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Officers going door-to-door asking residents to back levy

By Ian Hill

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Some residents said they couldn't afford the levy last year.
AUSTINTOWN -- Provided they've done nothing wrong, township residents shouldn't be nervous if police officers knock on their door in the next few days.
The officers probably won't be there to make an arrest. Instead, they'll be asking residents to vote for the 2.5-mill police levy that will appear on the ballot next Tuesday.
"A lot of people are touched that we're taking the time to ask them individually for their vote," said Lt. Mark Durkin.
Off-duty police have been going door to door and calling residents on the phone in the past few weeks in an effort to drum up support for the levy, which would raise $1.4 million each year.
Durkin said most residents have responded positively to the visits and calls from officers.
Why funds are needed
Township officials have said the money is needed to offset increases in the cost of insurance, workers' compensation and wages, and decreases in revenue. A 2.5-mill levy for police failed by 900 votes when it appeared on the ballot in November.
After the November election, some residents said they voted against the levy because they were overtaxed and couldn't pay additional money to support government. Shawn Hevener, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police levy committee, said he understands residents' financial concerns.
Hevener added, however, that residents need to consider what might happen if there's not enough money to provide police protection in the community. He noted that crime increased in the township last year.
"When you consider the consequences of what might happen, I think it's worth it," he said. "When I call the cops, I want to make sure they come."
Police are encouraging residents who supported the levy in November to come to the polls Tuesday, Hevener said. Those residents could play an important role in the levy's success if voter turnout is low, he added.
A push from Wedgewood
Police also worked to have Wedgewood Pizza stamp every pizza box with the slogan "Vote yes: Support your police." In addition, a Warren telemarketer has allowed police to use its facilities on Sundays to call residents and urge them to vote for the levy.
Officers also have been giving residents information about how the police department has been affected by the township's budget problems, Hevener said.
To save money, trustees laid off several employees, including two police officers, and decided not to replace three officers who retired and two on long-term disability. Hevener is one of the two laid-off officers.
Administrator Michael Dockry said if the levy passes, trustees are expected to rehire Hevener and fellow laid-off officer Robert Whited. Whited is a staff sergeant in the Ohio National Guard and is on deployment in Germany.
Clerk Michael Kurish has predicted the township will end this year barely in the black, in part because of the layoffs and budget cuts. He's also noted, however, that unless the levy is approved, the township could face another deficit in 2005 because of rising costs.