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Published: Thursday, June 07, 2018 @ 5:39 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 07, 2018 @ 5:39 PM
Columbus — Local elections officials sounded relief Thursday after the Ohio House approved $114.5 million in state funds for counties to purchase new voting machines ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
“We’re happy to see it,” said Llyn McCoy, Greene County’s elections director. “The equipment itself is becoming obsolete.”
Greene County has 575 functioning machines, but started with 700 altogether, McCoy said.
“The ones we have over that number have been taken apart and harvested for parts,” she said. “We’ve taken their legs, their brackets and everything off those to keep the equipment that we have going.”
The bipartisan house bill finally passed unanimously, 87-0, but didn’t get a vote during weeks the chamber was without a speaker following Cliff Rosenberger’s resignation.
It could take up to $8 million to replace Montgomery County voting machines. Passage of the bill means the county should receive a little more than half that from the state — $4.2 million to $4.5 million, said Jan Kelly, the Montgomery County Board of Elections director.
“I’d be really disappointed had they recessed without passing this,” Kelly said. “That would have really put us behind and we would have probably not have been looking at new machines for the next presidential election.”
Elections officials in Clark County say it could cost roughly $1.2 million to replace current equipment; depending on the system, anywhere from $2.5 to $4 million in Greene County.
Money will be distributed to counties based in part on the number of registered voters they have.
County Commissioners Association of Ohio and the Ohio Association of Election Officials said the money will help counties “make desperately needed upgrades to voting technology.”
Ohio purchased most of the current voting machines in 2005 and 2006 with nearly $115 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money. HAVA passed after the 2000 presidential election exposed the critical need for upgrades.
Montgomery County has some money saved for new machines, said Steve Harsman, the elections board deputy director.
“We do have $1.5 million set aside that we’ve saved over the last several years, so we are well positioned to pay for this system without it being too big of a burden on the county, depending on the total cost of the system we end up choosing,” he said.
Five vendors will demonstrate systems for the county this month beginning Tuesday. The systems will be reviewed by a 12-person task force that should pick one by the end of October with expected delivery around the first of the year in time to use in the May 2019 election, Harsman said.
“That would give us two elections of testing it and getting it before voters and our poll workers prior to the presidential election,” he said.
McCoy said Greene County also wants new machines in place and proven before the 2020 presidential election when turnout is expected to be larger.
The funding should have been approved in the state capital budget months ago, said state Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, who is running for Secretary of State.
“It’s a shame that election officials have had to wait so long as their budgets have been cut and they’ve had to go looking for replacement parts on eBay,” she said. “Now, they’ll have some help upgrading and securing their systems.”
Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 10:50 AM
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 11:44 AM
WASHINGTON — When the Obama administration designated its first 10 pilot sites for testing of automated vehicle technologies in January 2017, a 4,500-acre facility in East Liberty was not on the list.
This week, five Republican lawmakers and a handful of state senators including Senate President Larry Obhof, R–Ashtabula, held a press conference on Capitol Hill with a united message: Rethink that decision.
“This is a premiere facility,” said Rep. Bob Gibbs, R–Lakeville, who like other Republicans, argued that many of the 10 picked in January “don’t even have a facility, don’t even have assets. It’s a wish list.”
The East Liberty–based Transportation Research Center, the largest independent automotive testing ground in the U.S., argues it’s ready to test automated vehicles. The Logan County site broke ground last week on a $45 million SmartCenter that is being billed as the world’s biggest self-driving-vehicle test track. When it’s finished, the center will consist more than 18 miles of paved road and give researchers, automakers and safety organizations real-world tools and experience before putting driverless cars on public streets.
Ever since the Transportation Department bypassed the East Liberty site in January 2017, the Ohio delegation has been on a mission to convince Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to include Ohio on that list, bringing her to the site last April and sending two letters — one last year and one this week — urging her to add the East Liberty site to the list. Chao, said Rep. Jim Jordan, R–Urbana, has expressed some willingness to consider adding the East Liberty site. Jordan and Gibbs joined Reps. Bob Latta, R–Bowling Green, Warren Davidson, –-Troy and Bill Johnson, R–Marietta in speaking on behalf of the site Tuesday.
The Department of Transportation began seeking proposals for a pilot program to designate automated vehicle proving grounds in November 2016. The 10 designees were picked from more than 60 applicants with the East Liberty site among those applying. Transportation instead picked sites in Pennsylvania, Texas, Maryland, Michigan, two sites in California, Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina.
Proponents of picking the TRC say that adding the East Liberty site to the list would allow the facility to receive federal research funding for driverless vehicles. Those federal dollars would be helpful to TRC as it moves forward, said Brett Roubinek, president and CEO of TRC. The center applied for the designation in 2016 but did not receive it.
Gibbs said while two of the 10 sites had begun work testing automated vehicles, some that received the designation had no physical facilities to do so. “It was really just a Christmas list,” he said, adding “it’s really unfortunate what happened.”
“How we can have the premiere facility in the country that doesn’t get on the list of 10? It just makes no sense….we should be the captain of the ship, and we really are.”
Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 3:52 PM
Updated: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 6:46 PM
MIAMISBURG — Restrictions on small cell phone towers have been approved by Miamisburg City Council.
Limits on locations on heights for the towers are among the guidelines approved in the 5-0 vote.
The restrictions go into effect immediately, city officials said.
Legislation regulating the 5G mobile technology facilities is an issue several area communities – Centerville, Kettering and Springboro, among them – are addressing as Ohio law allowing municipalities limited authority over their placement takes effect Aug. 1.
Miamisburg is “creating design and siting standards” for “small cell facilities and wireless support structures,” according to the legislation. The 20-plus page document covers issues ranging from applicability, procedures, standards, locations and right of way issues.
“Unfortunately, there will likely still be small cell facilities installed in areas that are not preferable from an aesthetic perspective,” according to a memo from Miamisburg Planner Ryan Homsi. “This ordinance is meant to prevent this from happening with the tools provided to municipalities by (state law) while still allowing this new technology to be added to the community.”
Published: Sunday, July 15, 2018 @ 12:26 PM
Updated: Sunday, July 15, 2018 @ 12:26 PM
— Police officers across the nation may soon have access to advanced screening equipment that can identify drugs even through some packaging.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined police in downtown Dayton on Sunday to talk about new legislation that could help put advanced drug screening devices in the hands of local officers, protecting them from exposure to dangerous substances.
“It can save lives,” Brown said.
The Providing Officers With Electronic Resources (POWER) act, is cosponsored by Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. If passed, the bill would give police departments access to grant funding to purchase the screening devices, which can cost upward of $10,000.
Brown said the legislation was similar to the INTERDICT act, which was signed into law earlier this year. That legislation made more drug screening devices available to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Brown said law enforcement officials reached out to him after INTERDICT was passed to see about getting access to such equipment, which Brown said quickly displays results and could help address a backlog of untested drugs in labs.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said that overdose deaths were down so far in 2018, as was the police usage of Narcan, a drug that can counteract overdoses. As of June 28, 128 overdose deaths were recorded by Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County so far this year. In 2017, the total for the whole year was 566.
Biehl said that while the trends may be down, it doesn’t mean the crisis is over. Exposure to dangerous drugs such as fentanyl is still a risk to police officers, he said, and the screening devices could help police officers.
“Difficult work is yet ahead of us,” Biehl said.
Fentanyl in particular can be dangerous to handle, and causes more deaths. According to police data, 84 percent of the people who died of overdose in Dayton in 2017 used drugs containing fentanyl or carfentanil, both powerful opioids.
Just coming in physical contact with drugs that contain fentanyl can cause on overdose: in 2017, an East Liverpool Ohio police officer suffered an overdose after he came into contact with the substance during a traffic stop.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine previously warned officers against handling or even field testing fentanyl.
Officials have previously misidentified drugs, even after field testing them. In June, DeWine and a local sheriff announced they had seized what they thought was $3.4 million worth of fentanyl.
Published: Thursday, July 12, 2018 @ 12:26 PM
Updated: Friday, July 13, 2018 @ 1:47 PM
— The Republican candidate for Montgomery County commissioner is now leading a referendum effort, that if successful, would place the repeal of a recent county sales tax increase on the same ballot with his name in November.
But Doug Barry’s opponent, Democrat Carolyn Rice, questions why her challenger didn’t register complaints earlier against the sales tax increase — also unopposed by major business groups — when debated in the public sphere before approved last month.
Barry says the additional 0.25 percent sales tax was pushed through without citizen support.
“The county commissioners passed this without getting a vote of the people at a time we are in a good recovery period and there’s a lot of positive things coming out of Dayton and Montgomery County,” Barry said. “We don’t want to see that stopped by an increase in sales tax.”
The original organizers handed over the petition drive to Barry, owner of BarryStaff in Dayton, who faces Rice for an open county commission seat. Rice is currently Montgomery County treasurer.
County Commissioner Dan Foley is not running for re-election and is running for an Ohio House seat.
To put the referendum on the ballot, Barry and volunteer petition circulators have until July 26 to get 14,583 signatures.
“It’s all-hands-on-deck for the next 14 days to get the signatures,” said Barry, also a Miami Twp. trustee.
Rice said Barry and others have every right to put the issue on the ballot, but said overturning the sales tax increase, set to kick in Oct. 1, would harm the county in multiple ways and lead to cuts to multiple programs including those supporting the arts, the criminal justice system and economic development funds including Economic Development/Government Equity grants that assist businesses to expand and bring jobs to the region.
The repeal effort was first led by two former Montgomery County Republican Party chairs, Greg Gantt and Rob Scott, who prepared the necessary paperwork and filed it Tuesday with the county elections board and auditor.
Rice said those working to overturn the sales tax increase remained mute during months of budget discussions, at a public informational meeting and two required public hearings.
“There was a process over a year and it was publicized and I did not see any of these individuals at those meetings,” she said. “And I know a lot of people showed up.”
Barry, who announced his candidacy in January and won a May primary, did attend the second public hearing on June 26 — before commissioners approved the tax increase — but did not provide public comment. Nine others spoke; just one opposed the tax hike.
“As any leader in any situation, the first thing you have to do is assess,” Barry said. “I didn’t see at that point in time it was right for me to get up and talk because I was still assessing what the situation was.”
Barry had “a great opportunity to voice his concerns before a vote was taken,” Rice said.
The additional sales tax — projected to bring in $19.1 million annually — will squeeze Montgomery County businesses and drive consumers outside county lines to shop, Barry said.
“A lot of local businesses … it’s going to hurt them competitively because a lot of these programs they have running right now have been quoted at a certain price,” Barry said. “Now this is going to cost them more to do this because of the sales tax they are going to have to pay.”
Rice said representatives from the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dayton Development Coalition, the region’s major business and industry advocates, were included in a five-year strategic budget planning process that produced the plan.
“The business groups were involved, they supported it,” Rice said.
During the final public hearing, top leaders of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance and the Dayton Art Institute voiced support for the tax increase as well as from the business community including Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition and a member of the county’s Five-Year Financial Advisory Committee.
Hoagland said the loss of county economic development funding — a near certain outcome without the tax increase — would put the brakes on efforts to help companies expand.
“Now is the time to not step back, but to double-down. We are really on the cusp of something great in the Dayton region,” Hoagland said. “We have to have resources available to allow them to help make decisions to stay and grow in Montgomery County.”
Gantt, an attorney from Oakwood, said large business organizations such as the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dayton Development Coalition sometimes lose touch with concerns of the region’s smaller businesses.
As this year’s election takes shape, our reporters will bring you the news you need on local tax issues and how they will impact you.