Local governments are wary of budget hits from Columbus and Washington, and here's another possible hit.
Summit County Council passed a resolution Monday night urging the federal government to keep municipal bonds tax free.
District 1 council member Nick Kostandaras says that bonds being taxed would be a blow to local government budgets.
"And we don't want to see anymore put on the backs of the cities, the townships and the counties," Kostandaras tells AkronNewsNow.com, "in light of the fact that if they tax these bonds, we will be spending additional funds that we don't have."
Kostandaras says the bonds allow the county to borrow at lower interest rates, and that helps keep projects going.
He says the state and national groups representing counties are putting out the call, since lawmakers in Washington are kicking around tax changes that could affect local governments.
You can also soon add "paying Summit County Probate Court bills" to the list of things you'll be able to do online.
In other business, Summit County Council passed a law that would allow the county Probate Court to offer payment options to the public on its website via credit card or debit card.
District 5 council member Tamela Lee says a change in the Probate Court paved the way for the online payments.
"I really think it was just who was the head of the Probate Court at the time was more comfortable doing things the old fashioned way," Lee tells AkronNewsNow.com, "and we prefer to come into the 21st century now."
Lee says that when it's in place, the system will allow you to pay such things as guardianship fees and probate fees, and you can request copies without heading to downtown Akron.
She says the Probate Court is in the midst of doing computer updates, so it shouldn't take long to implement the online payments.
Also, Summit County Council approved a plan to lease 1,500 square foot of county storage space on East South Street to the Summit Veterans Council for a nominal fee, to help the yearly "Stand Down" event to help homeless veterans.
The lease will cost the veterans' group a dollar a year over a five year period.
Kathy Blouir with Summit County Stand Down says it's crucial to the group as it prepares for the September event.
"At different times, the organizations had to purchase storage areas for themselves," Blouir tells AkronNewsNow.com, "so this way, we'll be able to have one location for the entire shipment."
The group collects not only donations, but also gets surplus military supply shipments to give to homeless veterans.
Blouir says the Department of Defense requires them to keep close track of the surplus, and being in one central place will help.
County executive Russ Pry tells AkronNewsNow that the space on East South Street isn't otherwise being used by the county, and will be put to much better use helping the "Stand Down" operation.
Summit County Council has gone on record opposing a plan to increase truck weight limits on Ohio's state routes.
Council voted unanimously to oppose the state plan to increase weight limits from 80,000 pounds to 90,000 pounds. The increase is in at least one version of a transportation bill going through the statehouse in Columbus.
Heidi Swindell with the Summit County Engineer's Office says it's simple...even with more axles to carry the weight, heavier trucks mean heavier problems, and not just on state routes and interstates.
"All trips, all road trips, begin and end on local roads," Swindell tells AkronNewsNow.com. "So you're either on a township road, a county road, a municipal road, to get to the Turnpike or to the interstate."
Swindell says county engineer offices across the state are opposed to the change - and a state group representing them is leading the charge against it.
She says the weight language has been removed from the version of the bill in the Ohio Senate, but...
"But, it goes back to conference committee," Swindell explains, "and we have heard that the state House is going to try to reinsert that language at the conference committee."
The resolution passed by council means state lawmakers and Gov. Kasich will be notified of Summit County's opposition.
Swindell says 27th district state Senator Frank LaRose has taken a lead role on the issue in Columbus, and that numerous phone calls have been made and letters have been written.
She says she has heard from local counties across the state in their opposition to the increased weight limits, and hasn't heard from anyone supporting the higher weights.
Summit County officials are speaking out against the prospect of higher truck weight limits on state highways.
The limit on non-Interstate state routes would go up from 80,000 pounds to 90,000 pounds.
An advocate for the group "Coalition Against Bigger Trucks" spoke to Summit County Council.
Afterwards, council president Jerry Feeman - a former dock worker at a trucking company years ago - says the heavier trucks are a bad idea for roads the county has to maintain.
"The state highways and the interstates were built at different specifications," Feeman tells AkronNewsNow.com. "And the problem that I see, that extra weight is going to deteriorate our roads."
Heidi Swindell with the county engineer's office says that cost will expand beyond fixing existing roads.
"The roads are originally built to a certain set of standards, and those standards are right now, 80,000 pounds," Swindell tells AkronNewsNow.com, "When we build new roads, and we have to build them to 90,000 (pounds), they're going to be even more costly to even build new roads, not to even speak to maintaining and repairing that damage."
Feeman and Swindell say the state should step up to the plate with more road repair funding with a higher limit in place.
As expected, Summit County Council approved its end of a consent decree settlement over gender-based assignments for female sheriff's deputies.
The county will adjust the sheriff's department jail staffing budget over the next four years to pay 400-thousand dollars. to go along with the decree.
21 female sheriff's deputies said the county discriminated against them by assigning them by gender, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The agreement must still be approved by Judge Sarah Lioi.
Council members and officials say they can't talk about ongoing litigation.
County council also held its first "paperless" meeting, using iPads to deal with legislation and its supporting "paperwork".
It's part of a trend in local government - with Akron City Council among the bodies heading for paperless meetings.
Summit County wants to get a better handle on just how much road salt it uses during the winter.
As part of the county's upcoming capital budget request, the Summit County Engineers Office is looking to get nine loader scales to weigh how much road salt is on the trucks, before and after runs clearing the roads.
"We're trying to measure how much product is going down on the road, how long it's taking them on their route, et cetera," engineer's office director of administration Steve Bruno tells AkronNewsNow.com. "We need these scales to make sure we're keeping track of exactly how much product we're using up."
Bruno says that right now, measuring salt use is imprecise.
"Up to this point, it hasn't been that precise, because it's based on how many buckets of material is going into the truck," Bruno says. "Obviously we're tracking that, but it's not the precision that we're looking for."
Bruno says that the amount going into the buckets can vary depending on which driver is loading the truck.
The engineer's office is looking to spent about 45-thousand dollars on the loader scales, but could use less road salt due to the more precise measurements.
A local developer is pushing to create a "downtown" area in Tallmadge.
Testa Companies asked for support from Summit County Council Monday night for the planned "Tallmadge Town Center" project off Northeast Avenue.
The project will combine 62 senior apartments, 21 loft condos and 18,000 square feet of retail space.
The company's chief operating officer, Joel Testa, says that says it'll be built around existing city buildings in Tallmadge.
"By tying into the municipal building and the police building, bringing some medical uses, bringing retail, bringing housing to it," Testa describes to AkronNewsNow.com, "creating a boulevard, creating some common areas, that we're gonna to create kind of a 'Main Street' style downtown if you will."
Testa says Tallmadge officials wanted to do something to make the area around those buildings a focus of the community.
"So that was part of the goal when they came to us and said 'we've got the site, we'd like to see something developed,'" Testa says, "(the city said) that we're in desparate need of affordable senior housing, what can you do?"
Testa describes some of the possible retail uses at the planned "Tallmadge Town Center".
"We hope to find some type of food purveyors, whether it's casual dining, coffee shop, ice cream shop," Testa says, "generally we like to see the whole development come together as a cohesive unit. Things our residents would enjoy, as well as the community at large."
Testa says the project has all the needed approvals in Tallmadge, but says the company is reaching out to the community for input.
He says they'll keep an historic school building on the site, work to save it and make it a focus of the project.
Testa says Summit County executive Russ Pry has already written in support of the project, and that council members said at Monday's meeting that they'd do so as well.
Summit County is looking at its animal control ordinances because of changes in state law.
County council took a first look at the changes at its committee meetings on Monday night.
Council's Rules Committee approved several proposed changes to the county's animal control ordinances to conform with new state guidelines.
Jason Dodson, chief of staff to county executive Russ Pry, says one big change is that dogs are no longer considered "dangerous" just because they're a certain breed...
"So if you had a pit bull, it was automatically deemed a dangerous dog under the old ordinance," Dodson tells AkronNewsNow. "and so it creates those new classification systems which are actually based on the behavior of the dog instead of anything else."
House Bill 14 went into effect in May. It defines a legal process to determine if a dog is a nuisance dog, a dangerous dog or a vicious dog.
Dodson describes the due process that's part of the new law.
"In order for a dog to actually be determined to be a dangerous and vicious dog, the owner needs to be notified of that determination, and they then have the ability to challenge that determination in municipal court," Dodson says.
The local ordinances in Summit County would also change another way.
The county would remove laws dealing with exotic animals, since the recently passed Senate Bill 310 deals with wild animals in the state of Ohio.
"We took out references to dangerous, wild animals, exotic animals," Dodson says, "and basically said we're not going to have any sort of local regulation that's going to differ from the state, and said we're going to defer to the new state law."
Senate Bill 310 became law in early June. Dodson says local animal control officials rarely deal with exotic animals, and that they've been dealing with the state already.
The committee passage means the proposed animal control ordinance changes will face the entire Summit County Council next week.
The Summit County Council is now one step closer to getting state funded money for a program that destroys old, vacant houses and puts those empty lots into non-profit organizations hands for revitalization.
Jerry Feeman, District Six County Council person tells AkronNewsNow that the project has been put on the "fast track."
The meeting monday night simply concluded that Summit County can now submit an application to participate in the Ohio Attorney General's Moving Forward Grant Program.
Feeman tells AkronNewsNow, "When were done with the tear downs is work with the communities, identify properties and the land bank will be able to foreclose on the properties, work with non-profits like habitat and East Akron Community House and find users for these properties and get them back on the tax rolls"
In the past weeks the council began the process of considering participating in the program and then forming a council to vote on issues like they did tonight.
"I'm going to use The City of Akron as an example, they would identify what homes that they would like to use for this grant money to tear down this homes. Were not going to chooses the homes, it's going to come off their recommendation " says Feeman.
Now that the application has been passed, the next stage begins with meetings for the public to voice their opinions . This Wednesday, the 27th, will be the first meeting.
Owners of Summit County property where meth labs are found will have to pay for the cleanup.
Summit County Council approved an ordinance at Monday night's meeting...that charges back the cost of cleaning up chemicals and meth lab devices to those property owners in the county's townships.
Summit County Council president Jerry Feeman says that the county Sheriff's Department came to council for help.
"I know at one time, the Sheriff's Department said something to me about them spending just a phenomenal amount of money on the cleanup, and we were running short," Feeman tells AkronNewsNow.com, "so, they approached us quite some time ago.
Summit County Council president Jerry Feeman by MPWard
Summit County is dealing with the discovery of meth labs in the townships, much as the county's cities are also dealing with the problem.
Feeman says Summit County wants to be prepared as the meth lab problem grows outside the county's cities.
"Of course, our police have done a phenomenal job as far going after these folks that are cooking this stuff," Feeman says. "It's gonna catch on with the townships, too, and we'd rather be in place than not be in place, and paying out of pocket."
In other business, council approved vacating a small section of Stanford Road in Boston Township, where the land near one property will be maintained as a park road by the National Park Service.
The rest of Stanford Road and two other Boston Township roads, Wetmore Road and Oak Hill Road, that are considered for vacation... are on council's list for more time to consider the impact of vacating the roads.
County Council also honored the Northwest Akron Youth Baseball League, and gave commendations to Sheriff's Deputies Bill McKinney and Mark McElroy for saving a 3 year-old child from drowning in an Arizona hotel swimming pool, while they were there to bring a fugitive prisoner back to Ohio.
Another local government is trying to get a handle on panhandling.
Summit County Council is considering its own panhandling ordinance, shortly after the city of Fairlawn enacted its own law regulating panhandling.
Jason Dodson, chief of staff for county executive Russ Pry, says after Fairlawn enacted its own ordinance, panhandlers crossed the street.
"So what has happened, a lot of the individuals over in west Akron and the Montrose area have moved into Copley and Bath Townships over there," Dodson tells AkronNewsNow.com. "And so Bath Township in particular has requested we enact similar legislation."
Dodson says the proposed ordinances won't prohibit panhandling in the county's townships.
It would require panhandlers to register, and ban "aggressive panhandling"... such as panhandling within 25 feet of an intersection, in a bathroom, near a convenience or liquor store, or misrepresenting why they need money.
Dodson says the proposed law is mostly modeled on the law in Fairlawn and one proposed in Akron, but has some differences - like requiring panhandlers to wear reflective safety vests. That came from studying a similar ordinance in another city.
The proposed Summit County panhandling ordinance had its first reading Monday night at County Council.
Summit County Council is drafting a proposed ordinance to regulate panhandling.
County Council President Jerry Feeman tells AkronNewsNow, " Since Fairlawn did pass theirs I've had quite a bit of interest from Bath Township because they're (panhandlers) are walking from one side of the street to the other. So yes we are working on something right now."
Feeman says the County's law department is examining the legalities of a proposed ordinance which would regulate panhandling in townships and other unincorporated areas of Summit County.
" We've looked at anybody who has had the pandhandling ordinances out there, to try and look at what they have and make any changes that we feel that would benefit the townships and the unincorproated areas,"says Feeman.
Feeman says he's examining Fairlawn's month-old panhandling ordinance and also talking to Akron and other communities that are considering their own panhandling ordinances. "We've inquired of the city of Akron to find out what they're working on, you know not to re-invent the wheel, but to at least accomplish the same goal that everyone else wants to accomplish concerning the panhandlers. I know Akron has part of that taken care of. I know they make those folks register and things like that, and I think they're going to expand on it."
Akron's ordinance has been tabled in committee after the American Civil Liberties Union complained that certain new restrictions on panhandlers would violate their first amendment rights.
Jerry Feeman says the drafting of such an ordinance is now in the final stages and could be introduced for debate and a vote soon.
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