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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio


City recommends income tax increase

Editor's note - The original version of this story on March 14, 2017 contained incorrect information regarding how much money will be generated  with the .5 percent increase in the city's income tax.  The story has been corrected and KnoxPages.com apologizes for the error.

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — Joel Daniels, safety-service director, told members of the City Finance Group on Monday that the administration recommends a .5 percent increase in the city's income tax. The increase will generate between $3.8 and $4 million.

Auditor Terry Scott said that revenue from an income tax increase would go toward four areas: roads and bridges, capital improvements and infrastructure, safety forces and general operations. “It's not our intention to raise the income tax just to hire more people…that's not our problem,” he said. “Our problem is infrastructure.”

Residents last saw an income tax increase 34 years ago. Voters have to approve an increase. Ballot language would include specifically what the money will go toward. The money can be allocated to a number of things, including debt service and capital improvements. Of the current 1.5 percent tax, voters dedicated .5 percent to safety services.

“This is where we would like for your vision to go next, determining on a long-term basis where we need to go,” Scott told the finance group members. “We've done very well, but I don't think we can go another 30 years...and it's not fair to put that kind of burden on our community.”

“Do we have the right amount?” asked group member Clint Bailey. “Is one-half percent enough or should it be .75 percent? We've been very successful at keeping income tax rates down. We've been prudent, but now it's the right time and the responsible thing to do.”

Scott gave group members a list of items to be included in 2018 funding. At the group's request, he will create a list noting which projects can be funded with the money generated by a .5 percent tax increase. Following are the items and their cost.

Roads and Bridges: $7.899 million plus brick streets
Parrot Street resurfacing/intersection improvement $75,000
Mount Vernon Avenue bridge $5.5 million
Gay Street/Gambier Street turning radius $94,500
Blackberry Alley $400,000 (grant received)
ODOT paving U.S. Route 36 $550,000
Green Alley project $200,000
Columbus Road/South Main Street intersection $1,079,700
Brick streets $18 million

The Parrot Street project will be done in conjunction with the county engineer and involves widening the turning radius. Regarding the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge, City Engineer Brian Ball is applying for a third grant to add a bike lane on the north and south sides of the bridge as the state looks favorably on bike trail projects. The grant money will be applied to the bridge project; the city will incur a smaller cost to extend the southern bike path to a terminus on the campus of Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Hamtramck and Burgess streets are the two worst brick streets; in the past, the city has not had available money to put into a fund so that brick street projects can be scheduled.

Capital Improvements and Infrastructure: $1.142 million to $1.144 million
*Plaza Building study (building replacement) $100,000
*Service garage, material bins $6,000
*Safe Routes to School $500,000
*Bike trail underpass $75,000 (underway)
*Dump truck $185,000 (salt spreader/plow)
*Backhoe $120,000
*Mowers $10,000-$12,000 each (multi-year rotation)
*Crewcab truck $45,000
*Large tractor/mower $34,000 (parks)
*Pickup truck $32,000 (street department)
*Tractor w/loader and mower $35,000

Scott said the Plaza Building will need to be razed and rebuilt in the next 10 years at a cost of around $10 million or more. Whether to rebuild on the current site or locate elsewhere is undetermined. Considerations include sharing a courthouse with the county, with separate courtrooms for drug, municipal and common pleas courts but common security entrance and secure parking lots; and building a combined fire/police station next to the county jail.

Safety Forces: $1.5 million to $1.545 million, plus personnel costs
*Cruisers $100,000
*Ambulances $200,000
*Fire pumpers, $380,000-$425,000
*Ladder truck $820,000
*Fire personnel $100,000 per person (wage, benefits, equipment, training)
*Police personnel $75,000 per person (wage, benefits, equipment, training)

General Operations: $185,000 plus health and pension
*GPS mapping $10,000
*Annual tree removal program $100,000 (separate from what the Ariel Foundation underwrites)
*Survey and real estate deed work $75,000
*Health insurance
*Pension, employer portion

Ball said the city has not been budgeting for survey and real estate work. There is much “cleanup work” dating back decades that needs done to finalize easements and other details. After several years of “catch-up,” the budget amount will drop to $25,000 a year.

Councilman Francis holds public meeting with MVPD about drug epidemic

By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor

MOUNT VERNON - If you see something related to drug activity report it. Get to know your neighbors. Prevent youth from getting their hands on drugs. Those were three messages expressed by MVPD Captain Scott McKnight and city council members at Saturday morning's anti-drug public meeting held at City Hall.

Council member John Francis, who organized the meeting, opened by reciting the preamble to the United State Constitution which reads, in part:

"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...."

"When we have community members who are afraid to say anything, who are afraid to go outside, where does that put us with our blessings of liberty, where is the tranquility and what can we do to better this community for our citizens for domestic tranquility and the general welfare of the people?" said Francis.

Francis refers to the heroin epidemic. Residents of his neighborhood have complained about drug activity and wonder what can be done.

Capt. McKnight said it's not just heroin, but drugs in general.

Overdoses have happened. Used hypodermic needles are found where children play or walk. Rental homes have been boarded up because of drug activity. Children are growing up without parents because they are serving jail time related to drug offenses. Drugs are sold just about anywhere. Three examples shared at the meeting were behind Kroger, on the Public Square, and in church parking lots.

McKnight encourages citizens to report suspicious activity. If you can report the license plate number of a suspicious car that you think may be driven by a drug dealer do it. There are several ways to report:

*Call 9-1-1 if it's an emergency
*Call the crime tip lines and leave a message if it's non-emergent or ongoing: 740-393-9500 in the city, 740-399-3959 in the  county
*Call 2-1-1 for community outreach and information
*Send an email to [email protected] (don't send email if it's an emergency such as someone threatening suicide)

Capt. McKnight encourages citizens to use the prescription drug drop-off boxes at both the MVPD and the KCSO offices to get rid of unwanted, unused or expired medication. McKnight says for medication you still need to store it in a lockbox. Criminals who break in to a home to search for drugs will check the medicine cabinets and kitchen cupboards first.

McKnight said youth prevention is where the community needs to be concentrating efforts. A program designed to help parents recognize drug use by their children is called "Hidden in Plain Sight." The Knox Substance Abuse Action Team (KSAAT) will present the program this Tuesday, March 14, at 6:30 p.m.at St. Vincent de Paul School on E. Chestnut Street. You can follow KSAAT on Facebook.

East Knox Schools released from fiscal emergency

COLUMBUS – Auditor of State Dave Yost Tuesday released the East Knox Local School District (Knox County) from fiscal emergency, a status it held for more than two years.
The district spent a combined four and a half years shifting between fiscal caution, watch and emergency because of deficit fund balances and a failure to adopt and submit an acceptable financial recovery plan.
“Today, the district and its community can breathe a sigh of fiscal relief,” Auditor Yost said. “The decisions were not easy, but they were vital to the financial upswing the district is now experiencing.”
The district, which enrolls roughly 1,230 students, erased a projected $3.3 million deficit, in part, by reducing staff by 27 employees for approximately $1.5 million in annual savings. Also, the district is saving $144,000 each year from the closure of Bladensburg Elementary School, in addition to $19,000 by charging lunchroom utility costs to the food service fund instead of the general fund.
During the current fiscal year, the district will begin realizing added revenue from a 10-year, $1.2 million annual emergency levy passed on Nov. 8, 2016. The district also implemented a “pay to participate” fee for athletics, increasing revenue in the general fund by $50,000 each year. The fee will be phased out in fiscal year 2018.
Additionally, the district had to satisfy the following requirements to be terminated from fiscal emergency:
Effectively implement a financial accounting and reporting system in accordance with Section 118.10(A) of the Ohio Revised Code; Correct or eliminate all fiscal emergency conditions and prevent new ones from occurring;
Meet the objectives of the financial plan; and Prepare a five-year forecast in accordance with standards issued by the Auditor of State; the opinion expressed by the Auditor’s office is “nonadverse.”

The Ohio Department of Education placed the district in fiscal caution on Sept. 4, 2012 due to deficit fund balances. Auditor Yost declared the district in fiscal watch on Sept. 30, 2014 before elevating its status to fiscal emergency on Feb. 5, 2015 after it failed to adopt and submit an acceptable financial recovery plan.


Update: Body found in Coshocton County identified

UPDATE: Friday morning - The female, Heather Nicole Levi Ayers, 27 years old and from the Columbus area, does not appear to be a victim of anything sexual in nature. The incident remains under investigation by the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office.

COSHOCTON - Wednesday evening at 6:38pm, the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call in reference to a female body being found on Tr 68 in Pike Twp in Coshocton County. Sheriff Tim Rogers says upon arrival of deputies, it was confirmed that a local man was driving down Tr 68 when he located a woman’s body a short distance off of the roadway in a small wooded area.

BCI and the Coshocton County Coroner, Dr. Robert Gwinn, were called to the scene of this questionable death to assist detectives in this investigation. The body was later taken from the scene by the Coshocton County EMS and transported to Licking County. 

The identity of this late 20’s female is being withheld at this time, pending notification of the family.

This incident remains under investigation by the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office.


Harrison Street fire victim identified

MOUNT VERNON - Knox County Coroner Dr. Jennifer Ogle has identified the 56 year old woman who died in a duplex fire early Monday morning on Harrison Street. Shelly Hager died in the upper unit. 

Dr. Ogle says preliminary findings from the autopsy conducted earlier today reveal a death from carbon monoxide inhalation with soot in the airway. Soot in the airway reveals Ms. Hager was alive at the time of the fire.

No further information will be released by Dr. Ogle's office until the toxicology report is complete in approximately 6 to 8 weeks.

MVFD was called to the house by a neighbor at 5:16 a.m. MVFD was assisted by Fredericktown Community Fire District and Fredericktown EMS.  

Harrison street fire edited

Fire scene on Harrison Street Monday morning - KP Photo 

The structure had two apartments. The first floor unit was unoccupied. Firefighters were unable to to make entry to the second floor apartment because of fire in the stairwell. Once the flames were put out Ms. Hager was found in the kitchen. A second victim did manage to get out and made her way to an apartment building on Curtis Street, about a mile away from the fire scene. Chief Christopher said the woman who made it out is the daughter of the woman who died. Christopher did not release her name. Christopher says any further information will come from the Ohio State Fire Marshall's office.  

MVPD detectives were also on the scene. The woman who escaped was taken by EMS to Knox Community Hospital for treatment. When she was found she had minor burns and was covered in soot.

Christopher said there were no working fire detectors in the duplex.



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