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St. Clair Twp. holds town hall to boost road levy

CALCUTTA — A few people turned out for an hourlong town hall meeting for St. Clair Township’s proposed road levy last week, but trustees appeared to have little success convincing them to vote yes on Nov. 2.

Largely those in attendance were township administrators or employees, but there were a few people who attended to ask questions.

Jim Sabatini, who chairs the board, read a prepared statement before opening the session for questions

If passed, the levy will bring in $350,800 annually starting in 2022 to maintain the township’s 70+ miles of road. The measure is estimated to cost the owner of a $100,000 home, $70 annually (or $5.83 per month).

Charles Councell, who resides on Sprucevale Road (which is defined as a county road), questioned why he should have to pay the tax.

Sabatini reminded him that he may live on a county road, but as he traverses through the township, he probably has to travel township roads.

While the township receives some money from gas tax and license plate fees as well as the road and bridge fund, that money doesn’t go as far as it used to. For example, while a tractor and mower cost $55,602 a decade ago, the price now is $131,657.

Billy Springer of Sidehill Road questioned why the city keeps building more roads, like Columbia and Challenger Drive, when they cannot afford to maintain them, after trustees pointed out the money they receive has not increased despite the road miles and cost doing so.

Township resident Shawn Mascari said trustees seem to not be getting the message. “(This levy) keeps coming back like bad breath.”

Residents are tired of being taxed, as they already pay for several police and fire levies. Since St. Clair Township has a heavily retail orientation with Calcutta, perhaps they should investigate a sales tax, they theorized.

Trustee Bob Swickard pointed out that their taxation options are greatly limited, and sales tax is not one of those since St. Clair is a township.

Road foreman Scott Barrett was present at the meeting and talked about how active their chip and seal program has had to be to keep the roads tolerable. His staff of workers also are responsible for line striping, ditching, beaming, mowing, street sweeping, drainage and vegetation control.

Most townships have road levies in place to fund their programs; however, St. Clair Township does not. However, unlike most that don’t, St. Clair has its own police department. Other Columbiana County townships with police departments, include Perry, Salem and Center townships. Other townships, like Yellow Creek, concentrate heavily on roads and use the county sheriff for police protection.

While they used to resurface 14 to 15 miles annually, Barrett said they are lucky to resurface four miles. Lincoln and Franklin have reverted back to dirt roads, and there is a risk that these roads, which are not asphalt, will revert back to gravel surfaces too. Sabatini concluded that if passed this levy will allow them to pave 10 miles per year, “We do get it, but we want to take care of what we are responsible for.”

Another town hall meeting will be held at 7 p.m. tonight in the Peter Metrovich community room in the township building.

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