Archive for Mariemont Budget

How can local governments cut expenses?

In a recent editorial in the Enquirer, Mr. Harris, a former city Councilman, contends that in Ohio the operation of local governments is antiquated. He points out that Hamilton County alone has 48 local governments and that each of these has a fully equipped police department. In 2009, Hamilton County taxpayers spent $275 million for these police facilities, some of which provide safety for areas less than 1 square mile.

Let’s focus upon the Mariemont and Fairfax Police Departments within the context of overlapping and duplication of law enforcement services. First, it should be pointed out that the Village of Mariemont occupies .89 square miles and the Village of Fairfax .76 square miles with a combined census of 5,103 citizens.

The Mariemont Police Department has 10 police officers and the Fairfax Police Department has 9 for a total of 19 to cover this total service area of 1.65 square miles. In 2013, Mariemont’s total expenses to maintain their Police Department were $1,248,776 (approximately one-third of the entire budget) whereas Fairfax’s Police Department cost $1,147,240.

I queried a number of friends and our educated guess is that 40 percent of cost to maintain a standalone Mariemont Police Department could be saved by merging Mariemont’s and Fairfax’s Police Departments. If you take 40 percent of Mariemont’s $1,248,776 expenditure on police protection, it comes to a yearly savings of about $499,510. And note that this is just the cost savings referable to the police department.

The next question was whether a merging of the two police departments would compromise safety. The group agreed that it would have a negligible effect upon police services and safety.

Granted, change is always easier said than done when it comes to jurisdictional and power issues, not to mention personalities. At a minimum, if the Mariemont and Fairfax Police shared the night shift coverage, it would equate to roughly $100,000 in yearly cost savings.

Just consider what the Village of Mariemont could do with a half million additional funds a year, or even a hundred thousand. Possibly, hire a part-time Village Administrator, improved street maintenance, free garbage collection (eliminate those stickers), no fee memberships in the swimming and tennis clubs, free land rent for a garden in the South 80, new recreational facilities, rejuvenation of the Historic District and lower taxes could be considered. Longer term, the Village could certainly use better parking facilities, a community center and improvements to the Municipal Building.


–Dick Wendel, MD, MBA

Opportunities Squandered by Village Officials–By Mike Lemon

Opportunities Squandered by Village Officials–By Mike Lemon 

As a 34-year Mariemont resident, former Mariemont mayor and current Columbia Township
administrator, I have had my feet planted in both communities for many years.  Most recently I was involved in two recent failed projects that could have easily delivered significant financial opportunities for both Mariemont and Columbia Township, had it not been for the questionable judgment of our Village officials. As a concerned Mariemont resident, I believe it is important for all Village residents to understand the facts of what happened so that we can all hold our Village officials accountable for their actions.

The two recent projects I am referring to are: 1) the proposed improvement at the 6-way intersection of Plainville, Madisonville and Settle Roads (commonly referred to as the roundabout project; and 2) the Joint Economic Development Zone (JEDZ). Together, these projects had the potential of generating millions of dollars for the Village of Mariemont without any new tax increases to Village residents. However, our Village officials declined to participate or engage in negotiations on either project.

The “Mayor’s Bulletin” of August 2013 provided the Mariemont mayor’s slant on the reasons for Mariemont officials rejecting both projects. Unfortunately, much of the information contained in that bulletin is misrepresented, incomplete, or inaccurate. Attempting to address each point in the mayor’s report would require too much space to set the record straight and only lead to more bulletins and wasting of taxpayer’s dollars. However, there are several observations I would like to share.

Six-way Intersection Improvement – A $1.7 Million Grant from the OKI Regional Council of Governments

As the Columbia administrator, I observed Columbia Township act in good faith, seeking a collaborative, cooperative approach to this project. I also observed Trustee David Kubicki’s repeated attempts to engage with Mariemont officials in negotiations continually stonewalled. After many meetings and phone calls, Mr. Kubicki even challenged our officials to take the $1.7 million grant the township received and design its preferred intersection improvement, but Mariemont officials would not even recommend or consider a new design. In the end, the Township had no choice but to relinquish any improvement which would have been entirely paid for by Columbia Township’s grant. Columbia Township is now moving the roundabout concept to Bramble and Plainville and leaving the financial fate of the six-way intersection and entry into the Village solely in Mariemont officials’ hands.

Joint Economic Development Zone (JEDZ) – A Multi-Million Dollar Revenue Opportunity

Columbia Township made it known early in discussions with Mariemont officials that it was important to get the JEDZ issue on the ballot in November. Knowing this, Trustee Kubicki personally expended a considerable amount of energy and time trying to engage our Mariemont officials. Trustee Kubicki even offered to go to a council meeting and discuss the JEDZ. He was warned by the mayor, who advised Mr. Kubicki that he would only be allowed three minutes to talk, not to attend. After four months of phone calls, meetings and discussions without progress toward an agreement, and with time to get the issue on the ballot growing perilously short, the Township received a peculiar letter from the mayor asking for a written proposal! This led Columbia Township officials to conclude that Mariemont was not really interested in collaborating or partnering in an agreement, but only stonewalling again. As a result, the Township began discussions with other communities, while still holding open the offer to accept a proposal from Mariemont. Despite efforts by councilmen Cortney Scheeser and Jeff Andrews to schedule a special council meeting to discuss the issue (before Columbia Township signed an agreement with another community), a council vote was taken and failed by 4-2, effectively abandoning the opportunity to partner in a JEDZ. Within 10 days, Fairfax and Columbia Township had completed negotiations and agreed to form a partnership on a JEDZ.

While the “Mayor’s Bulletin” stated the Township was only willing to give the Village 10% of the revenue collected (as evidenced by the agreement with Fairfax), I know the truth is that discussions took place with Mariemont officials for figures up to 50%, although not all the township trustees were aligned on that amount. Indications from the trustees were the figure was more likely to be 20-30% in an agreement, plus repayment for the expenses for collecting taxes. There would be absolutely NO cost to Mariemont, only revenue to use as it wished.

Columbia Township officials have been accused by Mariemont officials of withholding information. Nothing could be further from the truth. All information available was provided by me to the Village, and nothing was held back. The projections on revenue from the JEDZ were completed by an economic development professional, using methodologies commonly used in industry. Explanations of how the figures were derived were also provided by the same development professional in a meeting with Mariemont officials. Conservative figures indicted the JEDZ would generate approximately $706,000 annually. Based upon the intent of a 40-year agreement with three 10-year renewal options (as signed with Fairfax), our community lost an opportunity to capture revenue for the next seventy years for any purpose it wished! How much it lost depends upon what the negotiated split would have been and the cost of tax collection. However, based upon a quick spreadsheet analysis, the following chart reflects the range of revenue lost if a 1.0% earnings tax and a 5% tax collection fee of generated revenue are used. (If a 1.25% earnings tax (the current Mariemont rate) had been negotiated, the impact would show an even more significant loss for Mariemont.)

% Split 90-10 80-20 70-30 60-40 50-50
Est. Revenue $706,378 $706,378 $706,378 $706,378 $706,378
Collection Fee (5%) $35,319 $35,319 $35,319 $35,319 $35,319
Net $671,059 $671,059 $671,059 $671,059 $671,059
CT Annual Share $603,953 $536,847 $469,741 $402,635 $335,530
MM Annual Share $67,106 $134,212 $201,318 $268,424 $335,530
MM Loss-70 Yrs. $4,697,414 $9,394,827 $14,092,241 $18,789,655 $23,487,069

If the percentage our Village received was between 20-30%, this equates to between $9 million and $14 million dollars of free money lost!

The Lost Opportunity for Our Village

So what could have happened if an agreement was reached on these two initiatives?  We could have…

  • Increased our Village revenue by millions of dollars without increasing taxes to residents and businesses. (What would these millions of dollars have done for improving our streets, for improving parks and the pool, for police protection, for fire protection and more? Would it pay for a community comprehensive plan or for a Village administrator?)
  • Replaced six-way confusing intersection with improved design and new entry into our Village at no cost to Mariemont
  • Provided pathway and design for extension of bike path from Fairfax
  • Extended the customer base for our retail and commercial businesses in Mariemont through development of Plainville Road and Wooster Pike.


I saw these two projects as a tremendous opportunity for Columbia Township and the Village of Mariemont to work together to accomplish three things…

  • Improve two adjacent communities
  • Support economic development
  • Help stabilize finances following the severe impact of State cut-backs and estate tax elimination.

However, our Mariemont Village officials decided that these projects were not in the best interest of Mariemont and declined to participate. While there are obviously differences of opinion on these two projects, one has to wonder what is really driving the decisions of our Village officials and whether they are in the long-term best interest of Mariemont and its residents. In the meantime, I know Columbia Township is putting this episode behind it and is moving forward with its plans to improve the township. I also know that Columbia Township will continue to collaborate with surrounding communities when it can, and I know it will certainly include Mariemont when possible.

Having served the Mariemont community for 13-years as a councilman and mayor and as a long-time Mariemont resident, just thinking of the lost opportunities is very distressing to me.  I hope you are as disturbed as I am and will begin to take a closer look at the current leadership and how it is managing the long-term interests of our Village.

Click here for more information regarding the JEDZ legislation

Click here for the Mayor’s August Bulletin

By Mike Lemon

Time to merge the Mariemont Fire Department with the LMFR?

Is it time for the Mariemont Fire Department to merge with the Little Miami Joint Fire and Rescue (LMFR) Departments?

Terry Ransey, the incoming Fire Chief of the Little Miami Joint Fire and Rescue (LMFR) hosted the Mariemont Kiwanis Club on Tuesday at their new firehouse on Wooster Pike that became operational on the 5th of March. The LMFR district covers the three square miles that encompass Newtown, Fairfax and Columbia Township. Their two new facilities in Fairfax and Newtown cost $8 million to build, employ 60 full and part-time personnel and have a $3 million dollar budget.

The LMFR makes about 1150 runs per year of which 70 percent involve emergency medical services (EMS). One questioner asked why a fire truck needed to be deployed with the emergency medical van when just medical services were necessary. The Chief answered that it related to the need for additional personnel and equipment should lengthy CPR be necessary or lifting help to load and carry stretchers and emergency medical gear up and down staircases. He noted that the fire trucks often go right through Mariemont in servicing Columbia Township and Newtown. Additionally, by virtue of their close proximity to Keebler, they are the first to arrive at this plant.

The new Fairfax Fire House is capacious and impressive with ample sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, storage areas and a huge parking atrium for fire trucks and emergency vehicles that opens on both sides and seemingly could comfortably accommodate at least 6 fire trucks. When the Chief was asked why the station was so large, he replied that it was build with an eye to the future when consolidation of services between communities becomes imperative due to budgetary issues.

Several years ago, there was an active discussion about combining the Mariemont Fire Department and LMFR Department. Mayor Policastro favored the combination, but more Mariemonters, including myself, were opposed. With this new, magnificent facility in Fairfax, it is definitely time to renew this discussion.

As I see it, all parties would save money without sacrificing safety. The savings to Mariemont could be used to renovate and update the Municipal Building. Additionally, many firemen and EMS personnel have legitimate reservations about the wisdom of combining police and fire services.

We welcome your views on this.
LMFR Fire Truck

–Contributed by Richard Wendel, MD, MBA