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TRUMBULL COUNTY Officials discuss DUI issue



Published: Thu, March 27, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



County and city officials are also hoping BWC will reconsider its decision.

WARREN -- The likely reduction in the legal definition of drunken driving will land more Trumbull County residents in court and in jail and cost the county about $43,000 a year, Commissioner Joseph J. Angelo Jr. says.

A lowered drunken-driving standard will add to the burdens of a county already facing budget shortfalls and cutbacks at the county jail.

"This is yet another example of an unfunded mandate," Angelo said.

The Ohio House and the Senate approved a compromise transportation bill Wednesday, which includes a provision lowering the DUI standard from 0.10 percent blood-alcohol content to 0.08 percent.

The measure goes to the governor's desk for his expected signature.

The reduction in the standard is required by a 2000 federal law. The state would be in danger of losing federal highway funds if it doesn't comply, officials say.

Angelo said he's not opposed to the lower standard, he's just against making the counties pay the price.

"Ten more unfunded mandates like these, and it's $500,000," said Commissioner Michael O'Brien.

Against decision

On Wednesday, the commissioners also formally protested a state Bureau of Workers' Compensation decision to close its Warren office and relocate the workers to Youngstown.

Local legislators and city officials have also discussed the issue and plan to lobby BWC and the governor, Angelo said.

Moving the office will be a disservice to residents in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties, who conduct business at the Warren office, he said.

It would also deal a blow to contractor Jack Gibson, who built the East Market Street office building for BWC in 1997.

Warren City Council passed a resolution Wednesday also opposing the office move.

At a news conference before council's meeting, Councilmen Robert Holmes III, D-4th, and Daniel E. Polivka, D-at large, urged officials in surrounding cities and townships to write letters to the governor's and BWC offices to protest the move.

The officials pointed to the loss of 74 jobs and income tax to the city and also contended Trumbull and Ashtabula county residents will have to drive to Youngstown.

BWC officials told The Vindicator last week that clients rarely visit BWC offices, dealing instead by phone, fax and computer. Personal visits are to their own physicians and rehabilitation facilities in their hometown areas, the officials said. Councilman Alford L. Novak, D-2nd, said he understands the capability of filing claims online but said there are still times when face-to-face contact is beneficial.

Mayor's question

Mayor Hank Angelo referred to BWC officials' comments about a study that says the office could get a lower rent in Youngstown.

"How could any study be done when there's not a building site or a lease to compare with the Gibson building?" he asked.

Eric Thompson, co-chairman of the Downtown Warren Business Association, urged council members to further action besides just a resolution.

"If this move comes to fruition, the ripple effect may be enough to lead to the closing of nearby businesses in the downtown area," Thompson said. "The hundreds of clients that access the bureau's services will become new customers of our neighboring county and that can only lead to the worsening of financial woes in Warren and Trumbull County."




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