Saturday, April 21, 2012

What's behind proposal to eliminate coroners?

There is a movement in Columbus to allow county commissioners to do away with their elected county coroners and instead contract with one or more counties for associated services.

Apparently this is a tip-of-the-iceberg type thing because there is a general feeling down there, we’re told by local media, that it would be more cost-efficient to do away with a host of elected officials and certain levels of government.

Perhaps that feeling grew from what Cuyahoga County voters did a couple of years ago in the wake of widespread corruption in county government caused at least partially by dumbbell voters who weren’t paying attention.

Rather than employ three elected commissioners, Cuyahoga voters now elect a county executive who oversees most aspects of county government. He is more or less the emperor of Cuyahoga County and all employees answer to him.

House Bill 445, introduced in February, would allow the elimination of county coroners.

Dr. James Hubert, who serves in the dual role of Tuscarawas County coroner and health commissioner, thinks it is bad legislation but not because it targets small-county coroners like him.

“This is about home rule and the privilege of local residents to choose their elected personnel,” he told The Times-Reporter. “It will, in time, eliminate local control and provide regionalization from larger communities or the state, which increases big government.”

If passed, the bill would allow the county commissioners to eliminate the coroner’s elected position just by contracting with another county.

Next up? How about the county auditor? Let’s get rid of him. Or the sheriff? Who needs him?
Hubert told me his disdain for the bill comes not from his need for a coroner’s salary, which is $41,000 annually.

“It chips away at our ability to govern ourselves,” he said.

I don’t buy into the saving money argument either. Look no further than Dover’s contract with a consulting engineer to understand that such outside deals can be very costly.

I contend that Ohio’s smaller counties, such as Tuscarawas, Holmes and Carroll, are fairly cost efficient when it comes to providing services to its citizens. I like the fact that we elect our coroner, our sheriff and the host of other officials. If nothing else, they provide a check and balance over each other.

As for our townships, well, you probably know at least one of the trustees because he or she is likely a neighbor. It is grassroots government. And for my money, it works a lot better than corrupt big city/county politics.

So, let your state representative and state senator know that this is a piece of legislation that should be discarded. And while you’re at it, ask them if they’re ever going to ban texting and driving.

A reader disagrees and Dr. Hubert responds.

A couple of weeks ago, we learned of a major retail development on the old Ohio Department of Transportation site on W. High Ave. in New Philadelphia. Kathy Pietro and Bob Martinelli purchased the site for $750,000 and plan on developing a hotel and restaurant complex.

Last week, we learned that Dover also is due for a dab of retail development – a new service station/convenience store on the site of the old Anderson Medical building on Ohio Ave. near the new north Dover-I-77 interchange. The store also will include a Subway fast food outlet and represents the first retail addition since the opening of the interchange in 2010.

I hope Dover regulates signage in the area so that future development doesn’t damage the aesthetics, which right now is clean and unobstructed. ODOT has done a nice job with its courtesy signs on the interstate highways that provide travelers with advance information of what’s available at the next interchange. There is no need for skyscraper signage.

Some time ago, there were rumors that Cracker Barrel wanted to build a restaurant in the Dover area so perhaps now might be the time to think about adding one at the new interchange. Or perhaps one of our own Amish restaurants could take up residence in the area. Call it Dutch Valley East.

The fact that we’re finally talking about retail development in the wake of the Great Recession, which all but killed such thoughts, really is good news.

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