2007-05-05 / Editorials & Letters

Village doesn't deserve more of your money

They're back! This time Buckeye Lake Village officials want three mills in NEW taxes ($46/year for a $50,000 property, $92/year for a $100,000 property and so on) for a so called safety services levy. Officially, it is for general operating expenses which means it can be spent for any village operating expense like salaries, benefits,utilities, insurance, phone bills etc.

This is the latest attempt to get more money for the police department. Village officials are pledging to spend 60 percent on the police department and 40 percent on the more popular firedepartment. However, there is nothing stopping them from changing their mind the day after the election or any time over the next fiveyears. The new levy will take an ADDITIONAL $134,000 a year from you and your neighbors. The police department's share is some $80,000 a year.

You can try to dress them up like firefighters, but it's still the same old Buckeye Lake Police Department. Most or maybe all of the new money - who really knows - is supposed to replace the approximately $138,000 being spent out of the general fund on the department. The police department has its own three mill levy which voters renewed two years ago. It provides $103,000 a year, but the department spends more than double that.

Through it all, one thing hasn't changed. That's the poor performance of the department. It's still the department you either love or hate, depending on whether you are their buddies or not. They are poorly trained and managed. Mayor Frank Foster is supposed to oversee the department, but he's like the three monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. The police chief and the captain pretty much do whatever they want.

Last November, the Beacon joined the ever growing club of crime victims in the village. So we got to see the department in action, actually more like inaction, up close. The police chief promptly and courteously took our report that day. Video evidence of the incident was provided along with names of two people seen in the area that evening who resembled those in the video. We haven't heard a word from the department since.

Unfortunately, our experience isn't unusual. Just about every business in this village has experienced multiple break-in attempts. Residents' vehicles and homes are also under attack. Many of these attempts have been successful. Yet very few of them have resulted in arrests, much less convictions.

Why are so few property crimes cleared here? Do we have or attract super criminals? Actually, the opposite is probably true. Some of our criminals are pretty bold. They throw concrete blocks through plate glass and try to pry open well lit back doors. They don't seem to have much fear or respect for our police department.

So what's the reason? Predictable patrolling, drive-by policing and poor investigative skills contribute, but we believe the primary reason is the tolerance for the use and sale of drugs. There's an active drug subculture here which creates and attracts criminals. Residents and businesses then pay the price.

We've been publishing Buckeye Lake police reports for over 11 years now. We've yet to see an arrest for possession or sale of drugs that wasn't part of some other offense - police stopped a driver for OVI and discovered a small quantity of drugs during an inventory before impounding the vehicle or police saw drugs or paraphernalia when they responded to a domestic dispute. Until our village officials and police department get serious about driving drug sellers out of town, we'll continue to be plagued with thefts and break-ins. A department that can't arrest and convict one drug dealer for selling in over 10 years doesn't deserve any more of our hard earned money.

We've been making these complaints for years, but very little has changed. Residents have been complaining about the department even longer. Complaints to the mayor are basically ignored.

Money does get their attention. Buckeye Lake is running out of money because spending exceeds revenue. That forced the layoff of one police officerlate last year. That layoff finally forced the top two ranking officersto split up. For years, the two generally worked the slow day shift together, wasting our limited resources. Thanks to your "NO" votes last November, village officials were finally forced to make some common sense decisions.

We need to force some more common sense decisions. If the village wants more money from you, when your sewer bill is increasing $96 a year with another $120-144 a year increase coming in a year or two, then we need to see some specific commitments from them. Anybody can spend beyond their means. First, they need to stop making bonehead decisions like giving up $7,200+ a year in rent to expand the police station/village officeand buying a used gasguzzling SUV for the chief. Sure, most of the cost of the vehicle was donated, but the combination of high gas prices and low mileage is costing us dearly.

Second, village officials need to consider all alternatives rather than just asking for more taxes. They recently had an opportunity to ask for some impact fees from the developers of a 177-unit upscale condominium project. Those fees could have purchased a new police cruiser or two, a new medic or jumpstarted the development of a park on Mill Dam Road. Well, we settled for some bargain loads of dirt delivered to that future park site. We get the dirt at the developer's cost. What a deal! That's another opportunity lost.

It's time to demand better decisions from our leaders. The only way to get their attention is to say "NO" to more taxes until we know our hard earned money won't be wasted.

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