Tuesday, June 18, 2002

City, town may be able to get along

Mason, Deerfield meet

By Cindi Andrews, candrews@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Leaders from Mason and neighboring Deerfield Township dug into dumplings together Monday instead of breaking bread, but the sentiment was the same: Let's try to get along.

        The peace summit at Mason's Arloi Dee restaurant was the first joint meeting in five years between Mason City Council and Deerfield Township trustees.

    August 1995: Warren County commissioners approve Paramount's Kings Island's request to be annexed into Mason from Deerfield. Deerfield sues to overturn the annexation.

    October 1995: Mason's annexation of Procter & Gamble's $300 million health care research facility is approved.

    February 1997: The city of Mason withdraws from Deerfield Township, costing Deerfield about $300,000 a year in property tax revenue.

    October 1997: Mason's annexation of Kings Island — upheld by several courts — becomes official.

    December 1997: Deerfield trustees vote to withdraw from the Mason-Deerfield Joint Fire District.

    May 1998: The commissioners threaten to dissolve Deerfield in an unsuccessful effort to get trustees to work with Mason to keep the fire district intact.

    October 1998: Mason and Deerfield begin operating separate fire departments.

    December 1999: Deerfield residents object to Mason's plans to build a water tower in the township. Trustees try to block the tower, but the courts — including the Ohio Supreme Court — subsequently side with Mason.

        “This table represents one-third of the population of Warren County, and we deserve to have a stronger voice,” Mason Mayor John McCurley told the group.

        Leaders have been at odds the past seven or eight years over city annexations of township territory, the township's withdrawal from a joint fire district, and other issues.

        But Mason and Deerfield have similar, pro-development and pro-growth philosophies, City Manager Scot Lahrmer said — philosophies that are often at odds with Warren County officials.

        Township trustee Barbara Wilkens Reed suggested Deerfield and Mason present a united front to county commissioners on what they want from an upcoming countywide strategic plan.

        “Boy, would they be surprised,” Mr. McCurley said.

        “Let's surprise them,” Mrs. Reed said.

        Mason Councilman Pete Beck proposed ganging up to persuade commissioners to bring low-interest, home-improvement loans to Warren. Hamilton County recently started such a program.

        Deerfield also picked Mason officials' brains on storm water management — a major problem for both communities. Mason set up a new utility last year that charges homeowners and businesses monthly to improve problem flooding areas.

        Deerfield is investigating doing the same thing, although it needs county approval first.

        “We're probably 20 years away from curing just the list we have now,” Mason Councilman Jim Fox warned.

        The group also discussed working together on parkland, particularly for more fields for youth sports. The city would like the township to contribute 30 percent to 40 percent of the cost of new parkland, Mr. Fox said, noting that township kids use the parks.

        “We are turning away teams or limiting them drastically just for the lack of field space,” he said.

        The evening was short on decisions but long on goodwill.

        “(Getting along) would make all of our lives so much easier — not just ours but our taxpayers',” Mrs. Reed said. “Open minds have made a big difference on both sides.”


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