I attended a public meeting on Tuesday 6/12 held by the County Engineer, Mr. Gills, and the County Commissioners. The subject was the proposed permissive motor vehicle $5.00 tax. Here is what I learned:
- Another $5.00 tax, approved by the State of Ohio legislature in 2017 will be added, if approved by the Commissioners, to the renewal of auto license tags . No exemptions for seniors. If approved, the Engineers office will start to receive revenue in November 2018.
- The $5.00 will generate ~$1,250,000 annually, and the funds are designated for infrastructure improvements. There are 63.28 miles of roads to be repaired over the next five years, out of a total 152 miles of roads they must maintain.
- They also maintain 106 bridges in the County.
- They maintain 17 miles of State Route 2 with a cost sharing of 50%/50% with the cities.
- Their funding comes from the state gasoline tax, and federal and state grants processed through NOACA.
- The Engineer and Commissioners believe that NOACA has treated Lake County fairly in allocation of funds.
- The County Engineer has the manpower on staff that can fix the roads and bridges. However, they are only permitted by Ohio Revised Code to work on road projects that cost under $30,000 to repair, and bridge projects that cost under $100,000 to repair. All projects over that amount must be done by private companies. When the law was written, lobbyists for the road contractors ensured that their clients were protected and got that provision inserted into the law. I would assume that there is a bidding process that must be followed.
- There was some doubt if Concord Township had passed the Permissive Tax User Fee in order to receive a portion of those fees. Under Ohio Revised Code 4504.15 and Ohio Revised Code 4504.16, townships that enact those code sections would receive 30% of the fees with 70% going to the county. [I will be checking with Concord Township trustees to see if they have passed the Permission Tax User Fee]
- I asked a question about the original estimate of the Vrooman Road repairs. Mr. Gills said $28 million, and he stated that they are going out to bid later this week for the project. Commissioner Dan Troy strenuously disagreed with Mr. Gills and he stated that the original estimate was much, much lower. The Commissioners at that time ( Troy, Malececk and Moran) agreed and signed off on the project.
- I asked Mr. Gills if there are any other surprises that may be the responsibility of the citizens of Lake County. I was told that there is always a chance that something unforeseen may happen on any project, but no more surprises at this time.
(LFC Comments: I have subsequently sent an email to the Commissioners suggesting that Mr. Gills may have demonstrated a lack of candor answering those questions. I have asked Commissioner Troy what was the original estimate for the project.)Commissioner Cirino replied to my email: “I think your concerns are unwarranted at this point. Of course, unforeseen things can occur as always. I do agree that this whole project has not gone as well as it could have for many reasons. Right now we are where we are. The current agreement was signed by Commissioners Troy, Moran and Malececk. We are bound by its terms. Also this project has been under the supervision and monitoring by the Commissioners for the entire time. It would have been great if more questions were asked by Commissioners in the past .”(I have yet to hear from Commissioners Troy and Hamercheck.)
(I must say that I have an uneasy feeling that there is something else that we are not being told. Only time will tell if I am correct. Stay tuned…….we will let the citizens of Lake County know if Mr. Gills has disclosed everything he knows, to the citizens of Lake County, about the project.)
(At this point, we would not support any additional fees or taxes on Lake County residents. Those living on fixed incomes are tapped out!)
Updated: 6/14/18 1:14 am
We just received Commissioner Troy’s reply to our inquire on the original estimate on the Vrooman Road project. Here is a chart that was created by NOACA for Commissioner Troy:
Vrooman Road Project Cost Chart
Please note that the earliest listing for this project was 1991 and was projected at $4.8 Million. As you can see this project just kept increasing in costs.
(LFC Comment: After reviewing the chart sent to me by Commissioner Troy, I will stand by my original statement that Mr. Gills displayed a lack of candor with a taxpayer of Lake County when he told me that the original estimate for the Vrooman Road project was $28 million. This also makes me wonder if other needed projects in Lake County have suffered because the NOACA funding has been going toward this ill-fated project rather than needed road or bridge repairs, which now requires the need for the additional $5.00 motor vehicle tax. I cannot help but think that there is another “surprise in store for the citizens of Lake County”………Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we first set out to deceive)