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Coventry grappling with budget issues

2/20/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

COVENTRY — The Coventry Township Board of Trustees raised warning flags about the township’s future ability to maintain its roads and police protection during the Feb. 13 meeting.

Trustees agreed to allow the Summit County Engineer’s Office to bid and award contracts for 2014 township road resurfacing. Road Superintendent Lael Stouffer asked the board to approve allowing the Engineer’s Office to bid just more than $250,000 in resurfacing projects. Of that total, Stouffer said he expects to complete “primary” projects totaling $192,736. The remaining amount is for projects that are not critical this year, but could be included if bids obtained through the aggregation program are lower than anticipated.

If all projects are included in the bidding process, alternate projects may be dropped after bids are received, but they could not be added after bidding, Stouffer said.

Trustee David Calderone said this year’s projects will resurface 4.94 miles of roads — just 9 percent of the township’s total mileage.

“What we’re taking care of is 9 percent of our total roads available by this budget — if we do the whole thing,” he said. “That means we’re on a 10-year rotation on the roads. I can tell you we used to be on a five-year rotation on the roads. … This is a real concerning problem. We can’t do a 10-year rotation, and we’re going to have to find some solutions to this.”

Last year, the township bid $195,000 in projects that were completed for $115,000, according to Fiscal Officer Joni Murgatroyd.

Also during the meeting, Board President Tom Seese shared details of an earlier discussion with Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry regarding the township’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office for police protection. Seese said Barry gave him an early warning that any new contract with the Sheriff’s Office would be an increase in cost over the current contract, which expires at the end of 2014.

Calderone said the current contract exceeds the proceeds of the township’s police levy.

Seese said Barry told him under Ohio law the Sheriff’s Office is obligated only to maintain a county jail, services to the courts and to do civil process. Barry said the Sheriff’s Office is not obligated to do patrols in suburbs of the county, according to Seese. Barry indicated the county has lost more than $100 million in funding over the past eight years, and the county executive and County Council are insisting that communities that contract for policing services will have to “pay their way,” Seese said.

The township’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office has evolved from $1,200 a year with three or four deputies at its inception to more than $600,000 today for services of one deputy 24 hours a day, Seese said.

Calderone said the current contract does not include services of the county’s detectives.

“This board, sometime in the next seven months, is going to have to make some serious, serious decisions because we’re already strapped,” Seese said.

Calderone said funding the increase will be problematic. Murgatroyd said the current police levy does not expire until 2016, with 2017 being the last tax collection year. The Sheriff’s Office is proposing an unspecified increase for 2015, trustees said.

In other action, the board members:

  • agreed to extend the Summit County Job Creation and Preservation memorandum of understanding through June 2015. The memorandum previously was approved on an annual basis. The agreement contains tax-sharing provisions for Summit County communities that lose businesses to other Summit County communities;
  • accepted the Ohio Department of Transportation certification of 54.78 miles of roads in the township;
  • agreed to sell obsolete radios through auction on www.govdeals.com at a minimum price of $2,500;
  • approved demolition of a garage at 3638 S. Turkeyfoot Road at a cost not to exceed $3,500, including any asbestos removal necessary. The cost of the demolition will be assessed to the property owner over a two-year period. Trustees said the property owner supports the action;
  • accepted the resignation of Charles Bittner from the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) and appointed alternate BZA member Jack Cousins to Bittner’s unexpired term ending Dec. 31, 2018;
  • agreed not to request a liquor control board hearing on the transfer of a liquor license to Portage Lakes Brewing Co., 503 Portage Lakes Drive, from Country Culinary, doing business as Barn Stone Café in Orrville; and
  • agreed to renew the township’s application to participate in the Ohio Township Association Risk Management Authority, which provides property and liability insurance for the township.

The board’s next meeting is set for March 13 at 7 p.m. at Coventry Town Hall, 68 Portage Lakes Drive. The board will conduct a workshop beginning at 6 p.m.

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