ELYRIA — If we didn’t have Issue 6 …
Those six words started a lot of comments from city officials Monday night at Elyria High School Performing Arts Center. It was a town hall-style meeting and gave residents a look at what the city has done in the 14 months since voters approved the influx of tax revenue.
Elyria has fixed roads, improved parks, bought equipment and upgraded city buildings. Detailing it all for residents is a promise that city officials made since the tax was passed and placed in a separate fund for better accountability. Monday’s meeting was dedicated exclusively to the conversation.
“I’ve been around a long time, and I think this is the first time we have had a meeting like this — just a town hall meeting of us explaining what we are doing,” said Councilman Jack Baird, R-at large. “It is what we need more of because the more people know, the more they understand. The more they understand it, hopefully the more they can support us.”
City officials have not shied away from talking about the individual projects made possible by the roughly $6.2 million in additional annual revenue. But when presented in totality, the multitude of projects paint a picture of not just municipal improvements, but of progress Elyria would not have made without the tax.
Since July 1, 2016, Issue 6 has generated a little more than $7.6 million. The city has spent about $6.1 million and has roughly $1.5 million left in its coffers.
“It’s very heartening to see Elyrians interested in how we are spending their money,” said Mayor Holly Brinda. “It has been a little bit of a challenge because we have never had money like this to spend. But we see it as a good challenge.”
City Councilman Mark Jessie said he saw the passage of Issue 6 as a mandate of support from the residents.
“They said we will support you, but they also said will you do what you are supposed to do,” he said. “We are here to say yes. As we go down each category, I am really struck by what we have been able to do and what we wouldn’t have been able to do if not for the support of voters.”
Going forward, city officials said they want to keep the lines of communication open in terms of how the money is spent. Jessie said he would support even more community involvement.
Resident Jeff Baxter said the city should create a city advisory panel for Issue 6 to help guide spending and act somewhat of a watchdog group.
“I like that idea because I think it’s good to get input from the citizens and allow Council to make informed decisions,” he said.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of Issue 6 was the Elyria Police Department, which received $2,107,174.
Police Chief Duane Whitely said his department has operated in two different worlds: life before Issue 6 and after Issue 6.
“Before Issue 6 came along, I was asked by Council if I could change two things at the Police Department, what would it be, and I said a new radio system and new vehicles. Now, we have both,” he said. “Then, there was manpower. We needed to hire officers, and we have hired
12 new officers.”
Lisa Bowman, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said her city department was the real winner with the passage of Issue 6.
“It was like Christmas morning because we received an influx of $1 million,” she said.
Projects included demolishing the pools at West and South parks and designing and constructing spray parks at both locations, building repairs at some of the other parks, new basketball courts and even a brand-new Zamboni ice resurfacing machine that will be delivered today.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121
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