They also all seemed to agree that regionalized services of some nature is likely to happen at a quicker pace in the future due to the budget constraints all local governments are experiencing. NAACP legal representative Geoff Oglesby moderated the 90-minute program at the Erie County Senior Center off Water Street, and his last question took regionalism to new — and old — ground.
The question: If the city of Sandusky and Perkins township agreed to combine and be annexed together, what name would you give the new city?
Jason Bennett, a Perkins School board candidate was the first in line to answer. “Ogontz,” he said. “It’s the original name (for the territory.)” The four Sandusky city commission candidates at the forum offered varied response, but the consensus seemed to favor “Sandusky” or “Greater Sandusky.” Commissioner Diedre Cole responded with just the word, “SANDUSKY.”
Perkins Township trustee Tim Coleman, who like Cole is seeking re-election, said he did not want to speculate. He added, however, that he always refers to the area affectionately as “Sandtown.”
In the 1950s, township and city government negotiated for years, eventually developing an agreement to unite as one entity. Circumstances changed, however, and the boundary changes and legislation to make it happen were never implemented.
Jim Lang, who is challenging Coleman and Mike Printy in the race for just two trustee seats, also attended the forum. Cole, Scott Schell, Naomi Twine and Patricia Ferguson, all candidates for three seats on the Sandusky city commission, attended the forum.
Bennett and J Franklin and Rick Uher, candidates for Perkins school board, and Bridgitte Green-Churchwell, a Sandusky school board member, also attended. Carol Smith, a former Perkins school district teacher and grandmother of Perkins school board candidate Michael Ahner, attended the forum on his behalf because he was not able to be there Saturday.
Erie County Health commissioner Pete Schade also participated, urging voters to approve the health district’s renewal levy on the Nov. 5 ballot. The levy costs a homeowner about $8 per year for every $100,000 in assessed property value.
“It goes a long way,” Schade said, contrasting the low cost of the tax to the expanding services the health department provides, staying within its budget constraints.
Several candidates praised the successful regionalized emergency dispatch services with Erie County and Sheriff Paul Sigsworth, and forecast more consolidations in the future.
“If we merge school districts, we’ll save money,” Bennett said. “But the larger you get, the less individualized you can be.”
The city and Perkins Township also must continue searching for shared opportunities.
“(There’s no other) choice,” city commission candidate Twine said. “We have to look at ways. We’re all in this together.”
Schell called it “a new era of governmental cooperation.”
Lang, who served as a Perkins police officer for 23 years and more recently was the Sandusky police chief for two years, said there’s strong resistance to change.
“Voters made clear they want to maintain their own identities,” Lang said, referring to the overwhelming support the township police levy received in May when it was approved.