November 22, 2014

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Lorain mayor, police union clash over proposed levy payment changes

LORAIN — Proposed police levy payment changes have Mayor Chase Ritenauer and the police union in a standoff.

“Your administration is attempting to solve the alleged budget problems on the back of the police department,” Officer Kyle Gelenius, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 13 president, wrote in a letter Monday to Ritenauer. “Furthermore, your proposed cut of police overtime funds will leave the citizens without adequate police service and will place our membership and the citizens in grave danger.”

Gelenius said in an interview that a 1993 legal agreement stipulates that the general fund pay for at least 90 police officers, and the union is willing to return to court to get it enforced. The department has about 100 on staff after hiring nine officers last summer.

Gelenius said that Ritenauer wants the general fund to pay 84 officers, with six police dispatchers and six Lorain City Jail guards being paid by the levy. Gelenius said the levy, which Ritenauer said raised about $2.1 million last year, is specifically for paying for officers or equipment and/or training for them.

“The FOP wants the taxpayers to get what they’re paying (additional) taxes for,” Gelenius said. “We want the citizens to know their police officers are being adequately trained and receiving adequate equipment and they have a police facility that meets their needs.”

Ritenauer said he wants to use a $435,000 levy surplus — the new officers weren’t hired when the levy was collected leading to the surplus — for salaries rather than equipment upgrades. He said money for new officers isn’t there but denied he was compromising public safety or planning officer layoffs.

However, Ritenauer said $435,000 in cuts in the city’s nearly $28.3 million proposed new budget will be made if a compromise isn’t reached before the March 19 City Council budget vote.

“Police are absolutely critical to our mission in the city of Lorain. That’s been my stance and (it) continues to be,” Ritenauer said. “The issue now is a matter of money.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.


Download the letter.