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Elections

County levies are critical to health, safety: ENDORSEMENT

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Some voters may be tempted to oppose the three levies the Lorain County commissioners have placed on the November ballot, but that would be a mistake.

There is some lingering anger at the commissioners' decision in December to impose a 0.25 percent sales tax increase to fund county government after voters had rejected a similar tax hike at the polls a month earlier.

Voters should ignore the impulse to vote against Issue 3, which funds tuberculosis care; Issue 4, which pays for 911 operations; and Issue 5, which supports the Lorain County Drug Task Force.

All three levies support crucial government services and rejecting them would endanger public health and safety.

Voters already have rejected renewing the 0.065-mill levy for the county's tuberculosis clinic once, but shouldn't do so again.

In order to prevent an outbreak of TB, the county is required by law to provide care to anyone who contracts the deadly disease.

The levy generates $416,339 per year, and about $340,000 of that is used to fund a contract with Mercy Regional Medical Center, which has handled tuberculosis care in the county since the commissioners shuttered their own TB clinic as a cost-saving measure several years ago. The commissioners have since reduced the size of the levy as well.

The remainder of the money, county Administrator Jim Cordes told us, goes into a fund to pay for additional TB care in case there is a more substantial outbreak.

He acknowledged that there are only roughly five cases of tuberculosis in the county each year, but it remains a danger that has never been completely eradicated.

"It's not gone," Cordes said. "It's only under control and it needs to stay under control and we need the resources to keep it under control."

There also are now stronger, drug-resistant strains of the disease that if unleashed could have devastating effects on the county.

The Drug Task Force levy is especially important because the county continues to grapple with a deadly opioid epidemic, which has left scores of people dead from overdoses.

The 0.08-mill levy brings in $512,417 per year, about half of the Drug Task Force's budget. The Drug Task Force also has recently expanded its collaboration with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies to increase the county's ability to deal with the scourge of opioids.

Drug Task Force Commander Dennis Cavanaugh said the county averages about four overdose deaths per week. That's too many, and the Drug Task Force needs the resources to help stop the death toll from continuing to rise.

The 0.5-mill levy that supports the county's 911 Call Center is also an important issue. The levy generates around $3.2 million annually, money that is used to pay 911 dispatchers and upgrade equipment and software.

The county also is renovating a building near Lorain County Community College to serve as a new call center with updated equipment. The call center handled more than 120 overdose calls last month alone, although Cordes said the number actually is much higher because not everyone who calls in to report an overdose admits to dispatchers the true reason for the call.

Even if residents don't worry about an overdose happening in their presence, 911 remains a vital lifeline for all residents if they get in a car accident, fall down the stairs, suffer a heart attack or just need to report some suspicious activity.

The ability to call 911 and get emergency aid dispatched quickly and professionally remains a critical component of public safety in the county.

All of the levies the county is asking voters to pass are renewals, so they don't equate to new taxes.

The owner of a home valued at $100,000 pays

$1.92 per year for the tuberculosis levy, $2.37 for the Drug Task Force levy and $14.74 for the 911 levy.

None of those is too high a price to pay to ensure a healthy and safe community. Voters should approve all three issues.



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