Tue., 9:27am: Columbiana County village might cease to exist

SUMMITVILLE – The mayor and council still remain at odds over his contention that the village is heading toward financial insolvency and should be dissolved.

Mayor Robert Marra first raised the issue at council’s July meeting when he invited a representative from the state auditor’s office to explain the dissolution process. He was criticized for not telling council members of this in advance, with council indicating its favored keeping the village of 135 intact.

Councilman Fred May, speaking after last week’s meeting, said they still feel that way and believe the village is heading in the right financial direction, thanks in large part to new Fiscal Officer Bonnie Moore, who has been able to straighten out the village’s books.

“Everyone on council is strongly opposed to what the mayor wants to do,” he said.

Moore took over in November and the village has begun running in the black for the first time in a while, May said, adding they are also exploring ways to cut spending.

“No, I do not believe we will run out of money,” he said.

Marra disagrees, saying the village is on course to become financially insolvent sooner rather than later. “I’m looking at the numbers and there’s not much we can do,” he said, adding council cannot cut itself into solvency.

“You can save a few hundred dollars here and there but it won’t be enough,” he said.

Marra is concerned that delaying the inevitable will result in more accumulated debt for Franklin Township trustees, which would be forced to absorb the village should it dissolve.

“I’m dead set against them handing off more debt to the township by dragging this out, and it will happen. Numbers don’t lie,” he said.

The decision is ultimately up to residents, who would have to vote in favor of dissolving the village. To do that, a citizen, not council or the mayor, would have to circulate a petition to put the dissolution issue on the ballot, and neither May nor Marra know of anyone who intends to do that.

May said dissolving the village would cost residents in the form of higher property taxes because they would begin paying 6 mills in Franklin Township levies that currently do not apply to them.

“To do that to the citizens of the village, well, everyone on council is against that,” he said.

The village’s 2014 budget is $42,000, and one of its biggest expenses is the $540 per month to keep the 42 street lights on. May said they intend to meet with a electric company representative at their September meeting to discuss their options.

He noted that Marra has missed three of the last four council meetings. “If he’s so concerned about the village he should be at the meeting. We can work this out.”

Marra, who said he missed the most recent meeting due to work, realizes his position is unpopular but he is looking out for the best interests of residents.

“I’m the evil town-wrecker, I guess,” he said.