By JEANNE STARMACK
A member of the team that studied forming a joint police force including Hubbard, Hubbard Township and Brookfield says the study is now in the hands of those communities.
The team, of Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies, accepted revisions for its report last month after a meeting with community leaders on its preliminary findings in September.
The report is now final.
“It’s in their hands,” said team representative Tom Maraffa. “Our involvement is finished.”
What happens now largely hinges on how the city of Hubbard would contribute funds to a joint force, leaders in the three communities concurred.
Hubbard residents fund their police department through an income tax, but state law requires a joint force to be funded by property tax levies. That conflict must be resolved.
Hubbard Mayor John Darko told the crowd gathered at the city police station for the September meeting that he does not believe city residents would pass a levy. He said senior citizens in particular would oppose it.
Darko said Thursday that he and state Rep. Sean O’Brien of Hubbard, D-63rd, met last month with representatives from Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s office about changing the law to allow the city to dedicate money from its general fund for the police district.
“Then the district would go for levies,” he said.
“They are looking into changing [the law,]” he said.
Hubbard Township trustee Tom Jacobs said the trustees would wait to discuss the issue after Tuesday’s election. The composition of the board could change, he said.
“It’s got to be debated and discussed,” he said. “We’re going to still study what the research showed and take it from there. If I get back in, I definitely want to discuss it.”
Jacobs said his top priority in forming a joint district would be residents’ safety, then cost savings.
He said he’s talked to some people who’ve indicated they are happy with their own police departments.
Brookfield Trustee Gary Lees said trustees want to meet again with Hubbard Township and city officials.
“We’ll schedule a meeting soon to see where we’re going to go,” he said.
“The governor and Legislature are working together — they want this to happen,” he said.
He said he favors a joint district if it means more support and backup for officers.
“We’ve all had to make cuts from our police forces,” he said.
The district would include services for 22,400 people.