County Council considers panhandling ordinances - SSNL
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Proposals to regulate panhandling in Summit County townships are on hold after members of a Summit County Council committee questioned or disagreed with parts of the legislation June 11.
Council’s Rules Committee discussed the two ordinances put forth by County Executive Russ Pry and Councilman Nick Kostandaras (D-District 1). Kostandaras said he was motivated to do something to regulate panhandling after personal experiences with panhandlers and at the request of some township officials.
The cities of Akron and Fairlawn have their own panhandling laws, but the county’s efforts would help townships that are also seeing individuals engaging in the activity, especially in high-traffic shopping areas, Kostandaras said.
The first piece of legislation proposes that panhandlers register with the county’s Office of Consumer Affairs. They would be required to pay a $10 fee and provide two passport-size photos, government-issued identification, their Social Security card and a statement as to whether they have been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic offense. They would be issued an identification badge that they would be required to wear.
The second ordinance specifies what is prohibited in panhandling and states that a panhandler cannot be within 25 feet of intersections, entrances and exits for parking lots, bus stops, automatic teller machines, at gas stations, convenience stores, liquor stores, check-cashing businesses and self-service car washes.
It also states that a panhandler must wear a reflective safety vest and can panhandle from 9 a.m. to sunset.
Several committee members noted that some of the regulations appeared punitive. They also noted that laws in Akron and Fairlawn don’t require applicants to pay a fee or wear a safety vest.
“If I were a panhandler, I’d move into Akron,” said Councilwoman Paula Prentice (D-District 8) in regards to those requirements.
Kostandaras said he’s been told that many panhandlers work for a company and earn money for their efforts. That assertion raised the ire of Councilwoman Tamela Lee (D-District 5), who asked Kostandaras if he had the name of the company.
“If there’s a company, that company is guilty of fraud and tax evasion,” she said. “If there is a company, we have to go after them.”
Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro (D-at large) said she’d like to see some kind of training offered to those who are resorting to panhandling, while Gloria Rodgers (R-District 3) said she thinks people have a right to give money to whomever they want.
Committee Chair Tim Crawford (D-District 7) asked members if they wanted to amend the proposed ordinances, but instead Prentice asked for time so that Council members have a chance to consider them. Also, Councilman John Schmidt (D-District 2) asked that the Prosecutor’s Office issue an opinion as to whether the proposed ordinances are constitutional.
In other business, the Public Works Committee recommended Council adopt a resolution allowing the county to execute an Ohio Public Works Commission grant application and associated documents with the city of New Franklin for the realignment of the state Route 619 and South Turkeyfoot Road project. The project is estimated to cost $575,000, and the county share will be $50,000, according to the legislation. New Franklin’s share will be $125,000. [See related New Franklin City Council meeting report on Page 1 for more on the project.]
Heidi Swindell, of the Summit County Engineer’s Office, said the project will address problems such as congestion in the left-turn lane at the intersection.
In addition, the Public Safety Committee recommended Council adopt an ordinance that would make the owners of property where illegal drug manufacturing labs have been found to incur the costs for cleanup.
Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry, said the Summit County Sheriff’s Office requested the ordinance.
“Any time the safety forces go in to a drug lab bust, it’s typical that there are hazardous materials that need to be cleaned up,” Dodson said. “This will allow the Sheriff’s Office to bill the owners of the property where a cleanup did occur.”
The fee will be capped at $1,200, he added. In addition, owners will be charged a $200 administrative fee for the department’s time, Dodson said.
Also Monday, the Committee of the Whole recommended Council adopt a resolution that allows the renewal levy for Summit County Children Services to be placed on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot.
Summit County Council will meet June 18 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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