Sunday, December 21, 2003

Parks, schools worry trustee

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - Dave Tacosik calls his four years as township trustee "enjoyable and educational," but he knows he's leaving the job undone.

Major decisions about funding township parks, constructing a community and recreation center and completing the West Chester Towne Centre in the heart of Union Centre will be made next year, after businessman George Lang replaces Tacosik as a trustee. Lang will be sworn in Tuesday by Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro.

"I was really looking forward to four more years," says Tacosik, who will retire this spring after 35 years as a Lakota Schools physical education teacher.

Rejection of a 1.95-mill park levy in November, which would have provided $60 million in park improvements over five years, leaves trustees with big questions.

"I'm deeply saddened by the failure of the park levy," Tacosik says. He worries that the township might not try another park levy for a while, because Lakota Schools might need several elections to pass a school levy. Lakota has an 11.67-mill levy - which would cost the owner of a $150,000 home $536 a year - on the March 2 primary ballot.

"It would be foolish to put anything (for parks) on the ballot for two years, because the schools have to get something passed," Tacosik says.

And strong schools are crucial to West Chester's future.

"Without a good school system, there could be an exodus. People can live anywhere, but they chose the school district," he says.

The township's temporary budget for January-March only allocates $100,000 to the parks, a 90 percent budget cut from the same period last year.

Trustee Catherine Stoker says she will call a meeting in February where township officials will "sit down and talk seriously about parks."

In January, trustees will receive two reports on a proposed community and recreation center near Lakota West High School.

Public hearings will begin next month, before trustees decide in the spring whether to construct the center. "We need to do a lot of communicating with residents to see what they want in it." Lang says.

Also on the agenda next year will be plans for converting the Muhlhauser barn into a township conference center, and adopting a policy for storing personal items on township property. One controversy during the fall campaign was over Tacosik and township Administrator Dave Gully parking their boats free of charge at the township's police impound lot.

Tacosik also will be remembered for having the township bill insurance companies for fire life squad runs, as many other municipalities and townships have done. West Chester, which began the billing process this month, may recover up to $800,000 , says James Detherage, township fire chief.



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