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"Embarrassing" Elyria chase renews push for levy

Posted: 6:59 PM, Feb 24, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-24 18:59:41-05
Elyria’s police chief called an officer-involved chase on Sunday that ended with police cruisers breaking down “upsetting and embarrassing.” Now Chief Duane Whitely is using the incident to urge passage of an income tax levy on March 15.
 
On Sunday, Officers Greg Drake, Jake Webber and Mike Groomes were involved in a chase through a city highway.
 
Police said they stopped a man with a felony warrant out for his arrest at Broad Street and State Route 57, but when approached by officers, the man took off in the stolen Dodge Neon he was driving.
 
Groomes described the incident in a video posted on social media.
 
“We heard a loud pop that sounded like it was coming from the engine and then a loud grinding noise,” Groomes said.
 
Other police cruisers involved began losing speed. The State Highway Patrol had to take over the chase.
 
If voters approve the levy, known as Issue 6, income taxes would increase from 1.75 percent to 2.25 percent. It would be the first increase since 1992. By comparison, taxes in Lorain and Oberlin are set at 2.5 percent.
 
The levy would take effect for five years and would help fund city services like parks, road resurfacing and emergency services, including police.
 
In recent years, Whitely said budget tightening has cost his department more than 30 full-time officers.
 
Their newest police cruisers came into service in 2011. Many vehicles are much older. One vehicle, just taken out of service this month, had 192,000 miles and a rusted floor board.
 
“We put in for cars every year. The problem is when there’s no money, there’s no money,” Whitely said. “There’s nowhere else to belt tighten. We’ve cut everything we can cut.”
 
City Councilman Mark Jessie shot that interview with Groomes. Jessie blamed an economic downturn and cuts to the state’s local government fund and the estate tax — cuts that have cost Elyria about $2 million a year.
 
“Our governor can say he’s balanced the state’s budget and he’s done it on the backs of every city and municipality in the state,” Jessie said.
 
Both Jessie and Whitely said there has been talk of merging services with other municipalities in Lorain County, but that the talks have not gone very far.
 
“The reality of getting the cooperation and the logistics worked out, I don’t think it’s very practical,” Jessie said, “And it’s certainly not anything that’s going to happen soon that’s going to help us. We’re in a crisis situation right now.”

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