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General Election 2014

Voters reject levy to fund crime lab for second time

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ELYRIA — For the second time this year, voters have rejected a levy that would have brought in additional revenue for the Lorain County Crime Lab.

According to unofficial returns from the Lorain County Board of Elections, 43,204 voters, or 57 percent, cast their ballots against the measure compared to 32,796, or 43 percent, who voted for the levy.

Voters rejected the same levy by a margin of 46 percent to 54 percent during the May primary.

CountyCommissioners Ted Kalo said he was disappointed the levy went down in defeat, but plans to ask voters to reconsider in an upcoming election. Commissioner Lori Kokoski agreed.

“Law enforcement wanted it and needed it,” Kokoski said.

The 0.08-mill levy would have generated $495,798 annually for the lab, which tests drugs seized by local law enforcement in criminal investigations. Law enforcement and county officials have praised the quick turnaround time for results that can sometimes come within hours of a sample being submitted.

Commissioner Tom Williams, who had voted against putting the levy on the ballot, has said he would prefer the samples be sent to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, but county officials have said it can take up to a month to get the results back.

Back in May, county officials blamed an investigation into missing items at the county’s Adult Probation Department and the Crime Lab on the levy’s defeat. The Crime Lab and its director, Emmanuel de Leon, have since been cleared of wrongdoing, but the investigation into the Probation Department continues.

Kokoski said she doesn’t believe the investigation was a factor this time, but thinks that the opposition of Williams, who lost his own re-election bid Tuesday, to putting the measure on the ballot worked against passage.

She said if she, Kalo and state Rep. Matt Lundy, who defeated Williams, all back the issue and explain to voters the need it might have a better chance.

“Maybe is we have a united front, it will pass,” she said.

The commissioners said even without the levy, the Crime Lab will continue to operate, albeit on a smaller scale, using funds it brings in from a separate levy the lab shares with the Lorain County Drug Task Force.

The lab also is gearing up to begin offering drug testing for the county’s Domestic Relations Court and other county agencies that wanted the service. The county’s Forensics Laboratory, which had done that work, was closed down earlier this year by the county’s General Division judges, who oversaw it, as a cost-saving measure.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.



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