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Politics is big in these parts, and we’ve got it covered. John Arthur Hutchison and other staff writers will offer their inside information on the events, big news and little moments of the local political scene in Lake, Geauga and eastern Cuyahoga counties.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Calling the Lake County Fire Department?

For years, officials in Lake County have talked about consolidating fire services among communities as a way to save money.

So far, no concrete proposal has arisen. However, the topic was recently brought up again by the Lake County Mayors and City Managers Association as officials are learning about cuts within the state budget proposal unveiled by Gov. John Kasich.

Part of the reason nothing has been done is because although people want to collaborate and already do so through mutual aid agreements and the like, most communities still want to keep their own operations in place and do what is best for their own interests.

Another stumbling block to consolidating services of any kind — not just fire services — is that people may lose jobs.

For example, Lake County Commissioner Daniel P. Troy said the County Commissioners Association of Ohio has urged state legislators to change the law to allow for perhaps six to eight regional forensic examination centers rather than requiring one for each county, but the proposal continues to get resistance.

When it comes to fire and emergency medical services, a valid argument often made by safety officials is that fire stations and equipment need to be stationed within just a few minutes of residents’ homes so they can respond quickly when someone faces a life-threatening illness or event such as a heart attack or stroke.

Mentor-on-the-Lake Mayor John Rogers brought up an interesting point this week when he said officials should start looking at the county as a whole, rather than at each community, when it comes to the locations and number of fire stations.

“We could be the Lake County Fire Department, then you restructure the fire stations in a way where they respond to calls in a timely manner,” he said.

With Lake County as geographically small as it is, he says, there are plenty of fire stations in place so that each resident would be served in a timely manner and that it’s just a matter of figuring out how it could work on a countywide basis.

Communities are faced with large losses from the state’s Local Government Fund, which has traditionally provided revenue to help pay for vital services.

So one reason for the renewed discussion about consolidating operations such as fire services is because mayors, city managers, councils, township trustees and other government officials are looking for innovative ways to cut costs and try to sustain services without raising taxes.

Will Senate Bill 5 be moot?

The Ohio General Assembly narrowly passed sweeping legislation Wednesday night that is designed to weaken the power of unions and the collective bargaining process — something that Gov. John Kasich says is needed to help counties, municipalities and school districts cope with less revenue.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern immediately called on Ohioans to join the party’s effort to place a referendum of Senate Bill 5 on the November ballot. Redfern says the state is trying to balance its budget on the backs of the middle class.

Here are some referendum facts, according to ProgressOhio, an Ohio nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization:

*  231,149 — Signatures needed to place a referendum of the law on the ballot.

* 1,000 — Number of signatures needed for petition language to be approved by the Attorney General and Secretary of State, before additional petitions can be circulated.

* 44 — Minimum number of different counties where the petition signatures need to be collected.

* July 5 — Final date for signatures if Senate Bill 5 is signed and filed with the Secretary of State by April 6. Ninety days would be allowed to collect signatures.

*  July 26 — Final day by which the Secretary of State must determine if there are enough valid signatures to place the referendum on the ballot.

* 91 — If no referendum petition is filed, Senate Bill 5 goes into effect 91 days after it was signed and filed with the Secretary of State. If a referendum is filed, the law does not go into effect until and unless Ohioans vote to allow the bill to become law.

* 5 — Number of members on the Ohio Ballot Board who determine ballot language once the referendum petition is accepted. The Board includes the Secretary of State, plus one Republican and one Democrat from both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate.

n Mayor Mark Tyler of Kirtland will host a Gathering of Friends, 5:30 to 7:30, April 14 at Dino’s Restaurant on Route 306. See Rick Blum or Sandy Tyler.

n Concord Township Trustee Connie Luhta will host a fundraiser from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., April 28 at Hellriegel’s Inn in Painesville Township. See Chris Galloway, Paul Malchesky or Luhta.

John Arthur Hutchison’s column appears Sundays in The News-Herald. View it online:
Twitter: @newsheraldjah


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