Planning panel considers $5 fee

The Seneca Regional Planning Highway and Transportation Committee discussed ways to persuade the two undecided commissioners to support the proposed $5 permissive tax for registered vehicles.

The committee, which has set SR 53 and the loop road bypass as its two main priorities, said the county needs funds to match any grants from the state to make highway improvements. Recently Commissioner Fred Zoeller, who is the chair of the Highway and Transportation Committee, proposed a $5 fee to commissioners.

Commissioners Holly Stacy and Jeff Wagner have yet to state whether they favor the tax. All three commissioners must approve it for the tax to be instituted.

“With this committee, the agenda needs to be, how can we best convince the other two commissioners that this is the way to go,” Zoeller said.

The permissive tax would raise about $200,000 a year Zoeller said could be pledged to the state for highway projects. He said the county dedicating money to improving roads would greatly improve its chances of acquiring a state grant.

“Would you invest a dollar to get $20 back?” asked Zoeller, who said the tax is a 20-1 investment.

President and CEO of Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corporation Rich Focht, who also is a member of the committee, said SR 53 in Sandusky County and Wyandot County have been improved.

“The money is going to get spent to improve safety in Seneca County, that’s our No. 1 priority,” Focht said. “We have to clean up our own backyard first. If we can get (other counties) to go along with us, that’s fine, but there’s already things happening in Sandusky and Wyandot.”

He said Seneca County has the highest per-mile accident rate of any rural county in Ohio, and has the fifth highest in the whole state. In 2011, there were eight fatal accidents resulting in 21 deaths.

Zoeller asked Focht to reach out to the Ohio Highway Patrol for information and support of the tax.

Zoeller also asked for support from townships and the Ohio Farm Bureau. He also encouraged the public to write, call and e-mail commissioners regarding the permissive tax.

He asked Seneca Regional Planning Executive Director Jill Griffin to provide Stacy and Wagner any information they need.