It is a rarity for public officials to see "the handwriting on the wall." But the Lake trustees did last night at a regularly scheduled township meeting when they decided not to place a new ballot initiative on November's ballot.
Back in November, 2011 they had Issue 6 on the ballot in an effort to take the Uniontown Police District (UPD) township wide.
And they won. Well, at least for a while.
But then it was discovered that there was a language error in describing the amount of millage to be assessed home owners in the expanded district and outside-the-UPD resident Jimmie Miller led an effort to get the vote invalidated.
In December, 2011, Stark County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Haas did just that and was affirmed by the Ohio Supreme Court on May 16, 2012.
Last night Trustees John Arnold (president of the board), Ellis Erb and Galen Stoll explained why the trustees were of a mind not to pursue expansion at this time, to wit:
- that the trustees put the expansion on the ballot in 2011 because they wanted to be pro-active in doing something good for the township,
- that they didn't put the measure on the ballot to ramrod it down anyone's throat,
- that even if they went the sheriff route which the trustees believe would have resulted in less service than an expanded UPD and still cost 3.5 mills as compared to the 4.5 mills for the UPD,
- that they believed when they put Issue 6 on in 2011 they (based on conversations with residents outside the UPD) that there would be a 50/50 split,
- that the reality was in terms of actual vote was 64% outside the UPD voted "no,"
- that to them the 64% "no" vote was convincing that residents outside the UPD do not want expansion at this time,
- that expansion may be revisited some time in the future,
- that in 2005 the "no" vote was 75% and with the "no" vote being 64% this time is indication that the trend is towards township wide, but not in the immediate future, and
- that they believed the UPD be an excellent policing unit,
- that as far as the sheriff is concerned that if there is consideration of an expansion there would be an "apples to apples" comparison with the UPD and the sheriff would have to convince them that there would not be logistical problems in having cars in Lake Township, and
- that markedly improved sheriff service in Lake Township over the last seven months was not just because he was trying to get a policing contract with Lake officials.
Yours truly, a Lake and UPD resident, has always supported policing township wide. However, with the bungling that occurred with township legal counsel, the Stark County prosecutor's office, the Stark County Board of Elections on the ballot language, it would be futile for the trustees to place an expansion on the ballot in November.
Moreover, to pursue expansion at this time would be divisive.
The SCPR also talked with Jimmie Miller, a Greentown businessman who led the invalidation effort and got his reaction. Here is the video of his response.
And finally, The Report spoke with Uniontown Police Department Harold Britt and here he is on videotape with his reaction.
All-in-all, the SCPR believes that the trustees did what the November election numbers (from the non-UPD areas of the township) dictated.
And the trustees deserve commendation for the way they handled the swirl of controversy that surrounded the goof-up on the ballot language and the manner in which they allowed township residents (on both sides of the issue) ample opportunity to heard on their respective points of view.