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Published: Tuesday, 7/29/2008

Portage government shuts down for 3 days over insurance issue

BY LAREN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

PORTAGE, Ohio For about three days, no government existed in this Wood County village of 426 people.

Portage police didn t patrol the streets, and village services were unavailable.

Few seemed to notice.

I didn t realize they closed it down, said Ray Hillard, who has lived in Portage for 25 years.

Dorothy Naugle, a West Main Street resident, said although the police patrol her street daily, she didn t realize they weren t around over the weekend.

Mayor Richard Gill suspended village operations Friday after receiving a call from its insurance company notifying him about a late payment.

At that point, I felt that I could not leave our employees or residents uninsured so I basically shut the village down, Mr. Gill said.

Enright Park in Portage was sealed off over the weekend because of uncertainty created by a late insurance payment.
Enright Park in Portage was sealed off over the weekend because of uncertainty created by a late insurance payment.
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Portage, located about three miles south of Bowling Green and 26 miles southwest of Toledo, officially reopened about 3:30 p.m. yesterday after the mayor confirmed with the insurance company, Hylant Group, that it had received the payment.

Police officers and village employees are expected back to work this morning.

The caution tape that blocked both entrances to Enright Park along State Rt. 25 was removed yesterday.

Mr. Gill said he sent the insurance company a $4,300 check Friday evening, but didn t want to operate the village until he could confirm it was covered by insurance.

The insurance policy provides the village with liability coverage for lawsuits, accidents, and fires, among other things.

Mr. Gill said he is unsure how the payment was missed.

The decision to close the village was made because of the potential financial loss to taxpayers in the event of an incident. Mr. Gill compared the risks to that of driving without auto insurance.

Had something happened, we could have been in a lot of trouble, he said.

By yesterday afternoon the issue was resolved and Curly Foster, village administrator, reopened the park. By yesterday afternoon the issue was resolved and Curly Foster, village administrator, reopened the park.
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The mayor consulted with Curly Foster, the village administrator; several village council members, and Police Chief Bob Bartz, who agreed with his decision.

Mr. Foster said there was no other option.

All the taxpayers would have wanted us to do this, Mr. Foster said as he removed the caution tape from a telephone pole at the park. It would have cost them a fortune if we would have had a problem.

Chief Bartz said that Wood County sheriff s deputies patrolled Portage over the weekend as they normally do when village officers, who are part-time, aren t on duty.

The village s department has six officers who patrol a combined 90 hours each week.

Once [the mayor] said we didn t have insurance, we really didn t have a choice, Chief Bartz said.

We check everybody s insurance, so how can we do that if we don t have any ourselves?

Longtime resident Sandy Stoots said she too was unaware the village was closed over the weekend, but said it appears administrators made the right decision based on the circumstances.

It s better to err on the side of caution, she said.

Contact Laren Weber at:lweber@theblade.comor 419-724-6050.



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