The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

November 7, 2013

Similar levies, different results in Conneaut and North Kingsville

Neighboring communities that asked for help to fix crumbling streets and roads saw different results in Tuesday’s general election.

In Conneaut, voters approved a five-year, 2.75 mill to help finance repairs to streets. But next door, in North Kingsville, residents rejected a measure for the same purpose, leaving village leaders to ponder their next move.

“We’re just going to be patching and filling until we can figure out a way to draw in revenue,” North Kingsville Mayor Terry McConnell said one day after a  .3 percent income tax increase proposal was rejected by nearly 55 percent of the voters.

Conneaut City Manager Tim Eggleston was pleased his city’s issue was approved by an unofficial 1,289-1,031 margin.

“I want to thank the residents who supported the city,” Eggelston said. “My next step is to put together a two- or three-year plan to see how the funding will be used.”

Street repairs and maintenance in both communities has been minimal because of money woes. Last year Conneaut voters defeated a 10-year version of the levy, while North Kingsville has repeatedly tried to find favor for its levy.

“I feel bad it failed,” McConnell said. “We were hoping to make some real improvements to the roads. Now we’re between a rock and a hard place. I’m disappointed to say the least.”

Conneaut’s levy replaces a multi-year municipal income tax increase that expired at the end of 2012. Eggleston said he will take some of the streets and roads anticipated to be fixed in that program and add them to the new five-year plan.

“We’ll take the old list and try to incorporate that,” he said. “We want to look at the tourist areas. We want visitors to have a good experience.”

Some of the major roads south of Interstate 90, such as Underridge and South Ridge, may be in line for special hard-surface projects, Eggleston said. “We’re looking at how we can pave our major collectors,” he said.

The Conneaut levy will raise an estimated $500,000 each year of its five-year life. At least 20 percent of the money will be set aside for care of the city’s unpaved roads, Eggleston said.

Meanwhile, Conneaut officials were scratching their heads over the defeat of three proposed amendments to the city charter. The measures — which would have abolished residency requirements for the city law director and finance director,  as well as set deadlines for changing compensation for council members — were designed to help bring the charter in compliance with state law.

Conneaut faces no penalties or sanctions from Columbus because the charter veers away from state law, said Law Director Carly Prather. “We just won’t be able to enforce those provisions of the charter,” she said Wednesday.

Education is the key, Eggleston said. The city may reintroduce one amendment at a time at future elections and concentrate more on explaining the measure to the voters, he said.

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