Bill would allow pension funds to borrow money to cover losses

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 2:19 PM
Updated: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 2:19 PM


            U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Sen. Sherrod Brown plans to introduce a bill as early as this week that he says will guarantee that thousands of retirees in the state receive the pensions they were originally promised.

At a news conference Monday in Youngstown, Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, said they want Congress to create a new federal office that would allow no fewer than seven pension funds in the state to borrow enough money to remain solvent and continue providing pensions for their retirees.

The office, which would be called the Pension Rehabilitation Fund and be placed inside the U.S. Department of Treasury, would supervise the loans that would come from the sale of U.S. Treasury bonds from private investors. Brown hopes to attach the bill to a larger spending bill expected to be passed at the end of the year by Congress.

“All of you here today and the thousands of retired Teamsters, miners, builders, and others across Ohio earned your pensions over a lifetime of hard work,” said to those in attendance. “Now those pension plans are underwater. It’s bad enough that Wall Street squandered workers’ money – and it’s worse that the government that’s supposed to look out for these folks is trying to break the promise made to these workers.”

“Not on our watch,” Brown said. “We won’t allow that to happen.”

Most of those impacted are Teamsters covered by the Central States Fund, a multi-employer fund that serves trucking companies and covers 400,000 retirees across the country. Central States has warned it might have to cut pensions by an average of 22 percent for retirees because it has $35 billion in liabilities and just $17.8 billion in assets.

But the bill also is aimed at propping up a number of other pension funds, including the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, the Ironworkers Local 17 Pension Plan, the Ohio Southwest Carpenters Pension Plan and the Bakers and Confectioners Pension Plan.

Waynesville school issue passed by 7 votes, recount ahead

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 6:00 PM


            Passage of Issue 19 would repay debt on bonds issued to finance more than $26.5 million in funds used to build a new Waynesville Elementary School, turn the 1915 Building, a former school building pictured here, into a community center and improve parking and other infrastructure on the Wayne Local Schools’ complex off Dayton Road.
Passage of Issue 19 would repay debt on bonds issued to finance more than $26.5 million in funds used to build a new Waynesville Elementary School, turn the 1915 Building, a former school building pictured here, into a community center and improve parking and other infrastructure on the Wayne Local Schools’ complex off Dayton Road.

Voters in the Warren County portion of the Wayne Local School District passed a 4.68 mill, 37-year bond issue by seven votes in the Nov. 7 election, according to results tallied on Tuesday by the Warren County Board of Elections.

The 1,241-1,234 result still triggers a recount scheduled for next Tuesday in Lebanon, according to Brian Sleeth, director of the county election board.

RELATED: 2 vote margin in Wayne Local school issue

“We’re not going to feel 100 percent relaxed or confident until it’s been officially certified,” Superintendent Patt Dubbs said. “We’re ahead. That’s a good thing.”

On Wednesday, the Greene County Board of Elections is expected to certify the results on the Wayne Local issue in its portion of the district.

Greene County is also expected to recount, although there are fewer votes at issue.

Election night tallies were 1,226 to 1,225 in Warren County, 11 to 10 in the small piece of the district in Green County- leaving only a two-vote margin.

Tuesday’s final count widens the margin, with only a relatively small number of votes to be counted in Greene County.

MORE: Results in 8 closest area races in Nov. 7 election

Passage of Issue 19 would repay debt on bonds issued to finance more than $26.5 million in funds used to build a new Waynesville Elementary School, turn the 1915 Building, a former school building, into a community center and improve parking and other infrastructure on the Wayne Local Schools’ complex off Dayton Road.

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Recounts are also scheduled in races for Deerfield Twp. trustee and Franklin Board of Education.

The results tallied Tuesday showed Lonnie Vestal with 2,224 and Bill Lantry with 2,197 in the race for the seat on the Deerfield Twp. Board of Trustees.

And in a race for the Franklin school board, Bob Knipper was leading Dennis G. Dwyer, 1,371-1,363.

But in the race for Franklin City Council, Matt Wilcher edged Carl Bray, 850-838 and no recount will be held, Sleeth said.

Cheetahs nixed in zoo plans for Warren County, official says

Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 @ 10:07 AM


            Cincinnati Zoo cheetah running during a photo shoot for Natiional Geographic Magazine. FILE
Cincinnati Zoo cheetah running during a photo shoot for Natiional Geographic Magazine. FILE

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has set aside plans to move its cheetah recovery center to Warren County, but is moving forward with improvements to a farm and wetlands area already operating here, according to the county’s chief zoning official.

“They’re not going to build the cheetah breeding facility. That’s off the table,” Mike Yetter, zoning supervisor in Warren County said Tuesday.

RELATED: Zoo studying different location for cheetahs in Warren County

Yetter, who reviews plans for developments in unincorporated areas of Warren County, made these comments while sharing details of plans by the zoo to add and improve barns and make other improvements to the EcoFarm on Mason-Montgomery Road.

RELATED: Zoo, others developing between Cincinnati, Dayton

Zoo officials did not immediately respond to questions about the change of plans regarding the cheetah recovery center move from a facility east of Cincinnati in in Clermont County or improvements to the former Bowyer Farm property in Turtlecreek Twp., Warren County.

RELATED: Cheetah center in Warren County to offer close encounters

Plans for a new barn, a wall, a solar-powered pit toilet and other improvements are detailed in documents filed with zoning and building officials in Warren County.

In January, the zoo put on hold plans to move its cheetah facility from the Mast Farm in Clermont County to another farm at the corner of Nickel and Hamilton roads, while considering a different site.

The zoo questioned steps sought for safety by the county.

RELATED: Cheetah conservationists live in Warren County

The facility was to be built near the home of Cathryn Hilker, a cheetah conservationist who pioneered the zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program.

Why Montgomery County water, sewer customers will pay more

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 8:51 AM
Updated: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 4:06 PM

Crews work on the Hillcrest sewer replacement project in Montgomery County. PROVIDED
PROVIDED
Crews work on the Hillcrest sewer replacement project in Montgomery County. PROVIDED(PROVIDED)

Water and sewer customers receiving service through Montgomery County will see their combined rate climb an average 14 percent in 2018 and go up 5.6 percent each year after through 2022, the county announced Thursday.

The increase is needed because of deteriorating infrastructure resulting in higher costs for maintenance and needed new construction with little foreseeable state or federal funding, officials said.

The average Montgomery County residential customer, now paying about $170, will see quarterly bills rise about $24 in 2018.

“It may appear to be a relatively large increase,” County Administrator Joe Tuss said. “But when you look at where we’ve been from an historic standpoint, it’s about catching up and generating the revenue we need to invest.”

MORE: Report claims Ohio one of worst states for water quality offenses

While Montgomery County purchases water pumped by the city of Dayton, the county maintains a distribution system of 1,400 miles of water mains as well as 1,200 miles of sewer line and two wastewater plants.

The system provides drinking water and fire prevention for about 250,000 residents. Most customers are in Centerville, Harrison Twp., Kettering, Miami Twp., Riverside, Trotwood and Washington Twp.

“Like many systems across the country, we have an aging system, and this rate increase is necessary to help us replace and maintain our water and sewer system,” said Tuss. “We had low or no rate increases for eight years, and we just can’t put this off any longer.”

Montgomery County rate increases have averaged about 2.5 percent since 2007, which is below the state average of 4 percent, according to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency data.

Officials estimate about $750 million will need to be spent over the next 20 years to maintain and replace aging portions of the system.

MORE: Are the drugs we’re taking — and flushing down the toilet — hurting our water?

A larger portion of a customer’s bill will be the fixed charge, going from 20 percent to 40 percent, while consumption charges move from 80 to 60 percent. The increased fixed charge will provide more stable, long-term financing needed to upgrade and maintain the system the county values at $3.1 billion, said Pat Turnbull, the county’s Environmental Services director.

Turnbull said the county is routinely experiencing 300 or more water main breaks a year — spending about $2 million annually to fix — on the system primarily installed 60-70 years ago.

“The water mains are breaking more frequently. The sewer lines are cracking more frequently,” he said. “We are just reaching that point — similar to the roof on your house — when you’re having to patch leaks all the time, you get to a place where it’s time to put a new roof on”

Officials say two large projects are required to ensure that tens of thousands of customers aren’t at risk of losing water or sewer service.

A $65-85 million replacement and upgrade of the main sewer line and pump station to the Western Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant is planned. The 40-year-old sewer line and pump station is the only sanitary service for more than 83,000 residential and business customers.

The county also plans an additional water feed that provides drinking water and fire protection for 150,000 customers in Centerville, Jefferson Twp., Kettering, Miami Twp., Moraine and Washington Twp. Cost of the project is estimated to be $76-118 million.

More: Greene County officials respond to water bill complaints

In addition to the loss of revenue because of decreasing water consumption, federal dollars that once paid for up to 90 percent of plant construction have gone away almost entirely, Turnbull said.

“Those grant dollars have gone away over the last couple of decades, and we do not see a replacement funding source on the horizon from the federal or state level,” he said. “So these dollars have to be generated locally primarily, and that would be in the form of rates.”

Montgomery County water rate presentations

Presentations will be made at regular township and city council meetings.

- Butler Twp., 7 p.m., Nov. 27

Township Hall, 3780 Little York Rd., Dayton, OH 45414

- Centerville, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 20

Municipal Building, 100 West Spring Valley Rd., Centerville, OH 45458

- Clayton, 7:30 p.m., Dec. 7

Government Center, 6996 Taywood Rd., Englewood, OH 45322

- Harrison Twp., Noon, Nov. 16

Township Offices, 5945 North Dixie Dr., Dayton, OH 45414

- Jefferson Twp., 7 p.m., Dec. 5

Administration Building, One Business Park Dr., Dayton, OH 45417

- Kettering, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 14

Government Center, 3600 Shroyer Rd., Dayton, OH 45429

- Miami Township, 6 p.m., Nov. 28

Township Offices, 2700 Lyons Rd., Miamisburg, OH 45342

- Moraine, 6 p.m., Dec. 14

Municipal Building, 4200 Dryden Rd., Moraine, OH 45439

- Trotwood, 6 p.m., Nov. 20

Trotwood-Madison City Schools Board of Education Meeting Chambers, 3594 N. Snyder Road, Trotwood, OH 45426

- Washington Twp., 7:30 p.m., Dec. 4

Township Offices, 8200 McEwen Road, Dayton, OH 45458

Find your new rate

If you receive water and sewer service from Montgomery County you can get more information as well as estimate your new quarterly bill using an online rate calculator at www.mcohio.org/water.

Ex-village worker sues state, claims malicious prosecution

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 3:20 PM
Updated: Sunday, November 12, 2017 @ 2:44 PM


            Ohio Auditor Dave Yost
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost

The former fiscal officer for New Madison is suing the Ohio Auditor of State, claiming malicious prosecution after theft-in-office charges against the former village accountant were dismissed.

Wanda Lacey on Oct. 25 filed a lawsuit against the state auditor’s office in which she accused the auditor’s office of seeking felony theft-in-office charges against her despite having insufficient evidence .

The lawsuit, filed in the Ohio Court of Claims, seeks unspecified damages exceeding $100,000.

Lacey was indicted by a grand jury in December 2016 on two counts of theft in office after the auditor’s office concluded that an audit found she stole more than $21,500 from the township. The charges were dropped in September 2017.

RELATED: Village fiscal officer ‘negligent’ but theft in office charges dropped

Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost said Friday that the case was dismissed without prejudice because new evidence was discovered.

“The state anticipates the case will be re-filed after the newly discovered evidence has been analyzed,” he said. “The claim of malicious prosecution is without merit and will fail. A grand jury considered the evidence and found probable cause to believe that the crimes had been committed by the person charged.”

Royce Link, Lacey’s attorney, said the auditor’s office investigator mistakenly determined the money as missing without doing due diligence to find it in the village’s books.

“Whether she was just overly zealous, new to the job and wanted to make an impression and get somebody, whether she actually did not like Wanda Lacey, whether somebody else who worked in the village told her some stuff that set her on fire against her, those are the types of reasons why a person would do that,” Link said when asked why the state auditor’s office would falsely accuse his client.

RELATED: Ex-New Madison village worker accused of stealing more than $20K while in office

The charges resulted in Lacey losing her job, suffering physically and mentally and damaging her reputation, he said.

“You get charged with theft in office as an accountant, that’s pretty much going to make it hard to get a job,” he said.

While the theft charges were dropped, a separate audit released Thursday included an administrative finding against Lacey for not paying village taxes on time, incurring $8,166 in fees. Lacey and her bonding company were jointly ordered to repay the money.

Yost issued a statement, along with the audit, saying Lacey’s “negligence” cost village taxpayers money.

Link said Yost’s comments were an attempt to “mitigate the exposure” from Lacey’s lawsuit.

MORE LOCAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE NEWS:

Local jails overcrowded, failing safety standards, investigation shows

Sheriffs fear state plan will flood jails with felons