Ilene Shapiro and Bill Roemer faced off in the Summit County Executive's race debate Wednesday afternoon at Quaker Station in downtown Akron, which was sponsored by the Akron Press Club. Democratic candidate Shapiro was appointed interim executive after the death of Russ Pry...she was county council president before that. Roemer, the Republican challenger, was previously a county council member himself. Shapiro said the county executive's biggest responsibility is fiscal responsibility.
"Taxpayer money that each and every one of you pay into the county, is what enables us to keep our budgets steady, to be able to monitor what we need to do, and to forecast what we will be able to do in the future," Shapiro said. "We have a strong fiscal responsibility." Roemer said for him, the biggest thing is keeping Summit County safe. "As a part of doing that, we've seen the sheriff's budget reduced significantly. We've seen a wing of the jail closed," Roemer said. "Those are items that need to be addressed immediately."
But Roemer and Shapiro disagreed on the costs of the closed jail wing.
Shapiro said there's a reason that the $3.5 million dollar cost estimate has been made...due to a legal settlement..."Part of the settlement in that was if we opened the pod, we would have to fully fund the jail, OK, the 50 officers," Shapiro said. "You do the rough math for the 50 officers, at let's say $60,000 without benefits or whatever, we're well over $3 million." Roemer said that he's talked with executives in the sheriff's office, and that the net cost would be lower. "The net cost, given the amount that we paid to Geauga County, the amount that we are currently paying to open a portion of that jail when needed, the net cost of that would be $700,000," Roemer said. "The $3.5 million figure cited is the figure that is needed to bring the sheriff's department funding to the 2008 level."
The candidates also talked about the sales tax increase which failed in 2014, which Roemer says he supported in its revised form because it supported law enforcement and the sheriff's office. Shapiro says she supported it before an arena proposal was removed, saying the county had a "window of opportunity" to fuel growth and the county's tax base.
Editor's note: the complete debate can be heard below.