Saturday, August 30, 2003

Tiny village in jeopardy as new law takes effect

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - State Auditor Betty Montgomery is assigning staff to begin studying whether to dissolve New Rome under a new state law widely assumed to be aimed at the village known as a 1,000-foot speed trap.

Under the law that took effect Friday, courts have the power to dissolve small villages whose officials are found to be incompetent or corrupt by the state.

Montgomery's action is the first step to dissolving New Rome, where residents voted 21-11 in November against dissolution.

"This is the most serious action we can take against any political subdivision," Montgomery said. "Although I have great respect for local control, we must take action when citizens are served so poorly as they have been in the case of New Rome."

The state attorney general may request dissolution of a village of less than 150 people if the state auditor has declared it in a fiscal emergency for three straight years or if an elected official has been convicted of theft in office at least twice in 10 years.

A village also may be dissolved if it does not provide at least two services typically provided by municipalities, such as fire and police protection, garbage collection and water or sewer service.

Since Gov. Bob Taft signed the law, the village's mayor's court and police department, which once generated $400,000 a year in traffic fines, have been disbanded. The Ohio Department of Transportation removed New Rome's only traffic light along U.S. 40 in July.

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