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Published: Wednesday, 9/30/2009

Portage to disband police department

PORTAGE, Ohio - Village Council agreed Monday night to close its police department and ask voters in May to approve a 1 percent income tax as part of a plan to emerge from fiscal emergency.

The town of 426 people just south of Bowling Green long has been known as a speed trap, but as of Jan. 1 its police chief will be laid off and its part-time officers placed on auxiliary status. Council agreed by a 4-0 vote to close the department as part of a five-year plan to get its finances back into the black.

Mayor Mark Wolford said it's his hope the force could be reactivated.

"The people of the village desperately want to keep the police department," he said. "When we pass the 1 percent income tax, if it passes, we might be able to start it back up."

He said he's working on other plans, including annexing some industrial properties north of town, to increase revenue. The village has a 1 percent income tax, which was adopted in January and is expected to generate close to $60,000 a year.

"Basically, the five-year plan is just a plan," Mr. Wolford said. "It can be changed … if we have significant changes in town, if we do get annexation, or we do pass the levy or someone donates $100,000 or whatever. Anything can happen."

The plan is to be reviewed Oct. 6 by a fiscal oversight committee made up of representatives from the village and the state auditor's office.

In April, the state auditor placed Portage in fiscal emergency after an analysis showed the village had a negative cash balance of $135,763 on Jan. 31.

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