Tax to add police in Warren
The tax generates about $4.6 million annually for the safety forces.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Mayor Michael J. O'Brien expects additional police officers on the city's streets within a few weeks after voters renewed a 0.5 percent income tax for the safety forces.
Chick's, a bar and restaurant in the basement of the Comfort Inn downtown, erupted in whoops and applause when the mayor read the final vote totals with 59 percent of voters approving and 41 percent rejecting the tax.
The tax passage comes at a time when the city's income tax collections are more than $800,000 below where they were at this time last year. The reduction is attributed to business downsizings and closings, officials have said.
O'Brien said he plans to meet with the auditor in the morning and William "Doug" Franklin, safety-service director, "and I will meet with the human resources director and the police chief to immediately proceed with the hiring."
The plan is to hire 10 police officers within about six weeks, and the mayor said the background checks and other preliminary requirements have been completed.
The tax generates about $4.6 million annually for the police and fire departments.
O'Brien had talked of layoffs in both departments, closing the Atlantic Street and Parkman Road Northwest fire stations, and services provided by others departments being affected if the tax didn't pass by year's end.
"I'm glad it passed," said Councilman Gary Fonce, D-at large, a member of council's police and fire committee. "We can start moving in a positive direction. We can get those new police officers hired and fulfill the promise that the old administration couldn't keep or didn't want to keep."
When the tax passed in 2001, the pledge was to bring the police department to 84 officers. The department staffs 74 officers, including the chief.
The issue passed Tuesday renews the tax for another three years. Voters last March rejected the renewal by about 161 votes.
Brian Crites, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 34, attributed the victory to the community's trust in the new administration.
The renewal will allow training to continue, such as education about the Ohio Revised Code.
"We've never had that before," Crites said.
Chief John Mandopoulos also credited O'Brien and Franklin for the tax's passage.
"People trust them," he said.
Mandopoulos hopes to move additional personnel into the detective bureau.
"But the road patrol is still our first priority," the chief said.
Chuck Eggleston, a firefighter, pointed to O'Brien's efforts which included friend-to-friend cards sent to voters encouraging them to vote for the levy, and letters to each city employee encouraging them to urge friends and relatives to support the tax.
"He did an awesome job," said Eggleston.
Councilman Alford L. Novak, D-2nd, agreed.
"I definitely think people in the community are seeing some positive things going on in the city in all areas," he said.
He believes the tax's passage will be helpful in pursuing additional grants such as Weed and Seed, aimed at improving quality of life in the city.