More questions in Wells Township
Wells Township officials have been left to wonder about what their next steps will be after Tuesday’s election.
Voters in the township rejected two 3-mill levies when they went to polls. Each of the levies would have generated $362,000, money that would have gone toward the street and the police departments.
The township’s financial woes stem from the tax devaluation Buckeye Power received for the Cardinal Power Plant. That sent township officials looking for a way to make up $212,000 that was lost in 2018 and the $665,000 that was lost this year. That’s in addition to the $2.4 million that has been lost during the last 10 years because of deregulation of electricity.
Officials have been clear all along about the issues the township has been facing. For example, the police department has laid off two officers, leaving just two officers and the chief. Gone, too, is the around-the-clock protection the department had been able to offer. Two workers have been laid off from the road maintenance department, and, Fiscal Officer Joe Matthews explained, all projects are on hold, with work reduced just to maintenance.
And, the township’s swimming pool, long a focus of summer activities, will not open this summer.
The township will see an additional $50,000 from Ohio’s recently passed gasoline tax increase, but that will not be nearly enough to replace the money that has been lost.
Tuesday’s results showed once again that residents of the village are not willing to take on an extra tax burden. In 2018 they twice defeated a 1.2-mill levy that would have helped with current expenses.
This time, 29 percent of the township’s eligible voters participated, and they defeated the police levy 267-252 and the road levy 271-247, according to unofficial results from the Jefferson County Board of Elections.
It all leaves Matthews, who plans to retire at the end of the month after 25 years on the job, and other township officials frustrated.
“The amount of money we have is nowhere near adequate to serve the people. That’s too bad,” he said shortly after learning Tuesday’s results. “The Cardinal Plant paid one-half of the bill for 50 years. The public has to step up, and they won’t do it.”
As a result, township officials are left with few options other than to continue to curtail services. That’s an unenviable position, but it’s the path voters have said must be followed.