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Park levy will appear on 2013 ballot

October 8, 2012
Morning Journal News

LISBON - The Columbiana County Park District will ask voters next year to approve a small levy they say is needed to provide them with additional operating revenue beyond the $15,000 received annually.

The park board voted recently to place a 0.1-mill levy on the May 2013 ballot. Board President Dottie Betz said they agreed on that millage without knowing how much it would generate because they wanted to increase their chances voters would look favorably upon the levy come May.

"We just decided to go small," she said.

The park district's only source of general operating revenue is $15,000 in state Local Government Fund money received through county commissioners, although the Ohio Department of Transportation provides the board with $40,000 to $60,000 every two-year period that can only be used on park roads and parking lots.

The park district started out operating 250-acre Scenic Vista Park in Center Township but later added the 16-mile Little Beaver Greenway Trail linking Lisbon to Washingtonville. Two years ago the 752-acre Hellbender Bluff Park in Madison Township was added, along with a canoe launch along the Little Beaver Creek in Wayne Township.

"We have a lot more holdings that require a lot more maintenance," Betz said.

The only paid staff is a part-time maintenance man and part-time secretary.

"We're just about to the point where we need a full-time maintenance man. If it wasn't for me, Tom and Mike going out there doing things, we wouldn't be in as good as shape as we are," she said, referring to fellow board members Tom Butch and Mike West.

The park board last tried to get voters to pass a 0.2-mill levy in the early 2000s, but it failed. Betz said they are hoping voters will look more kindly on them this time.

"That's what we're hoping. One-tenth of one mill isn't very much," she said.

The park district is not without other resources. It is to receive $507,500 for leasing property for oil and shale gas development, but Betz said that money will be set aside to repair the Greenway Trail and to serve as matching funds to seek federal and state grants to extend the trail and other projects.

A grant the park district may seek is one to purchase the former Youngstown & Southern Railroad owned by the county Port Authority and make it part of the bike trail system.

The 36-mile railroad extends from Boardman in Mahoning County to Darlington, Pa., by way of Columbiana, Rogers and Negley in this county. The Greenway Trail follows the path of another former railroad.

The port authority has been trying to sell the railroad and had a deal for $2.9 million as recently as several months ago, but the buyer withdrew its offer. Betz spoke with port CEO Tracy Drake, who indicated he would want to get as much as possible for the railroad.

"We're kind of waiting to see what happens. We certainly would like to acquire it but it would have to be at the right price," she said.



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