State senators host forum on JEDZ billWritten by Duane Ramsey | | email@example.com
State Senators Edna Brown and Randy Gardner hosted a public forum on Ohio House Bill 289 that seeks to reform options with respect to Joint Economic Development Zones (JEDZ) on April 25 at the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg.
HB 289, as passed by a vote of 89-8 in the House, would eliminate any future zones but possibly grandfather in existing zones. The bill is currently before the Senate Finance Committee and is likely to be amended in the Senate, said Gardner, who said there are currently eight to 10 different variations of the bill as working documents in the Senate.
The Finance Committee meets again next week and would likely review the bill. Gardner, a Republican, expects a version of HB 289 could come to the Senate floor by the end of May.
“This issue is so vitally important to this area of Northwest Ohio. We are vigilant and monitoring the situation,” said Brown, a Democrat who is the Senate Minority Whip.
If the Senate passes it, that bill would go back to the House for concurrence. If the House doesn’t concur, it would go to a conference committee of the House and Senate, said State Rep. Barbara Sears, who voted for HB 289 and was present at the public forum.
Brown, Gardner and Sears said the house bill on JEDZs came about due to abuse of the zones in the central and southern parts of Ohio, with House Majority Leader Sears noting that zones are being used correctly in Northwest Ohio.
“The purpose of this forum is to allow people to let us know how they feel about the bill,” Gardner said.
“We’ve gotten more feedback from this part of the state than any other part since the bill was passed by the House,” Brown said.
About 10 people from the crowd of about 50 in attendance spoke at the forum. One email received by Gardner’s office from Steve Serchuk, a local commercial real estate developer who encouraged the senators to vote no or guarantee the continuation of existing JEDZs in Ohio, was read at the forum.
Eileen Granata, law director for the City of Toledo, read a statement from Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins who was unable to attend the forum. She reported that Collins and his chief of staff had already testified on the bill in Columbus.
“While the City of Toledo views HB 289 as having a negative impact on our ability to collaborate with our partners, this process has demonstrated that the Ohio General Assembly is willing to listen to the concerns of communities like Toledo,” Collins stated in his letter to Brown and Gardner.
“The City of Toledo believes that the economic stability of not just the City, but the region, will be determined by our ability to collaborate with our neighbors,” Collins stated.
Michael Beasley, administrator for the City of Oregon, told the senators that a JEDZ is one of few tools available to help communities compete for jobs.
“It’s about jobs and revenue for communities in Northwest Ohio. We need more tools not fewer tools,” Beasley said.
“You don’t throw away the entire tool, you fix the tool,” said Andy Glenn, chairman of the Springfield Township trustees. He reported that township has benefited from the major development at I-475 and Airport Highway due to the JEDZ with the City of Toledo.
Sheila McAdams, an attorney representing Spencer Township and former law director for the City of Maumee, said the JEDZs help avoid annexation battles and encourage cooperation among the various government units.
McAdams said the JEDZ the township has with the Village of Whitehouse created the only significant development in the township. It has provided substantial benefits for the businesses and residents of the community with revenues from it helping to pay for ambulance, fire and police services.
Angela Kuhn, mayor of Whitehouse, concurred believing the bill would have a negative impact on income and economic development for that village if the JEDZ was discontinued.
Chuck Hershel, a Monclova Township trustee and chairman of the JEDZ with the township and the cities of Maumee and Toledo, cited the revenues the township received and services improved. Monclova Township receives about $275,000 in revenue from the JEDZ and has used it to purchase a new $500,000 ladder truck for the fire department and toward police services provided by the Lucas County Sheriff’s Department. Hershel said that Maumee and Toledo have provided infrastructure that has benefit the JEDZ there.
However, not everyone agrees that the JEDZ has benefited business and the community there.
“We pay for all those services with our property taxes and then we get taxed with another 1.5 percent by the zone with no support. We have received nothing back from it,” said Dave Jankowski, owner of Jann’s Netcraft, a business located within the JEDZ in Monclova Township.
Peter Ujvagi, a former state representative and now chief of policy and legislation for Lucas County, said JEDZs have increased regional cooperation in Northwest Ohio.
“Hopefully, the message gets back to Columbus how serious this issue is,” Ujvagi said.
Gardner encouraged people to email his office with their comments and input on HB289 and JEDZs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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