ELYRIA — For the second time this year, Lorain County voters will have a chance to vote on a levy that would support the operation of the county’s Crime Lab.
But voters won’t see a return to the ballot by a levy that would have done the same for Lorain County Transit.
Voters shot down levies for both the Crime Lab and transit in May.
In a 2-1 vote Wednesday, the county commissioners agreed to try again for the lab levy, saying it is necessary for the county’s law enforcement.
“If we have to focus on one, I would say the Crime Lab is needed by law enforcement,” Commissioner Lori Kokoski said. “Doing them at two different times might be better, rather than trying to do two at the same time.”
The proposed 0.08-mill Crime Lab levy would generate $495,798 annually and the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay $2.80 per year.
Commissioner Ted Kalo said that given the continued drug problem in the county, especially the heroin epidemic that has led to a steep rise in overdoses and deaths, the Crime Lab is vital. He said a large sweep of drug dealers this week by the Lorain County Drug Task Force and other police departments in the county proves that.
But Commissioner Tom Williams said he remains unconvinced that the levy is a good idea. He said he would like to see the county close down its lab, which is partially funded by an aging joint levy with the Drug Task Force, and begin using the state lab run by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Williams also said he has concerns about asking voters to fund the Crime Lab while there is still an active investigation into the county’s Adult Probation Department. That probe was launched earlier this year after it became public that items were missing from the department’s evidence room.
The investigation had initially focused on Emmanuel de Leon, the Crime Lab’s director and former chief deputy probation officer as well as the director of the county’s now-shuttered Forensics Laboratory.
But Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh said the investigation has already cleared de Leon and the Crime Lab of wrongdoing. He said the sole focus of the investigation is now on the Probation Department, and the two entities aren’t connected.
Cavanaugh said that if the county has to send drugs to BCI for analysis, it will take longer to get results than if tests are done locally. He said speed is sometimes critical in drug investigations.
Cavanaugh also said sending police officers to deliver evidence to BCI labs would take them off the streets for hours at a time. Williams countered that the county could save taxpayers money by hiring a deputy who could make the deliveries to BCI.