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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio


Methamphetamine leads to 7 Grand Jury indictments

 MOUNT VERNON - The Knox County Grand Jury issued the following indictments this week:

Jon Dowalter
-Aggravated Possession of Drugs (methamphetamine), 5th degree Felony, with forefeiture specification -$112 obtained from commission of the felony offense
-Resisting Arrest, 2nd degree Misdemeanor
-Illegal Use or Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, 4th degree Misdemeanor

Robert Swint
-Aggravated Possession of Drugs (methamphetamine), 5th degree felony

Brandy Jo Butcher
-Aggravated Possession of Drugs (methamphetamine), 5th degree felony
-Possessing Drug Abuse Instruments, 2nd degree misdemeanor

Wayne E. Reynolds
-Aggravated Possession of Drugs (methamphetamine), 5th degree felony
-Possessing Drug Abuse Instruments, 2nd degree misdemeanor

Danielle F. Reynolds, 28, Mount Vernon
-Summons issued
-Aggravated Possession of Drugs (methamphetamine), 5th degree felony

Gaellin C. Frazee, 21, Mount Vernon
-Summons issued
-Aggravated Possession of Drugs (methamphetamine), 5th degree felony

Joshua C. Devore
-Aggravated Possession of Drugs (methamphetamine), 5th degree felony


Commissioners vote to delay sales tax increase

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON - Inactivity on the part of the Ohio Senate means a temporary reprieve for residents when it comes to the sales tax added to local purchases.

The county commissioners planned to impose an additional ½ percent sales tax in October but have decided to hold off until January. They are waiting to see whether the senate agrees with an Ohio House override of a provision in Gov. John Kasich's budget that aims to address revenue counties lost when the federal government eliminated a sales tax on Medicaid managed care organizations.

Knox County stands to lose $500,000 a year due to the elimination of the MCO tax. This loss is part of the reason the commissioners decided to raise the county sales tax.

The budget provision calls for the state to seek federal approval to increase a tax on health insurers from 5.8 percent to 7.8 percent. Kasich vetoed the provision because it jeopardizes $1.2 billion in Medicaid funding. The Ohio House overrode Kasich's veto on July 6. It is now up to the senate to agree with or reject the house override.

“We are still watching the legislature,” said Commissioner Teresa Bemiller. “The senate didn't come back yet, and they probably won't until the end of summer.”

In a senate conference committee, an amendment was inserted into the provision that gives states an additional six years to prepare for the loss of revenue from the MCO tax. The six-year hold harmless amendment requires a new waiver from the federal government.

Ohio's current 5.8 percent waiver is one of two nationwide and the highest rate the federal government has ever granted. A 7.8 percent waiver is unprecedented. To successfully reinstate the lost county revenue, the senate has to override Kasich's veto, Kasich has to ask for an additional waiver and the federal government has to approve the highest tax rate it has ever granted.

“All of the stars would have to align for us to be held harmless for six years,” said Commissioner Thom Collier. “I can't say I'm particularly hopeful. If it doesn't happen, then we are back where we started.”

“The consensus is that since we are still waiting to hear, we will wait until January to impose the sales tax,” said Bemiller. “We wish the senate would come back sooner, but right now we are just waiting and trying to determine what our action will be.”

Delaying an increase in the county sales tax until Jan. 1, 2018, means the county will not receive any money until March 2018. The county will, however, receive $472,792 in November as part of a one-time payment from the state designed to make up for losing the $500,000 annual MCO revenue.


MV Council approves ballot initiative to increase income tax rate

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — After adding specific language about how the money will be used, City Council members approved placing a ½ percent income tax increase initiative on the November ballot. Council amended the legislation state that the money generated by the increase will be “for the purpose of current expenses and capital improvement needs for the police and fire departments.”

Councilman and Finance Committee Chairman Sam Barone said that after hearing comments from the public and council members, the finance committee recommended that the estimated $3.4 million generated by the ½ percent increase be directed solely toward police and fire rather than being divided between capital improvements, the general fund and roads/bridges.

He said that with the exception of adding three firefighters as promised to Liberty Township trustees when the city took over township coverage and one drug interdiction officer requested by the Mount Vernon Police Department, if approved, the additional money will go to underwrite existing police and fire budgets. It also gives the city a mechanism to set aside money for future capital improvements such as a fire substation and a new police building.

If the voters approve the increase, it will free up around $3.2 million in the general fund that is being used to subsidize the police and fire budgets. That $3.2 million will then be put toward deferred maintenance and other infrastructure projects identified in a 10-year plan created by the City Finance Group.

“It's not an overstatement that passage of this ½ percent is of paramount importance to our city,” said Barone. “Failure on our part to educate the public on the need for this ½ percent will lead to dire consequences.”

The tax applies only to earned income.

Council suspended the third reading of the legislation so that ballot language can be submitted to the Knox County Board of Elections by its Aug. 9 deadline.

By a 5 to 2 vote, council members declined to suspend the third reading of an ordinance banning the sale and growth of medical marijuana within the city limits. Council gave the ordinance its second reading. Councilwoman Nancy Vail said she does not plan to hold any more public hearings on the issue; further discussion will take place at the third reading.

Council members suspended indefinitely an ordinance that would have placed another issue on the November ballot. Barone said that although he heard support at a public hearing for a commission to study the idea of creating a charter government, he also heard comments about the challenge of putting the issue alongside the tax issue. Saying he is still convinced the city needs to move toward charter government, he said, “But I respect the feelings about merging the issues on the same ballot.”

In other business, council:
*Authorized the city auditor to transfer funds
*Approved the reappointment of Gail Labenne to the Historical Review Commission and the appointment of Charles Wendt to the Civil Service Commission
*Authorized appropriations which include $18,000 from the Arms of an Angel Foundation for a K-9 police dog
*Authorized the city to sell a city vehicle no longer needed
*Approved the addition of a part-time person in the water/wastewater department
*Gave a first reading to the Type 2 annexation of 3.249 acres from Clinton Township into the city. The acreage is on Ohio 13 near the Commerce Drive intersection

1 killed, several injured on Ohio State Fair ride

COLUMBUS - One person was killed, several injured on the "Fireball" ride at the Ohio State Fair Wednesday, the first day of this year's fair. Ohio Governor John Kasich has ordered an investigation and all rides are shut down at the state fair for now.

Kasich said, “I am terribly saddened by this accident, by the loss of life and that people were injured enjoying Ohio's fair. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those grieving and injured. I have ordered a full investigation into this incident and have ordered that all fair rides be shut down until additional safety inspections can be completed."

County moving towards T-CAP participation for inmates

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — Sheriff David Shaffer told the county commissioners on Thursday that the county continues to progress toward participating in the state's T-CAP program for felony 5 offenders.

As part of the state's budget, the T-CAP (Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison) program requires that offenders convicted of non-violent and non-sex fifth-degree felony offenses be treated locally rather than going to state prison. The program also applies to F5 offenses that do not carry mandatory prison sentences.

Shaffer said that he met with Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Wetzel and Lisa Lyons, adult probation officer, to work out the logistics of how the money will be divided. Part will go toward the cost of housing inmates in the Knox County Jail, and part will go toward treatment programs. Wetzel is spearheading the T-CAP application process.

The current jail population is 81: 64 males and 17 females. Of the 81, three are from Lawrence County and two are federal prisoners.

Shaffer said his office has agreed to pay Behavioral Health Partners $339.07 a week to cover the wages of a BHP staff member who performs 14-day assessments on inmates. The assessments are no longer covered under a grant obtained by BHP.

Commissioner Teresa Bemiller told Shaffer that it might be possible to share services with the county health department. Beginning in 2018, the health department will need an additional part-time employee; it is possible that the employee might be able to conduct the assessments for the sheriff's office.

To resolve email problems with InfoLink, Shaffer will look into being added to the county's program.

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