Lake County Commissioners Ohio
Just two weeks into their terms, Lake County’s two new commissioners are still in the “assessment phase.”
“We’re looking to see what the resources of the county are and looking at what best business practices we can bring in terms of efficiencies, where we would be able to provide a fertile ground for economic development, ” Commissioner John Hamercheck said.
The former Madison Village councilman is joined by retired CEO Jerry Cirino as first-time commissioners.
“For the first time in recent institutional memory in this county, two-thirds of the members of this board has changed, ” Commissioner Daniel P. Troy said during the Jan. 9 reorganizational meeting.
As the two Republicans transition into the new roles, they’ve outlined some of their priorities for 2017.
Cirino is a first-time elected official and was selected president of the commissioners at the reorganizational meeting. His top priority is the safety and security of the community. His second priority ties into that: addressing substance abuse and related crimes. In the past two years, more than 100 people in Lake County have died from opioid overdoses.
The Kirtland resident said he wishes there was a button the commissioners could press, but of course the solution is not that simple. It’s a multi-faceted problem, he said.
“It has to do with prevention, it has to do with treatment, it has to do with law enforcement. There’s a lot of different angles to this and from the commissioners’ standpoint, we have to make sure we are properly funding law enforcement so we can make sure they’re doing their proper job.”
For the commissioners, it’s about funding within their budget responsibilities, Cirino said. It’s more than just funding the Sheriff’s Office, it’s about funding the Prosecutor’s Office, the judiciary, Job and Family Services and treatment centers.
Addressing opioid addiction is also a priority for Hamercheck, who will serve as the commissioners’ representative on the Lake County Narcotics Agency Board.
Hamercheck said the commissioners have had conversations with the Prosecutor’s Office, the judges and businesses leaders as well. He said businesses play an important role.
“There’s a component there on the recovery side, ” he said. “People need to have jobs.”
Hamercheck adds that addressing the opioid problem will help with economic development, because businesses want to invest in safe, healthy communities.
“Success brings success, ” he said.
Facing the challenges of the opioid epidemic is one that carries over from the previous board. Former Commissioner Judy Moran called the opening of the NEOCAP facility in Painesville Township the “crown jewel” of her time on the board. NEOCAP is a community-based, minimum security correctional facility that helps low-level offenders with issues like substance dependence, high-risk thinking, problem solving and anger control.
Cirino comes from a business background and economic development was a “prime issue” for him on the campaign trail, he said.
He’s concerned about the west end of the county. Wickliffe is likely to lose ABB Inc. within the next few years, though Mayor William Margalis said in December the company has not yet told the city of its plans.
“I think it’s more a rumor, we just don’t know when it’s going to happen, ” Wickliffe Finance Director Martin Germ said at Town Hall meeting in October. “But I think it’s safe to say in the next couple years we’re going to have to deal with that issue.”
Vacancies on Vine Street are another concern for Cirino on the west side.
He’s asked the Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority to start working on a plan to revitalize the west side of the county.
Cirino said they’re still fleshing out the details of the revitalization plan, but he said he wants to have community input on the plan.
He added he doesn’t want to make the same mistake that many cities and counties do and ignore the businesses that are already here.
Cirino said the economic development needs are not uniform across the county. On the east side, the needs are infrastructure related.
“We need to make sure we have the proper infrastructure and work with the townships and cities to make sure we can attract businesses and there’s the infrastructure there to support them, ” he said.
Another of Cirino’s priorities is “taking care of seniors and those in need.” By 2030, it is projected that one in three Lake County residents will be over 60 years old. He also wants to develop a closer working relationship with cities, townships and villages.
In addition, he wants to make sure that “all appointments are made with the best interest of the community in mind (and) that appointees understand their governance role within their organizations.” Finally, he said he wants county government to move more quickly.
The new commissioners take office as the county is planning on opening a new administrative building that would house the Lake County Engineer’s Office, the Building Department, Department of Utilities, Stormwater Management, Soil and Water Conservation District, and Planning and Community Development. Upon total completion, the county will close satellite operations that include the administrative offices of the Lake County Engineer’s Office and the Building Department.
They’re evaluating that project, which is still in the early stages.
“This is the time that if you’re going to make changes, you make changes now, ” Hamercheck said.
Hamercheck has a background in engineering and said that helps when reviewing the plans.
He said they’ve had discussions with stakeholders regarding the project and they’ve heard both positive and negative things regarding the project. He added that everyone involved in the project has been open and candid.
They’re looking at this cost of the project and if they invest in this project, what won’t they be able to do elsewhere, Hamercheck said.