December 20, 2014

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Sheffield Lake levy failure means cuts most likely to fire, police

Sheffield Lake firefighters stand outside a home after a fire on Oct. 23. The city's full-time Fire Department will be disbanded after voters rejected a levy. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Sheffield Lake firefighters stand outside a home after a fire on Oct. 23. The city’s full-time Fire Department will be cut after voters rejected a levy. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

SHEFFIELD LAKE — The city most likely will see its full-time Fire Department disbanded and cuts to its police force after voters rejected an income tax increase Nov. 5.

“It’s a huge snowball effect,” an frustrated Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring said. “Start taking pride in (the) community.”

The 0.5 percent income tax increase, which would have raised about $500,000 annually, failed by 18 votes, according to unofficial election returns. That was the second time that the levy has been proposed and failed. In May, the proposal lost by 148 votes.

City Council met Tuesday to address the city’s budget woes and to discuss how the lack of extra funds would affect city departments, especially the Fire Department. Bring said the city is in the process of switching to a part-time volunteer Fire Department in its place.

For Fire Chief Tim Card, it is a daunting task.

“I don’t think that’s going to work at Sheffield Lake,” Card said, adding that homeowner’s insurance will increase if the city loses its full-time Fire Department. The budget strains — ongoing since 2009 — already have forced the department to reduce staffing. Of late, full-time firefighters have been working overtime to make up for the loss of manpower.

Bring said eliminating the full-time Fire Department won’t be enough to ward off the $600,000 deficit. Other departments will be cut.

The Police Department will stop responding to certain, non-life-threatening calls or requests, including small neighborly disputes and watching Sheffield Lake residents’ houses when they go out of town, Bring said. Both are services that police have offered in the past.

Sheffield Lake residents also can expect to see less-extensive road maintenance. The Maintenance Department only will be able to plow and salt intersections and major roads.

“We just don’t have the manpower,” Bring said.

For Bring, one of the most disappointing aspects of the levy’s rejection is what he sees as the apathy from residents in the town.

“Come down and get the facts … see where the money is going,” Bring said, adding that many Sheffield Lake voters did not know how the rejection of the tax increase could affect the town. “This is what you voted for.”

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.