The bill passed 91-2 and now heads to the Senate.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- Geauga Lake, the amusement park that straddles Geauga and Portage counties, would be able to hire its own police force under a bill that passed the Ohio House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Representatives approved 91-2 and forwarded to the Ohio Senate the measure sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Dolan, R-Novelty, that would permit amusement park police officers, at the park's expense, to attend the same training schools as other police officers and have full police powers.
Dolan said the measure would help bolster Geauga Lake against crime.
& quot;The on-site force would be an immediate deterrent, & quot; Dolan said.
The measure is similar to one introduced and passed by the Senate earlier this year, but Dolan said there are some differences.
For example, Dolan said, the police chiefs in every jurisdiction touched by the park would have to approve officers before they could be hired by the park.
Dolan said he expects little objection to his measure in the Senate. The bill contains an emergency clause, which means it could be effective immediately after being signed by the governor.
Dolan said he hopes to have the bill enacted by early May in time for the peak visiting season at the amusement park.
Amusement parks that operate in the boundaries of a municipality already have agreements and ordinances in place to provide for amusement park police officers, state officials have said.
Part of the Geauga Lake property is in the city of Aurora, which has a police force that responds to incidents on the Portage County side of the park.
But much of the park is in Bainbridge Township in Geauga County, and state officials said law-enforcement agencies there currently have to respond to emergency calls on the park's Geauga County side.
If the amusement park had its own police force, local law-enforcement agencies could save money and reduce the number of runs there, state officials say.
A spokeswoman for Geauga Lake has said the amusement park has had a private security force but that many of the security officers could not detain suspects accused of misdemeanor-level offenses because they were not sworn peace officers.
A licensed amusement-park police force would be able to detain and arrest suspects charged with both misdemeanor- and felony-level offenses, the Geauga Lake spokeswoman has said.