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Published: Friday, 4/12/2013

Mayor promotes regional cooperation

Bell says reducing duplication benefits taxpayers

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

HANNOVER, Germany — Attracting international investors might be easier with county reform that goes a step further than a proposal to create a single Lucas County administrator and instead merge municipalities, Mayor Mike Bell said after pitching Toledo to businesses at a technology fair in Hannover.

“It’s not just economic development,” Mr. Bell said. “It is how we provide services and blending services that would be a greater relief to the taxpayers because we would reduce redundancies.”

Reform has been debated in Lucas County for several years after it was successfully enacted in Cuyahoga County. Proponents have failed to collect enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot for the necessary voter approval.

“I think it’s a good idea because I am a mayor who has been using a regional approach,” Mr. Bell said. “I think we are already heading there in some ways because we are looking at the possibility of other things we could do in government.”

The mayor said the city and county inspections and finance departments would be good candidates for merger.

“We can’t seem to get a grip on it because we can't seem to figure out who would have control,” he said.

Merging governments could mean representation similar to how Toledo City Council divides the city.

“I am not saying do it with formal representation,” he said. “I think it is a possibility and what pushes it is the economy because when there is more money, people don’t need to worry about being as frugal.”

Carol Contrada, president of the Lucas County commissioners, said, “Lucas County has led the way on regionalism. We would be happy to sit down and talk to the mayor about any specific initiatives he would like to propose.”

During meetings with potential investors in Germany, Mr. Bell said he doesn’t hesitate to pitch the region.

“When we talk, we don’t only talk about Toledo, we talk about northwest Ohio,” he said.

Mr. Bell cited the merger of the Ottawa Hills fire department with Toledo as a good example of governmental cooperation that he said saved Ottawa Hills homeowners money because of lower insurance rates.

Staff writer Mark Reiter contributed to this report.



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