By SHELLEY TERRY - firstname.lastname@example.org
City Council believes the city is in dire need of more police on the streets.
Consequently, it unanimously passed a resolution at a special meeting Wednesday morning, declaring it necessary to levy an additional 2.5-mill tax that would generate about $530,000 a year for five years specifically for the Ashtabula Police Department.
“It will give the citizens a chance to boost police protection,” said Ward 1 Councilman Richard Balog, a retired fire chief and chairman of the council’s safety forces committee. “Safety forces has always been my priority. This is the only way we can get enhanced funding.”
City Manager Jim Timonere said he recommended the police levy, knowing the average homes (in the city) are valued at about $50,000. That means the average homeowner will pay an additional $44 a year for increased police protection, he said.
Staffing cuts have reduced the department to three officers on the streets during a shift, and it’s not enough, Chief Robert Stell said after the meeting.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Julie Lattimer said she’s afraid future council members might cut the department’s budget “on the other side,” reducing the levy’s effectiveness.
City Auditor Dana Pinkert said the safety forces committee discussed that issue.
“Council and other administrators must be committed to keep the police department on a consistent budget,” she said.
President J.P. Ducro IV said, “All we can do is to be honest as elected officials. The intent is to never decrease the police department budget. I will promise that as long as I am in office.”
Ducro reiterated that the city needs more police protection.
“My goal and the city manager’s goal is to use this money for personnel,” he said. “Of all the things we need in this city, our security is in the most direst of needs.”
Timonere said, “We have to figure out a way to get more men and women on the street.”
Council will vote to officially place the legislation on the November ballot at its Aug. 5 meeting.
In other business, council passed legislation authorizing the city manager to enter into a contract with Interstate Gas Supply, Inc. for the purpose of providing the city with natural gas at a rate of $4.99 per million cubic feet through August 2015.
The city’s current contract expires Sept. 1.