County Council Oks final land bank piece (Akron.com)

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County Council adopted the final piece of legislation for the county’s land bank project during its June 25 meeting.

During the Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting earlier that night, members recommended Council adopt the resolution authorizing and directing the Summit County Land Reutilization Corp. to submit an application and participate in the Ohio Attorney General’s Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program.

Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry, said the legislation will allow the land bank to apply for funds from the Attorney General’s office to demolish abandoned structures in the county.

The initial meeting of the land bank’s board of directors was scheduled to take place June 27. Dodson said he expected the board, led by Fiscal Officer Kristen Scalise, would authorize her office to apply for the funds.

“All of the steps have been put into place to create and get the land bank up and running,” Dodson said.

According to the agenda for that meeting, John Moore, of the city of Akron, will be named municipal director of the corporation, and Copley Township Trustee Helen Humphrys will be named township director.

Additional directors will be Council President Jerry Feeman (D-District 6) and Fred Wright, president and CEO of the Akron Urban League.

County officials have met with local government and school district officials, and so far there has not been any opposition to the land bank, Dodson added. Commitments from local communities have resulted in $1.65 million pledged so far, and the land bank will match that amount, Dodson said.

Council members received a county map during the meeting that showed the number of properties that are vacant, foreclosed and certified delinquent on taxes throughout the county. Dodson said there are more than 4,500 abandoned, vacant and blighted properties countywide, which the land bank would help address.

Also Monday, the committee left on time resolutions regarding the vacations of Wetmore and Oak Hill roads in Boston Township. Committee Chair Ilene Shapiro (D-at large) noted that Council received a letter from a Cuyahoga Falls City Council member who expressed concerns with school bus routes having to change, putting stress on local districts, if the roads are closed to traffic. [See related Cuyahoga Falls City Council report on Page 6.]

Feeman noted that buses should not be on the roads in question due to load limits.

Council also heard a report from Brian Nelsen, director of Finance and Budget, on the county’s financial status. Nelsen said the county is on track and within $80,000 of its projected revenues and $200,000 under budget overall.

Nelsen said he and Dodson met with Board of Elections (BOE) Director Joe Masich and Deputy Director Kim Zurz in May. After evaluating the BOE’s expenses the past few years, Nelsen said he was able to offer an amended budget amount of $5.4 million for this year. That’s $1 million less than the board requested but more than the Executive’s Office was initially ready to provide.

Nelsen said he has yet to hear back from the BOE officials as to whether they would accept that budget amount.

Councilman Frank Comunale (D-District 4) asked if Nelsen has considered the possibility of providing a small raise to county employees, who have gone without a raise for several years. Nelsen said he calculated what a 2-percent raise would do to the county’s financial status and found that it would put the county below the reserves its needs to maintain its bond ratings. A 1-percent raise also would put the county close to having insufficient reserves, he said.

Also during the meeting, Shapiro said she attended the event at PAWSibilities, the Humane Society of Greater Akron to dedicate its new medical suite June 20. She told Council she heard from many in attendance that relationships between animal welfare organizations and the county’s Animal Control Division have vastly improved during the past few years.

Regarding the possibility of Councilman Tim Crawford (D-District 7) resigning to take the county job of deputy director of the Department of Law, Insurance and Risk Management, Dodson said there have been no decisions made yet.

County Council will take its annual summer recess for most of July. Council will next meet July 30 at 5 p.m. for caucus and 5:05 p.m. for the regular meeting in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.

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