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Published: Wednesday, 4/14/2004

Sylvania, Sylvania Township: Merger of services to be studied

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Sylvania organization has approved spending up to $25,000 to hire a consultant to study the effects of a possible merger of services.

Herb Hoehing, executive vice president of the Sylvania Area Community Improvement Corp., said the group will ask the two governments to help fund the project by Public Financial Management Inc., of Cleveland. The consulting firm said a year-long study of all operations would cost $45,000.

The firm was contacted by the improvement corporation after it received a letter signed by 15 people asking if there was a duplication of some services by the two governments and if consolidation could save tax dollars.

Mr. Hoehing said the request to the two governments is meant to include their participation in the study as well as in making up the difference between his group's contribution and the contract amount for the consultants.

"I think we would like to participate in the study," Sylvania City Council president Barbara Sears said. "First, I'd want to see the details and a fuller understanding of the scope.''

Ms. Sears said that when the study was first proposed, there were discussions about how broad it might be and if it would address issues involving a possible merger.

She acknowledged that there are sometimes hard feelings between the two governments primarily centering on water and the city's annexation policy and that it's a good idea to have an out-of-town consultant come in without any prejudices.

The study could result in pointing to areas of possible consolidation, areas that might be managed better or where different levels of cooperation might be beneficial, she said.

Dennis Boyle, chairman of the township trustees, also said that he would like to see more specifics before committing township money to the study.

He said the community improvement corporation probably should have approached the township and city before moving the plan this far ahead, "and then coming to us for money.''

The effort, he said, was first characterized to him as a study about the possible merger of the two governments, "and that's a very different thing than a study of consolidating services.''

A study of a merger would require changes in tax structure and the underlying legislation authorizing the governmental functions.

Mr. Boyle noted that there are discussions about the possible merger of the dispatching functions of the two police departments and that he's not sure a study of that operation should be included in the price of the Cleveland firm.

He said the city and township already cooperate in a number of ways and share services in many areas. The only areas where he sees additional consolidation would be the two police departments and the two road departments. He questioned if a study is worth the $45,000 price.

The city and township share one school district, a fire department, a recreation district, both contributed to the construction of the senior center and both contribute to several civic organizations in the community.

A continuing obstacle for greater cooperation is the city's policy that property owners who want the use of city water must annex into the city for that service.

Mr. Boyle and Ms. Sears noted that Sylvania has begun talks with Toledo officials about entering into a new contract for water. Although Toledo has continued to supply water to Sylvania, a contract between the two expired in 1995.

Contact Mike Jones at:

mjones@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096.



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