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West Side News & Notes

5/24/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Akron creates Neighborhood Assistance Department

John Valle is director of the newly established city of Akron Neighborhood Assistance Department.
Photo courtesy of the city of Akron
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic created a new Neighborhood Assistance Department that he said would enhance the city’s neighborhood-oriented services.

The new department will encompass the city’s services that residents rely on to keep their neighborhoods safe, secure and clean, such as the 3-1-1 Citizen Service Request Call Center and its anonymous online nonemergency call center, according to city officials.

The department also will handle: environmental housing complaints and nuisance grievances; recreation and zoning issues; right-of-way obstructions; community policing matters; and the establishment and functioning of neighborhood block clubs and youth groups, among others, according to city officials.

“We are placing all of the city’s top neighborhood services under one umbrella, centrally locating the department in a downtown building that has attached one-hour free parking and staffing the department with seasoned employees that know our neighborhoods inside and out,” said Plusquellic. “This new department will be a user-friendly, one-stop shop for our citizens.”

Heading up this new department is Akron Deputy Service Director John Valle, whose new title will be director of the Neighborhood Assistance Department, according to city officials.

“John served on the steering and advisory committee of Akron’s 3-1-1 project and was actively involved in the planning of the project from its inception,” said Plusquellic. “He knows the neighborhoods of Akron as well as anybody and has a proven record of dedication to the causes and concerns of the people of Akron.”

Valle, 55, is a life-long resident of North Akron and represented Ward 1 on City Council from 1984 to 1989. In 1989, he was elected to an at-large seat, which he held until May 2001 to become the council clerk, according to city officials.

“My 28 years in government and the last six years as deputy service director have given me an insight to all the neighborhoods, and I will work with our citizens to help them tackle their neighborhood concerns,” said Valle.

According to city officials, Valle was employed by the F.W. Albrecht Grocery Co. for 27 years and served in a number of management positions at several Acme grocery stores.

“Even though this is a promotion to a level M8 ($122,824), there has already been a reduction in Service Department management level positions that totals over $1.5 million in savings annually,” said Plusquellic. “Over $250,000 is being saved per year in just the divisions that will make up the Neighborhood Assistance Department.”

Metro Transit Center renamed for retiring executive

The METRO Transit Center, shown below, was renamed the Robert K. Pfaff Transit Center May 16 in honor of its retiring executive director, Robert Pfaff, shown above.
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Local officials gathered May 16 to rename the METRO Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Transit Center the Robert K. Pfaff Transit Center, after its retiring executive director.

The ceremony was attended by Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic; Summit County Executive Russ Pry; Samantha Herd, district director for U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton (D-District 13); and METRO Board of Trustees President Saundra Foster.

The $17 million transit center is a transfer hub and provides protection from the weather for its patrons. The 14,000-square-foot building is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold-certified and offers a community meeting room, waiting area, restrooms, a café, vending machines and an ATM machine, and is Wi-Fi enabled. It became operational January 2009.

Pfaff said its opening was the most memorable moment of his 38 years of service for METRO.

“The board gave me the privilege to lead the agency, and it has been a fantastic ride and an honor to work for the public,” said Pfaff.

Pfaff added renaming the transit center in his honor was “the icing on the cake.”

According to METRO officials, Pfaff, of Green, started working for the organization in 1974 as a bus operator, was named road supervisor in 1976, became assistant director of operations in 1978 and director of operations in 1981. He has served as its executive director since 1995. Earlier this year, he announced he would retire Dec. 31.

A new leader for METRO RTA is expected to be named sometime this summer, according to Pfaff.

Under Pfaff’s leadership, countywide bus service was implemented in 1991 and Sunday service in 1995. An express commuter bus service to Cleveland was also added.

Foster announced a plaque recognizing Pfaff’s contributions now hangs in the transit center.

According to METRO officials, Pfaff serves on numerous boards, including Rebuilding Together Greater Cuyahoga Valley, Downtown Akron Partnership, Summit County Social Services Advisory Board, Visiting Nurse Services and Portage Path Behavioral Health Board, as well as the Ohio Transit Risk Pool and the Ohio Public Transit Association. He also volunteers for the Akron Host Lions Club, Leadership Akron Alumni and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

For more information about METRO bus service, visit www.akronmetro.org or call 330-762-0341.

Copley, Akron squads earn Star of Life awards

COLUMBUS — The Copley Fire Department and Akron Fire Department (AFD) EMS earned statewide recognition May 16 at the Star of Life Awards ceremony.

The Star of Life Awards honor exceptional EMS personnel from Ohio and reunites EMS providers with the patients they assisted, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), whose Division of Emergency Medical Services and the Ohio Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians joined forces for the event.

“Each day in Ohio, EMS providers save lives and perform countless acts of caring, kindness and service to their community,” said Ohio EMS Executive Director Jeffrey Leaming. “These awards are a tribute to those individuals and organizations whose overall contributions go beyond their basic duties and responsibilities and who represent the finest traditions of the EMS profession.”

The AFD’s EMS earned the honor as Paid/Combination Agency of the Year for overall performance, according to city officials.

“Competent and compassionate service to the community is our goal, and to be recognized with this prestigious honor affirms the commitment of the city to our citizens, and the skill and dedication of the men and women providing our service,” said AFD Interim Fire Chief Rob Ross. “We are humbled to receive this award and will continue to dedicate ourselves to caring for the Akron community.”

Attending the award ceremony on behalf of the AFD were Ross, Deputy Chief Dale Evans, Quality Assurance Coordinator Rita Chambers and Captain Joe Natko from the EMS Bureau.

Copley’s department was honored as a Regional Star for Region 8, according to the ODPS. Chief Michael Benson said the department was honored for its response in saving the life of Rebecca Dieter after the Aug. 7 mass shooting in Copley.

Benson added that Copley Township Trustee Helen Humphrys attended the event, along with Lt. Chuck Hrubik and firefighter/paramedics Jeff Kohn and Brian Abbot, who represented the group of paramedics who responded to the incident.

— By Kathleen Folkerth

‘Flash mob’ celebrates hunger campaign total

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Officials with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and other local officials celebrated the end of the most successful Harvest for Hunger fundraising campaign May 18.

Foodbank officials said this year’s efforts raised $925,549 as well as 117,000 pounds of food.

To mark the occasion, a “flash mob” of 40 Foodbank supporters, employees and board members spontaneously broke into a dance to Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” while Edward Roth, president and CEO of Aultman Health Foundation and co-chair of this year’s Harvest for Hunger campaign, gave remarks on the campaign. William Considine, president and CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital, was Roth’s co-chair.

“Today is all about celebrating the extraordinary efforts of the many individuals who played a role in making this campaign such a success,” said Dan Flowers, Foodbank president and CEO. “I continue to be amazed by the generosity and support of this community. We are extremely grateful.”

The funds and food will allow the Foodbank to provide more than 3.7 million meals to people in Northeast Ohio who are facing hunger, Foodbank officials noted.

More than 300 businesses and organizations held food drives to support Harvest for Hunger, they added. The top donor was the FirstEnergy Corp., while other significant contributors were Aultman, Akron Children’s Hospital and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. The largest food drive was conducted by the Medina County District Library, which collected 13,000 pounds of food.

Foodbank officials said the campaign also was aided by six supermarket chains that together raised $370,000 through Check Out Hunger, which allowed customers to contribute at the cash register.  

Foodbank officials said Harvest for Hunger is a collaborative effort of four Northeast Ohio food banks that is one of the largest food and fund drives in the country. For more information on the Foodbank, call 330-777-2309 or go to www.akroncantonfoodbank.org.

— By Kathleen Folkerth

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