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Township’s ‘overspending’ sparks debate

JACKSONTOWN- Monday night, Licking Township Trustees did not approve spending $5,485 to crack seal Harbor Hills roads, saying the township is already overspending for its roads and continues to dip into the $3 million inheritance tax windfall it received in 2011.

Eventually, trustees said, the reserve will be gone, particularly as trustees discuss building new township facilities, and trustees should learn how to operate without it.

Trustee Dave Miller said crack sealing Harbor Hills’ roads would save them from having to be repaved for a few more years. He said he didn’t want to spend $5,485 for the work, but it seemed like a good idea in the long run.

Trustee John Holman said since receiving the windfall, the township has had the “luxury” of being able to overspend for infrastructure. He said once the township builds a new fire station and possibly an additional community building, its days of being able to overspend “are going to come to a screeching halt.

“We’ll be talking about spending what we don’t have,” Holman said. “Right now we have the money.” But, “If we continue to spend out of control the way we are advocating–$5,000 here, $30,000 there. Those cracks didn’t suddenly creep up on us.” He wondered why the Harbor Hills roads weren’t included in an earlier repair schedule.

Miller said the cracks in the Harbor Hills roads were noticed months ago. “All we’re talking about is to save…to me this is minor,” he said. Miller said next year someone else could figure out the road schedule. “I don’t want to spend the money,” he said, adding he’d rather the town- ship’s reserve go to a new fire station and stored for emergencies, but the township should be proactive and fix its streets.

“We’ve spend in excess of ($200,000) to $250,000 every year in the township,” Holman said. “So, we’re not spending a little; we’re spending a lot.” He said the township’s roads are really good, but they’ve been expensive. “We have to manage and budget the money we have as a township,” Holman said.

“I’m virtually getting sick, here,” said Trustee President Joe Hart. He said the township is fortunate to have a reserve, but without it the township doesn’t have enough revenue to do everything everyone would like to do. “The (Licking Township Fire Company) pays for itself,” Hart said. “The fire department operates within its budget. That money is not coming out of the operating levies we’ve passed.” However, he said it’s “not possible” to do all the roadwork desired and maintain two full-time employees based on the township’s existing revenue. “We’ve been guilty of overspending,” Hart said. He agreed the Harbor Hills crack sealing is a minor expense in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still an expense. “I’m not sure we’ve ever been collectively on the same page,” Hart said, adding the trustees need to make a decision on the crack sealing.

Miller presented a motion to spend the $5,485 for the crack sealing, but the motion died for lack of a second motion.

In other township news:

• Hart said he spoke with local farmer Ed Parrish about possibly purchasing a lot from him near Lakewood High School for the proposed new fire station. Earlier, Hart agreed to ask about the property because it has easy access to US 40 and access to city water. “I didn’t get the impression Ed was interested in selling the piece next to the school,” Hart said. He said the lot is below road level and would require a large amount of landfill before it could be buildable. Hart said Parrish suggested he look into a couple lots on the north side of US 40, but Hart said those lots could be expensive and they are too close to the Hebron Fire Station. He said ODOT may have “issues” with a township decision to build on one of those lots.

Hart suggested trustees stick to the original plan to build a new station at the site of the existing township hall, but, “I’d like to see us bit the bullet” and have the site’s well tested for roughly $1,000. “Let’s pursue what we own and move forward,” he said.

• Hart said Licking County Commissioner Duane Flowers asked him to reconsider providing a township representative to an oversight group of the Governance Task Force for Buckeye Lake 2030, a long term planning effort launched in January following a gathering of Buckeye Lake area residents at Lakewood High School to discuss the lake’s future as the state replaces its 4.1- mile earthen dam.

Previously, trustees were convinced their presence on the council would not “have much impact” on the dam project and the whole idea of the committee was “dumped on them.”

Flowers told Hart he would like every political entity in the region to have representation on the council, and Hart agreed to attend one of the organization’s meetings. “I was very impressed,” he said. “Almost every entity has someone involved.” Hart said after attending the meeting he believes trustees may wish to reconsider sending a representative. “We don’t have to decide immediately,” he said. Hart said he would do more re search, and then ask trustees what they would like to do.

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