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Lucas County reform study group looking for volunteers

A group that has taken up the task of studying the structure and organization of Lucas County government is asking for volunteer experts to get the project moving.

Olivia Summons and Tom Killam, co-chairmen of the Lucas County Study Advisory Panel, said they're ready to begin work.

They've begun raising money from local corporations toward a goal of $25,000 to $35,000 and have assembled an advisory panel to oversee the study.

"The key to the project's success is participation by qualified citizens and financial support by interested individuals and organizations," Ms. Summons said Wednesday.

Candidates for the citizen review are invited to apply via the Web site

The group is looking for 15 or 20 volunteers who would form as many as six subgroups. Expertise is being sought in such areas as legal, financial and accounting, public administration, and urban planning.

The teams will study the structure and organization of county government and the relationships among jurisdictions such as cities, villages, and townships. They also would look at finances, functions, and services that can be eliminated or consolidated.

Also reviewed will be previous studies, media investigations of county government, and the experiences of cities that have reorganized in the past.

The committee also is raising money and has set up an account at the Toledo Community Foundation.

Ms. Summons is director of public affairs for the Sunoco Inc. Toledo refinery. Mr. Killam is a lawyer with Marshall-Melhorn LLC. Both are veterans of the Corporation for Effective Government, which studied local government for decades before folding in 2002.

Ms. Summons and Mr. Killam said they are undertaking the study with no preconceived goal of recommending a charter question for voters to decide in November, 2011.

"What we want for this county and this region is sustainability and ensure that we can go on for another 200 years here in northwest Ohio," Ms. Summons said.

Mr. Killam said, "Just reorganizing county government is perhaps just rearranging the deck chairs and you need to do other things, and this study might spawn similar studies of other things."

Lucas County operates under 19th-century laws that dictate a board of county commissioners along with eight other elected administrative officers.

County Commissioner Ben Konop this year campaigned for a ballot question to adopt a county charter modeled on Cuyahoga County's county executive/county council format, but was unable to get enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

Fellow Commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak also announced initiatives aimed at county reorganization, but those fell short as well.

Mr. Konop Wednesday renewed his hope that the citizen review will produce a charter plan on which county residents can vote. He said the county's decline in jobs and population statistics are evidence of the need for major change.

"Ohio law prohibits major structural reform unless you are a self-governing entity like what they have going on in Cuyahoga County," Mr. Konop said.

Ms. Wozniak said she would welcome a charter proposal but said the study committee also should look for ways to improve efficiency and organization regionally, as with the townships, cities, and villages.

"There's a piece missing in a county charter that I hope they will explore and that is some kind of regional piece," Ms. Wozniak said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

or 419-724-6058.

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