Hubbard Twp. survey to find out why levy lost

HUBBARD TOWNSHIP — Saying it was the first police levy to fail in the 40-year history of the township police department, trustees now plan to find out why registered voters reacted negatively toward the 3.5-mill additional continuing police protection and emergency medical service levy.

Trustee Chairman Fred Hanley said during a special meeting Wednesday, the levy received the most “no” votes from voters south of state Route 304 and those bordering Liberty and Youngstown.

The levy failed by 16 votes.

Had it passed, the owner of a $100,000 home would have paid $122.50 per year, an increase of $77.50 over the $45 they currently pay. Officials said the increase is approximately $6.45 per month, which is less than 25 cents per day.

“This is the first time we have ever lost a police levy with more than half of the residents voting against. We want to know why,” Hanley said, indicating residents were saying they could not afford the increase in taxes.

Hanley said he has met with both police Chief Todd Coonce and Clerk Sue Goterba, who issued a spending halt within the police department that includes no overtime or purchases.

There’s concern, officials said, the police department will run out of money by early next year if spending is not cut back.

Plans are to reduce the number of personnel on shifts and to wait on vehicle repairs. Hanley said they also will look at selling equipment, such as old cruisers no longer needed by the department.

Trustees plan to prepare an online survey of about five or six to try and determine the reason residents’ voted against the levy. In addition to the questions, there also will be a comment section.

Officials plan to again discuss the levy during their meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, including whether to place a levy on the May primary ballot.

Trustee Rick Hernandez said the levy may have confused voters since it also included EMS, which the township does not have or was not seeking. The local area is part of the joint fire district.

“People were dumbfounded on the way it had to be worded,” he said.

Goterba said state code determined the wording on the ballot, and it had to include both police and EMS.

The township has a 1.75-mill levy that is expiring Dec. 31, and officials said the extra funds are needed to maintain 10 full-time and seven part-time police officers, as well as pay for rising insurance costs.

Hanley said the township also has a contract with Blue Line Solutions for speed photo enforcement cameras and is waiting for a legal opinion to begin posting signs for using the cameras along Interstate 80, which a portion is located within the township. Plans would to begin utilizing the service as part of the contract in 2019 with Blue Line to post the signs.

Hanley said attorney Mark Finamore told him, after speaking with Ohio Department of Transportation, the cameras can be used on the 4.7 miles of interstate in addition to state, county and township roads.

“If we get the official approval to use the speed cameras, which I am sure we will, that will help to alleviate some of the problems in the police department,” Hanley said, adding signs will be posted informing motorists the cameras are being used.

Officials said Coonce has spoken to Liberty, Howland and Girard police officials to see what funds are generated by the cameras to help their departments.

“They have said the cameras have been life-saving for them in generating revenue,” Hanley said.