The Washington City Council voted 7-0 in favor of sending a letter to the Franklin County Commission outlining its shared concerns regarding Proposition P.
The council approved sending the note at a special meeting Monday night — one week after a lengthy conversation about the issue. Councilman Mark Hidritch was absent from Monday’s meeting.
A form of the letter was discussed last week and then revised for the council Monday night to include specific grievances about Prop P. The letter takes no stance of support or nonsupport on the ballot measure.
Prior to the council’s discussion, a draft of the letter was leaked to the Franklin County Commission.
Prop P is a measure proposed by the Franklin County Commission. The proposed half-cent sales tax is expected to generate $6 million per year. The commission has proposed half of the money will go toward renovations for the county jail and 911 facilities, while the additional $3 million will go to supplement all law enforcement agencies in the county.
Mayor Sandy Lucy said the letter was heavily revised after last week’s introduction. She said the city has just wanted a conversation with the county, but that has gotten nowhere.
“After last week, I was pretty frustrated with everything that has been going on the last 30 days regarding Prop P,” she said. “I felt like over and over we had asked questions, and we were never getting any answers.”
Lucy said she was disappointed because she feels Washington attempts to go “above and beyond” when answering residents’ questions and she felt the county wasn’t willing to engage with the city.
To get some answers, Lucy sought out a meeting with Sheriff Steve Pelton and former Sheriff Gary Toelke. On Friday Lucy, Washington Police Chief Ed Menefee and the two sheriffs met for about 90 minutes, she said.
Lucy called the talk productive and helped alter her stance on Prop P.
“I explained my personal frustrations with this whole ordeal from top to bottom,” she said. “I had a lot of my questions answered. They were able to answer, they were very forthright and honest and I felt much, much better after it was over. I feel like our law enforcement is in good hands with them. I’m not so confident in other areas, I’ll be quite honest with you, but I think law enforcement is in good hands with them.”
The letter has four points the city would like to see addressed.
Lucy and the rest of the council repeatedly said they wanted to support law enforcement, but were unsure Prop P in its current state was the best way to do that.
The first concern dealt with the ballot language approved Jan. 16 by the commission. The letter states the sales tax would be split between the jail and law enforcement salaries, it doesn’t specify the exact proportions of the split.
The letter said it was concerned future commissions could adjust the allocations away from the proposed 50/50 split. Councilman Jeff Patke said he wasn’t in favor of law enforcement having to fight for its fair share.
The second concern was basing the revenue disbursement for law enforcement officers on the number of officers currently employed as of Jan. 1, 2018. The letter said the city thinks this method locks funding for municipalities and does not encourage future growth.
The city council also added as a concern that it would like to see a review board formed to audit the tax. Pelton told the commission he and the other police chiefs have already agreed to meet annually to review how the money was spent.
The council expressed concern because an email from Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer seemed to sour on the idea of a board, but Pelton said the law enforcement heads would meet anyway.
The final concern was a lack of a sunset on jail funds. The letter states the city feels the jail tax should have a sunset and be a separate ballot issue.