Help center reaches out

I am responding to a letter to the editor by Robin Neff published in the March 28 issue of the Times, which stated, “Or will our county continue to simply offer a help desk and tell them to hire attorneys with money they likely do not have?” I assume the letter refers to the Help Center established last July by Judge Timothy Grendell of the Geauga County Probate and Juvenile Court. That letter appears to disparage the usefulness of the Help Center. I submit this letter to correct what may otherwise be a false impression. In fact, the Help Center provides a valuable service to Geauga County residents, who appear before the probate or juvenile court without being represented by an attorney – what lawyers refer to as a “pro se litigant.”

The Help Center concept is based, in part, upon two task force reports commissioned by the Ohio Supreme Court. The Help Center’s cost is not paid from taxpayer dollars, but rather from a fund that results from fees collected by the court. To date, our Help Center has assisted more than 130 residents.

The Help Center provides its users with two primary services. First, the Help Center offers detailed legal information that could pertain to their matter, in the form of extensive “Information Sheets,” which the Help Center staff will review with the user. Those information sheets are also available on the court’s website. The purpose is to generally educate the user as to the law so that the user is better enabled to make an informed decision regarding a course of action. Second, if the decision requires the user to prepare and file legal documents with the Court to implement the decision, then the Help Center has a computer workstation that contains numerous legal forms, which are suggested in the Information Sheets. The user must complete the forms chosen by the user and file those forms with the Clerk of Court’s office. Educating the user as to the law, and offering legal forms, makes the legal system more available to pro se litigants, while reducing the time expended on proceedings and ultimately tax dollars.

The Help Center is open to all Geauga County residents, regardless of financial status, but only if they are not represented by an attorney. The Help Center does not provide legal advice or an attorney, and it is not a substitute for legal representation. If the user decides to retain an attorney, then the Help Center staff will only provide the user with the phone number of the Geauga County Bar Association, without recommending a specific attorney. The professional code of conduct that governs Ohio courts prohibits court staff from providing any legal advice. However, the general legal information provided and access to legal forms have been well received by our users as revealed in numerous expressions of gratitude.

David Welty

Director of Geauga County Help Center

Levy not a tax increase

On May 7, Village of Chagrin Falls voters will be asked to vote on a 5.5 mill general fund renewal levy which would become effective Jan. 1, 2020. This five-year levy simply renews a 5.5 mill tax issue which expires at the end of this year.

The proposed levy is a renewal of the current tax rate and will not increase your property taxes. The village portion of your property tax bill will remain the same.

The levy will generate a total of $1 million per year, nearly 18 percent of the village general fund budget.  The following are examples of services funded by your property tax dollars:

Police and fire protection, ambulance service, street maintenance, snow removal, rubbish pick-up and parks.

The village receives 8.2 percent of the property taxes you pay each year.  The remaining 91.8 percent is divided among the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District, Cuyahoga County and Chagrin Falls Township. This village general fund operating levy has been constant at 5.5 voted mills for 31 years.

If you are interested in obtaining further information on this levy, please call Dave Bloom, finance director at Village Hall, at 440-247-5050.

Mayor William Tomko, former mayors Thomas Brick, Lydia Champlin, Ed Towns,B. Richard Bodwell and council representatives Nancy Rogoff, Erinn Grube, Janis Evans, Angie DeBernardo, James Newell, Julia Lipp and Robert Williams.

Chagrin Falls

What happens to Lady Liberty? 

It’s time to dismantle the Statue of Liberty. Extinguish the torch’s flame. Or at least throw a shroud over Liberty’s 151-foot high body. For many years the iconic statue in New York Harbor has welcomed immigrants to America, among them my father who as a child came here from Italy with his parents seeking a better life, as had my mother’s grandparents who left the Netherlands a few years earlier. But now Donald Trump says, “No more immigrants.” The president and his fearful, hateful, ignorant, racist, xenophobic supporters have rejected Liberty’s invitation. Instead of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Trump says, “Our country is full.” We don’t want any more immigrants, especially if they are Latino, he says. 

Lady Liberty’s once-shining hope is no longer credible. I am disgusted by our president. I am ashamed to be an American.

Don Gallo

Solon

Chester levy not needed

Our Chester part-time firefighters are without a doubt the most professional first responders in our township and they have done an outstanding job in their duties over and over again. They have always been there for everyone in time of need. They are highly respected in our community and rightfully so.

Our part-time firefighters back in mid-2018 were given a raise that represented an increase of 30 to 35 percent. Did you get a 30 to 35 percent raise?

What I find very troubling is the way it was done by the elected officials. There was no public hearing, no public input and zero fact finding as to why the raise was needed.

The trustees, fiscal officer and our fire chief all have failed to make their case for such a tax increase because they did not seek facts about what is going on in the fire department.

I have asked for the number of calls that our fire or EMS had missed in 2018 and the response was none. How many shifts were unmanned? Response from our fire chief was: None. How much time was missed for the year 2018? Response was an estimate from our fire chief of 1,700 hours for 2018 since no one keeps track of the hours worked. All this information was sent via public records request from the township elected officials and the fire chief.

This increase in salaries amounts to approximately $365,000.00 annually.

Currently this 2.75 mill levy will generate estimated $1 million which is double their current levy funding.

They say that we need 6 full-time people. This levy represents an increase in the firefighters budget of 100 percent. Does Chester Township really need full-time fire/EMS people?

I am in opposition to the levy that our township trustees have placed on the ballot not because our firefighters are not performing, but because of the process that our elected officials have set forward for this proposed levy.

Therefore I would respectfully request that you vote no for this levy and hold your elected officials accountable for this doubling of our taxes without a comprehensive plan on how the funds will be spent and why.

There are sufficient funds available right now to operate for a couple of more years so that a plan can be put together that makes sense for Chester taxpayers.

Michael J. Petruziello

Chester Township

Outstanding tribute

What an outstanding tribute by Tony Lange to a real gentleman and fierce competitor, Kenston’s Greg Lusk.  I coached against Greg in girls track for a number of years and found his teams always well prepared and ready to compete.

Greg was above all a real gentleman and a man of honor and pride and like you, Tony, I will miss the humor of Greg Lusk.

Roy E. Podojil

Russell Township

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