by Mike Jones

Vacancies Filled
Sylvania Township trustees have hired people to fill two key positions recently vacated in the township administration.

Karlene Henderson has been hired as manager of the township’s planning and zoning office, replacing Darryl Graus, who took a position with the Toledo Plan Commission. Henderson currently is the director of the law department of the city of Perrysburg, a post she has held for about three years. Prior to that, she was an assistant Lucas County prosecutor in the civil division, often working on zoning cases. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo in 1988 and graduated cum laude from the university’s law school in 2002.

Imran Mirza will replace Scott Smith who retired, as part-time supervisor of the finance department. Prior to taking the position with Sylvania Township, Mirza was an auditor for 31 years for the state of Ohio. Much of his work was concentrated on financial audits of townships, cities, and boards of education. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Indiana University and has been a CPA since 1990.

Burglary suspect arrested
A Lima, Ohio man has been indicted by the Lucas County grand jury on two counts of burglary and one count of attempted burglary last month in Sylvania Township’s Brookside subdivision. Eric Roberson, 37, was arrested by Farmington Hills, Mich., police after they were informed by Sylvania Township, using a tracker on his car, that Roberson was headed in their direction. Sylvania Township Detective Robert Colwell said the arrest was the result of cooperation by a number of police agencies who had all been working on a spate of similar break-ins in their communities.

After the local burglaries, the detective put out images from a security camera from the attempted burglary in Brookside. Although the suspect wore a mask, jacket and long sleeves, a Bowling Green police officer said he saw similarities with a person he had once arrested. Sgt. Colwell got in touch with the suspect’s parole officer and was able to get sufficient information to extend the investigation and eventually to obtain a warrant for a tracking device to be placed on his car.

On the night of his arrest, “We saw he left Lima and we thought he might be headed here, but when we saw he was continuing north, we got in touch with the police around there we had been working with.” Before the suspect reached the neighborhood in which he was arrested, several officers were already in the area waiting for him. After an attempted home invasion he was placed in custody.

Sgt. Colwell said that of the burglaries with which he is charged as well as crimes still under investigation they were invariably committed at houses that were not locked. They were usually in upscale neighborhoods and the only theft was cash. Homes were usually left undisturbed and for some victims, it took some time before they put circumstances together and recognized there had been a theft.

The sergeant noted that other agencies were kept up to date on the investigation involving the suspect. They too were ready to react if the vehicle with the tracker had headed to their jurisdiction.

Among other items seized from the suspect was his cellphone. The sergeant said authorities are now checking it to determine his past locations and if they match with the site of other burglaries. In addition to the Lucas County indictment, the sergeant said Roberson has been charged with home invasions in both Wayne and Oakland counties in Michigan. He noted as police examine data from Roberson’s phone, he may face additional charges in several other jurisdictions.

Sylvania Township Police Chief Paul Long said that a lesson to be learned from the events is to lock your house and your car. “We’re glad people feel safe and secure here, but there isn’t anyplace immune to a guy like that.” He noted that the security camera that caught the image eventually leading to his arrest was of him approaching a sliding glass door at a patio. “When he pulled on the glass slider and it didn’t open, he walked away. He was just interested in easy access, get money out of a wallet or purse, and get out.”

The chief added that he was very proud of the work his department did on the case and with the input and cooperation of other police agencies.

By a 2-1 vote, Sylvania Township trustees have voted against a potential issue on November’s ballot that would have imposed a 0.4 percent sales tax and removed property tax as a funding mechanism for TARTA. In addition to outlining a new funding procedure, the resolution, which was voted down, would have made Lucas County a member of the transit authority. That would have allowed for county-wide service and for a county-wide ballot issue. Voters would have had to approve the changes before they took effect. Voting against the resolution were chairman Neal Mahoney and trustee John Jennewine. Trustee John Crandall voted in favor of the measure.

James Gee, general manager of TARTA, told trustees that the increased income from the sales tax was necessary to maintain current levels of service and to expand the authority’s services. He added that setting the sales tax at 0.3 percent would not raise enough funding for now or the future. He added that state law demanded that any sales tax be enacted on increments of 0.1, meaning they could not ask for something like a 0.35 sales tax increase. Had the plan been implemented, income from local taxes was estimated to rise from $13 million to $25 million and that was too much for the trustees voting against the resolution.

Mahoney said he was troubled by the fact that the move would have established a new tax on citizens and that he was bothered by “the number.” TARTA officials had argued that the increase in revenue wouldn’t be solely from current taxpayers, but would be spread throughout the county and also would be collected from visitors to the county.

During the trustees’ discussion of the issue, a member of the audience who had spoken in favor of the proposal said she was there just asking that the trustees allow the issue to go to the public for a vote.

Jennewine said he had been elected by residents of Sylvania Township and local control would be lost if the issue was subject to a county-wide vote. Township residents could vote against the plan and it could still be imposed because of voters in other parts of the county, he said.

John Crandall said his vote was based on his position that the voters should decide the matter.

For the issue to have gotten on the ballot it would have required the approval of each of TARTA’s members. In addition to Sylvania Township, the entities are: Sylvania, Maumee, Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Rossford and Waterville. The only two entities that had voted on the issue prior to Sylvania Township, were Maumee and Ottawa Hills. They both voted unanimously in favor of the plan.