefer to stick with the plan for a township police service supported by $2.59 million from the levy.

“If we get turned down by the Supreme Court, well, so be it. We’ll put it on the fall ballot again,” Erb said. “If you stop and think, the majority of the people voted for it.”

Nancy Molnar can be emailed at nancymolnar2002@yahoo.com.

Lake Township trustees meeting of March 12

By Mary Ann Kannam

LAKE TWP. —KEY ACTION  Agreed to own and manage East Nimishillen Cemetery.

DISCUSSION  The East Nimishillen Cemetery Association is transferring ownership and control of the cemetery to the trustees because of a shortage of volunteers to operate the property.

OTHER ACTION  

• Trustee John Arnold told resident Don Williamson he will contact Lake Local Schools Superintendent Jeff Wendorf about Williamson’s concerns about the removal of a barricade from Lisa Avenue NW. The barricade was removed from the property owned by the school district to alleviate traffic during a road improvement project. Residents believed the change was temporary. Since the completion of the project, the street remains open. Arnold asked Williamson to gather signatures from neighbors who agree that drivers are cutting through their neighborhood near Lisa Avenue to avoid traffic lights.

• Authorized spending up to $8,835 to buy 15,000 pounds of asphalt sealant from DJL Material of Akron for the Road Department.

• Increased the employees’ share of medical insurance premiums from 6.8 percent to 10 percent and accepted the pay scales for all nonbargaining employees of the Road Department and administrative offices.

• Said a decision is expected in May about the trustees’ appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court involving the overturned election results of a levy that passed Nov. 8 to expand the Uniontown Police Department to become the Lake Township Police Department.

UP NEXT  Meet at 6:30 p.m. March 26 at Township Hall.

Lake police to stay on job, for now

uniontown-police-officerThe Lake Township Police Department will continue patrolling the community at least until April, according to an order issued Tuesday.

Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge John G. Haas continued an order he issued in January, making a ruling that overturns results of the Nov. 8 election, when voters narrowly approved a levy creating the police department.

A hearing to review the status of the appeal and the stay has been set for April 9.

Haas’ decision has been appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. Because the ruling deals with an election, the court will review the case. Lake Township trustees and a citizens group that supported the levy filed the appeal.

In November, voters approved a 4.5-mill levy to create a police agency to serve the township. Plans were to have the Uniontown Police Department become a townshipwide department.

Opponents filed a lawsuit because the ballot incorrectly stated the tax would cost 45 cents per $1,000 of valuation, instead of the correct $4.50 per $1,000.

Stark County reviews Lake Twp. levy error

By Nancy Molnar

Uniontown Police LevyCANTON: A state official alerted the Stark County Board of Elections in July about flawed ballot language in a Lake Township police levy that was approved in November but successfully challenged in court.

Gretchen Quinn, elections counsel for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, pinpointed the error in the statement about the cost of the levy that caused Common Pleas Judge John G. Haas to void the election results Wednesday.

“(B)allot language states tax will be levied ‘at a rate not exceeding four and one-half (4.50) mills per dollar of taxable valuation, which amounts to forty-five cents per one thousand dollars in taxable valuation.

“A 4.5 mill levy yields $0.45 per $100, but $4.50 per $1,000,’’ she continued in a handwritten note. “BOE may want to confirm millage with taxing authority.”

The July 27 communication to an election board employee included approved ballot language reflecting the correct cost.

What happened after that is in dispute.

Jeffrey Matthews, deputy director of the county board of elections, said an elections worker said she told township attorney Charles D. Hall III about the problem over the phone.

“That did not happen,” Hall said Monday.

He said township officials first learned of the matter when Uniontown police Chief Harold Britt went to the board of elections to get a list of township voters. The information then was relayed to township Fiscal Officer Ben Sommers on Oct. 13. Sommers then told Hall.

But by then absentee ballots already had been mailed and others had been prepared.

Hall said local elections officials missed the chance to attach the memo from the Secretary of State’s Office on Aug. 25, when Stark elections Director Jeannette Mullane sent the township a notice saying the police levy would be Issue 6 on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The letter, received at the township office Aug. 26, says in part, “You will receive a copy of the ballot language once it is approved by the Ohio Secretary of State.”

“If that attachment had been delivered to the Board of Lake Township Trustees on Aug. 25, the Lake Township Board of Trustees would still have had the opportunity to correct the ballot language,” Hall said.

Matthews acknowledged the mistake in the ballot wording should have been communicated to the township in writing.

“It’s clear there were errors made in procedure, but ultimately what was submitted to the voters matched the resolution that was passed by the township trustees,” Matthews said.

A similar mistake recently occurred in ballot language Hall submitted to the Board of Elections for Perry Township, where he serves as law director.

The resolution to put the issue in the March primary election said the 0.5-mill police renewal levy would cost 50 cents for each $100 of property valuation.

Matthews and Mullane sent a letter to Hall on Dec. 21, telling him, “One-half mill should be five cents for each one hundred dollars of valuation.”

Hall said he fixed the error promptly, as he would have done if notified in a timely manner of the problem in Lake.

Lake Township trustees are appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court the ruling that negated the results of the November police levy vote. The county Board of Elections decided Monday not to join the appeal.

The ballot issue expanded the territory and taxing authority of the former Uniontown Police Department to all parts of Lake Township not served by the Hartville Police Department.

Judge Haas’ order has been stayed by Stark County Common Pleas Judge Frank Forchione, and Lake Township police cruisers are still patrolling the newly created district.

Lake township residents sue over police levy

Ballot BoxLAKE TWP., Ohio (AP) – Residents of an Ohio township are suing to block a police levy narrowly passed by voters in November.

The Repository newspaper in Canton reports (http://bit.ly/v0JyEn ) that a lawsuit filed by residents of Lake Township in northeast Ohio claims incorrect ballot language misled voters.

The ballot told voters that the levy would cost residents $0.45 more in property tax for every $1,000 their home is worth. In reality, the levy would cost taxpayers an extra $4.50 for every $1,000 of value.

County officials ruled last week that the levy should move forward because the ballot language reflected the intention to raise taxes, even if it listed the wrong amount.

The levy would generate $2.59 million each year and cover the cost of expanding the Uniontown Police Department.

 

Information from: The Repository, http://www.cantonrep.com

Police levy causes stir among Lake Township Residents

By Tracy Valentine | The Suburbanite
Police levy causes stir among residentsLAKE  Residents voiced their objections to the passage of Issue 6 in a Nov. 14 standing-room-only Lake Township Trustee meeting.Issue 6 is a 4.5 mill levy that expands the Uniontown Police Department to cover all of Lake Township, except Hartville.
“Why does the rest of Lake have to pay for it? We don’t need it,” resident Vito Spano said.Residents Donald Tuck and Ken Kurtz agreed. The men said they will going to have to pay for the increased taxes on fixed incomes.
The two major issues the residents also addressed regarding Issue 6 were the cost of the levy and the typographical error on the ballot.Other residents supported the levy.

“The voters decided this issue. So if you’re mad, that’s who you should be mad at,” LeeAnn Ramirez said.

Resident  Tim Davis wasn’t sure about the levy. “I don’t have the money either. But you don’t appreciate it until you need it. If the community is going to move forward it’s something we need.”

Lake Township’s attorney Charles Hall addressed the ballot typographical error. The ballot incorrectly stated the levy was at a rate of 45 cents per $1,000 per tax valuation.  The levy was actually for $4.50 per $1,000 per tax valuation. Hall explained that he and the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office, the Stark County Board of Elections and the Ohio Secretary of State all failed to catch the mistake.

Resident Dan Robinson asked Hall if the error voided the ballot. Hall said it did not. He added that he reviewed all the material residents saw prior to the election, and that information was correct.

Hall also said the Ohio Supreme Court has previously upheld votes on other ballot issues.

Two residents asked about drilling approved on land near the former Industrial Excess Landfill (IEL).  Norma Bolt and Elizabeth Dixon asked several questions regarding the rules for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” The women wanted to know what requirement exist for fracking pipes, a possible holding pond and truck routes for the drilling companies.

Trustee President John Arnold said that the township does not have the expertise to answer her questions. He referred them to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency EPA.
Dixon asked if the Township could file an injunction to have drilling stopped next to the landfill.  Arnold arranged a meeting with Dixon and the Township attorney to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit.
Other business:
*Approved — the reappointment of Dr. Ronald Weisel III to the Board of Zoning Appeals for a five-year term.
* Accepted – The resignation of Harold Thompson, effective Dec. 31. Thompson is retiring after 32 years of service as an operator/laborer with the Road Department.

The next Lake Township Trustee meeting is scheduled for Monday Nov. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at 12360 Market Ave. N, Hartville.

Lake Township eyes townshipwide police, again

By Edd Pritchard

Lake eyes townshipwide police, againCiting funding cuts that are eating away at the sheriff’s budget, Lake Township trustees have decided to establish a police department.

They hope to persuade residents to pass a 4.5-mill levy Tuesday.

The estimated $2.59 million generated by the property tax would allow the Uniontown Police Department to expand to 20 full-time police officers who would patrol the entire township.

Residents want more police protection, Trustee John Arnold said. “We really don’t have any police presence or protection.”

But while trustees are pondering an expansion of the Uniontown department, Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson is telling residents he can provide the service at a lower price. Trustees counter that Swanson is ignoring some key expenses when detailing his estimate.

WHAT’S BEST?

Sheriff’s deputies provide police service throughout most of the township, except for Hartville and the roughly 9-square-mile Uniontown district in the northwest corner.

But the sheriff’s department has only two deputies available to patrol in rural areas around the county, including Lake Township. It can sometimes take up to an hour for a deputy to answer a call. In some cases residents are being told to use the Internet to make theft and burglary reports, Arnold said.

Residents need and deserve better police service, said Uniontown police Chief Harold Britt.

“We all rely on our neighbors basically to watch our homes when we’re not there,” said Britt, who lives in a portion of Lake Township patrolled by the sheriff.

EXPANDED SERVICES

Lake would like to become the fifth Stark County township — Jackson, Lawrence, Marlboro and Perry are the others — with its own police department. Plain Township has 2.25-mill levy it uses to hire sheriff to provide police services.

Lake’s plans are for a property tax to replace a 6.7-mill levy used to pay for Uniontown police operations. The levy costs Uniontown residents who own a $100,000 house about $206 per year. If the new levy passes, the cost will drop to $137.81 per year because of the lower mileage.

Meanwhile, residents living in Lake Township will see property taxes rise to provide the police service.

If the new tax passes, Lake trustees would expand the Uniontown police department’s service area to include the entire township, minus the village of Hartville. The department would have at least four patrol officers on duty per shift each day, in some cases more, Britt said.

TRIED BEFORE

It’s not the first time that trustees have tried to establish a township wide police department. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea in 2005 and in 1998.

In 2005, Swanson told residents he could provide police service — through a contract to supply deputies — at a lower price than the cost for Uniontown to expand. He’s making the same claim this year, and that has angered township officials.

Swanson said he can offer a program similar to one his department provides Plain Township, where deputies are assigned to patrol. A 2.25-mill levy — up for renewal this year — provides most of the $1.8 million that Plain pays for deputy’s wages, cruisers and equipment. The township buys cruisers that are serviced by the sheriff’s department.

In July, Swanson’s office asked Lake Township officials for operation costs of the proposed Lake Township police department, as well as costs for the Uniontown department. After receiving the information, Swanson sent trustees a Sept. 8 letter saying he could provide services for $1.85 million, as opposed to the $2.59 million the proposed levy will raise.

Swanson wanted to meet with Lake trustees, but that hasn’t happened. “At this point in time we’re not paying much attention to it because we have to pass the levy,” Trustee Ellis Erb said.

Some residents aren’t happy that trustees haven’t answered Swanson.

Jim Miller, who has opposed past attempts to create a township police department, said he’s disappointed that residents weren’t given an opportunity to discuss the sheriff’s proposal. “That was kept from us,” Miller said.

Erb and fiscal officer Ben Sommers said the township never sought a bid from the sheriff, in part because of the problems the county is having funding the sheriff’s department. Erb noted that the county needs to pass the 0.5-percent sales tax to have money to continue current operations.

Lake officials also question Swanson’s claim that he can provide better service for less money. They note that in addition to finding $1.85 million for the sheriff’s contract, the township will have to find money to buy more police cruisers for deputies to use.

“I’d take a long, hard look before I give it to him,” Erb said of contracting with the sheriff for police protection.

LOCAL POLICE

Lake trustees said they prefer having a police department that operates in the community. If sheriff’s deputies handled police duties in the township, they would be driving from the sheriff’s office in northeast Canton, Erb said. “I think we’d be better off if we had them right here.”

Having township police gives residents “significantly more control,” Arnold said. Local officers can provide better service and do a better job of connecting with residents, he said.

Britt said Uniontown officers can provide the township with services beyond road patrols. The list includes community policing, neighborhood watch, daily vacation checks, a juvenile diversion program and a senior citizen watch program.

He also said his officers have been frustrated when they are called, but can’t assist residents on the edges of the Uniontown district — the Stark County line on the north and west, Heckman Street NW on the south and Market Avenue N on the east.

Swanson counters that he’s not happy when Uniontown officers leave their jurisdiction to answer calls that would be handled by deputies. The sheriff and Britt list a handful of incidents where Uniontown officers have responded before deputies arrived.

Uniontown officers don’t want to sit nearby and wait when someone needs help, Britt said. “That kind of bothers us.”