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Akron preparing for Röchling expansion, new businesses

6/7/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Also, APD getting new tool for high-risk incidents

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron is preparing for new businesses to move into the Massillon Road Industrial Park, which is located in the Akron-Springfield Joint Economic Development District.

Akron Public Service Director Rick Merolla discussed legislation before Akron City Council June 4 that seeks approval to design and construct sewer, water and road extensions in the Massillon Road Industrial Park.

The infrastructure project seeks to expand amenities created for German-based Röchling Automotive USA, which opened a $15 million, 75,000-square-foot plastics manufacturing plant in the park in January, promising to generate more than 100 new jobs, according to city officials.

“We expanded for Röchling,” said Merolla. “Now we are preparing for the rest of the park. We are going to need this.”

Merolla said the estimated $1.6 million project cost will be recouped through property and income taxes to be collected from new tenants. The expansion work is partly for Röchling, which is already expanding, he said.

Deputy Mayor of Economic Development Bob Bowman said new tenants are expected to move into the industrial park and bring new jobs to the area, but he said he could not provide more details as this time, as negotiations are under way.

The legislation was placed on the consent agenda to be voted on at the next Akron City Council meeting.

Council did vote to suspend the rules and adopt on first reading legislation to authorize the mayor to accept an $11,445 Summit County Emergency Management Agency grant that will be used to purchase a tactical robot for the Akron Police Department’s (APD) Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.

Malinda Sampsall, planning and research representative for the APD, explained to Council the small, rugged remote-control unit, called the RoboteX AVATAR Micro, will allow first-responders to “safely and quickly inspect dangerous situations.”

The 23-pound unit measures about 27 inches by 16 inches by 6 inches, has two infrared cameras, a headlight and UHF, audio and video links. It can transmit audio from police to whoever is near the unit.

The unit can traverse water, climb stairs, navigate through debris and be thrown through a window, and while it is not bullet proof, it is rugged and can take a beating, Sampsall said.

“No other law enforcement agencies in the area have this,” she said. “This will be used in high-risk situations for surveillance and will keep our officers out of harm’s way.”

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office has a bomb-detection robot that is much larger, according to Councilman Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10), who retired last year as chief deputy of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

Sampsall said the unit will be used by the APD and the Akron Fire Department’s hazardous materials unit, and could be used by other police and fire departments upon request.

The unit comes with training, which will be opened to area law enforcement and fire department personnel.

The next Akron City Council meeting will be June 11 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, located on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings will begin at 2 p.m., also in Council Chambers.

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