Westerville News & Public Opinion

May 6 primary

Blendon seeks police levy renewal, plus 2 mills

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For the first time since 2011, the Blendon Township Police will have a levy on May's primary election ballot.

Issue 19 is a five-year renewal of a 2.5-mill police levy from 2009 with the addition of 2 more mills, for a total of 4.5. The levy represents more than 40 percent of the department's operating budget, and passage would cost residents $137.81 per $100,000 of property value. The levy would last for five years.

Residents currently pay $76.56 on the expiring levy, so the annual increase would be $61.25 a year per $100,000 of home value, said Blendon Police Chief John Belford.

The levy will simply be accounting for changes in the department's cost to operate, the chief said.

"Our budget right now is higher than the amount of money being brought in by the police levies that are currently in force," Belford said. "It has to do with a number of increases."

Those increases include rising salaries, healthcare costs, workers compensation and other necessary spending, Belford said.

"Five years ago, we asked taxpayers for the exact amount of money we needed to run the police department, and nothing more," he said. "Five years later, it's just costing us more to provide the same amount of service."

If the levy were to fail, Belford said he could make recommendations to the board of trustees, but that ultimately the board would have to decide from where cuts would come.

"Any organization with a common business model, your highest expenses are going to be in manpower," he said.

"There's only so much cost-cutting we can do on things beyond our control like the price of fuel and maintenance on vehicles.

"We can try to reduce idle time and things like that, but the only thing that the trustees can control a large percentage of the cost quickly is manpower," Belford said. "And we don't want to see a reduction in the number of officers on the street."

The department currently enjoys the luxury of "flexing" more officers to high traffic areas and busy times, and Belford said that without that ability, it would "greatly impact" the department's ability to keep its current level of service.

"We've always tried to be a very responsive police department. We still do a lot of things that other police departments don't do," Belford said.

"We respond to barking dogs complaints, we respond and do lockouts and help people get into their cars when they're locked out, a lot of things that larger departments have stopped doing."

Belford said he thinks the community has taken notice, and the chief hopes to be able to continue to provide the kind of care that residents are accustomed to.

"I've been here since 1984, and every single police levy has passed since then," he said.

"The community provides unbelievable support.

"We try to stay very responsive to the needs of the community, and I think they've recognized that and they've said so with their votes when police levies come out," Belford said.

 

Westerville Precinct 5-B liquor option

The other Westerville issue on May 6 is a local liquor option for the True North, operating as the Shell gas station at 611 S. State Street.

The store has applied for options of both weekday sales and Sunday sales from 11 a.m. to midnight. True North has already applied for a D6 permit, which would allow for Sunday sales of "intoxicating liquor" between the hours of 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. or 11 a.m. to midnight.

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