MAD RIVER TOWNSHIP — Voters in Mad River Township will not see a proposed police levy on the May 9 ballot.
The Mad River Township Board of Trustees told residents during the Feb. 6 township meeting that they would not be moving forward with placing another proposed 0.8-mill police levy on the ballot that if approved, would have restored a county sheriff’s deputy dedicated to the township and its residents. Township voters rejected the measure last November, leaving residents and businesses without a sheriff’s deputy permanently assigned to their community after Dec. 28.
In the mid 90s, the township entered into a contract for township policing services with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and maintained a contract with the sheriff’s office, which secured a fulltime deputy who patrolled and provided police protection for the township. In July 2012, Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Wise, a lifelong resident of the township and a 1991 Greenon High School graduate, was permanently assigned to police the community.
According to township trustees, contract costs for the deputy continued to rise and the township was obliged to ask voters to approve a 0.8-mill levy proposal that replaced a 0.5-mill renewal levy. Approval of the 0.3-mill increase would have cost an owner of a home with a tax-appraised value of $100,000 approximately $10 annually. Tax appraised values in the county are based on 35 percent of the actual cost of the property.
“We were very shock that the levy failed and sad about losing our township deputy,” Mad River Township Trustee President Kathy Estep said. “Jeff knows both the people in our community and the area very well and provided us with excellent service.”
Mad River Township is now under the protection of the uniform division of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office which patrols the township along with several other municipalities in the county that are without a deputy dedicated to the community or a police department. Presently, one officer in the patrol division patrols the area each shift, which includes all areas west of Route 68 from the Greene County line to the Champaign County line to Snider Road. The patrol area also encompasses the region south of the Mad River.
Township trustees speculated that during the Nov. 8 election, some township voters might have confused the township police levy with the Village of Enon’s 5-mill additional police levy. Voters in both the village and township voted for the same fire and EMS levies, but voters in each municipality voted for separate police levies.
During the meeting, Township Trustees Robert McClure Jr. and Joe Catanzaro voiced similar opinions. Both trustees stated that they were very pleased with Deputy Wise’s performance during the four and a half years he served as township deputy. However, they both expressed reluctance to move forward with placing the police levy on the ballot again until they received more feedback from the community that supported the ballot issue.
“I am waiting to hear from the community. We could use more law enforcement help, but it has been quiet on my telephone,” McClure said. “If there is a strong consensus of opinion that supports placing the police levy on the ballot again, we need to hear about it.”
Catanzaro also pointed out that township residents had yet expressed their opinions during a township session or a public meeting.
“Whatever the public wants, we will listen. However, they need to reach out right away,” said Catanzaro. “We do not speak for the people. We are elected to serve them.”
Estep expressed her concerns about the township police levy being placed on the ballot in May when the Village of Enon and Greenon Local School District are once again, asking voters to approve proposed additional levies.
“I think if we had placed the police levy on the ballot in the spring, we might have been faced with the same confusion from voters. Yet, I do believe that the township is a safer place when a deputy is dedicated to the area and its residents,” Estep said.
Estep also noted that she had received three e-mails from township residents who supported placing the proposal on the ballot again.
According to Catanzaro, the township police cruiser will remain in storage until the township trustees decide what their next move will be.
The trustees will also be facing the spring and summer months without a township sheriff’s deputy to enforce property maintenance codes. The township does have some leverage when it comes to enforcing the cleaning up of overgrown and negligent properties. However, Estep said enforcement of those codes would be more difficult without a fulltime deputy assigned to the community.
“It is a long time to go without a township deputy, especially a deputy like Jeff Wise who has worked so well with property owners and the community in general,” Estep said.
The Mad River Township Trustees are asking for the community’s input regarding placing another proposed police levy on the ballot in November. Township residents can contact the township trustees via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone contact information for township trustees is as follows: Kathy Estep, President: 937-864-7714 (home); Bob McClure: 937-324-5367 (home); Joe Catanzaro: 937-605-2449 (cell)
Linda Collins is a freelance reporter for Greene County News.