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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2001

Disability levy to be on Lucas County ballot

Lucas County commissioners yesterday approved placing a levy on the November ballot for the board of mental retardation and developmental disabilities and took a step toward approving a levy for the 911 system and a countywide communication's system.

John Trunk, executive director of the disabilities board, said the levy is necessary because the agency has begun to operate at a loss. It operated at a deficit of about $2 million last year and it is projected to have another deficit this year.

Financial reserves are sufficient to continue to absorb losses now, but services would have to be cut if the levy request is defeated. The board cannot legally operate at a loss.

The agency will ask voters for a 3-mill levy - 0.5-mill will be a new tax. The disabilities board now receives revenue from two levies that total 2.5-mills and hopes to replace them with the new measure.

The board expects revenues this year to total about $33 million, with about 65 percent of that coming from local funds.

If the levy is passed, it will be calculated at current real estate values and increase income by about $13 million.

Commissioners also agreed to ask the county auditor to certify the dollar amount that would be generated by a tax measure of 0.7-mill for the existing 911 system and establishment of a county-wide public safety communication system.

John Alexander, an assistant Lucas County administrator, said the public safety committee will meet tomorrow to determine the amount of millage they will seek and also likely will ask commissioners tomorrow for permission to have the measure placed on the November ballot.

A current levy of 0.7-mill, which allows for the maintenance and operation of the 911 system, raises about $4.2 million, but will expire at the end of the year.

A new levy, based on higher real estate values, probably will create revenue of about $5.4 million, but Mr. Alexander said that figure is preliminary until the auditor forwards his finding to the commissioners.

The increased revenue will be used to establish the county-wide communications system for police and fire departments. Currently, he said, most communications have to go through the dispatchers of different departments. Additional revenue would allow for the development of a system that would allow direct communication between law enforcement officers and firefighters.

He added that the system would be more efficient in some emergency situations, particularly between different agencies.

Commissioners tomorrow also will be asked to approve the sale of about 55 acres of wetlands from the county's Westwinds Industrial Park to the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

Ralph Hannon, the port authority's director of new projects, said the land is needed to satisfy a federal government requirement that if the port authority takes wetlands from one area, it must replace them.

He told commissioners the port authority will have to utilize some wetlands on property at Toledo Express Airport to develop two large warehouses designed to hold perishable items. The long-discussed project is awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, Mr. Hannon said. A decision by the FAA is expected next month.

The port authority will pay the county a total of about $270,000 for the land and intends to later buy a similar amount of wetlands at the site, though a price has not been determined for that tract.

Westwinds is east of the Ohio Turnpike and north of Airport Highway.



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