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Norton residents show anger at City Council meeting

9/27/2012 - West Side Leader
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By John Benson

Norton residents voiced their opinions about several topics during the Sept. 24 meeting, including the anticipated Nash Heights sewer assessment project and free speech.

The former issue ended up being tabled, while the latter topic was seemingly on everybody’s mind after Council reversed a policy change regarding public comments.

Last month Council President Don Nicolard (Ward 2), using his authority as the Council president, moved the comments from the public portion of the Council meeting to the very end, just prior to adjournment.

However, after a large portion of residents complained at the last meeting, Nicolard reinstated the public speaking time to the beginning of the Council meeting. The entire issue drew the ire of resident Paul Tousley.

“I appreciate you moving it back, but I can’t stress enough letting the public be involved in the meetings,” Tousley said. “What happened here two weeks ago was despicable.”

After reading a portion of the Declaration of Independence and then quoting Thomas Jefferson, Tousley said to Nicolard, “You don’t look like you’re enjoying yourself. Why do you hold the seat?”

As for the Nash Heights sewer assessment topic, resident Karen Harley asked Council what grants have been applied for to help cover the public’s expenses. She then targeted City Administrator Rick Ryland about the city now telling affected residents they don’t have to tie into the sewer line if their septic tanks are in working order.

“That’s one of the things that’s really ticked me off,” Harley said. “If that had been brought up at the beginning, maybe it would have been a calmer scene. The way it was described at the beginning was, it was going to have to be done no matter what. You made all of us feel it was going to be all on our backs.”

She added if there were grant money or stimulus money made available, she would be in favor of the expense. However, she followed that up with a reminder to city officials the residents are hurting financially. In fact, Harley said she hasn’t received a raise in salary in years.

“Everybody has stated over and over, we cannot afford this,” Harley said. “There are too many seniors who live in the city of Norton. Too many of them will lose their homes. Even $12,000 or $13,000 assessed to taxes, we can’t afford it. If we have to move to have a decent life we will, and I’m sure there are a lot of other people in the city who are feeling the same way. Just rethink everything. Don’t force this issue down our throats.”

In other news, Mayor Mike Zita announced the 24th annual Norton Cider Festival, which will take place Sept. 28-30 at Columbia Woods Park, was renamed the John P. Moss Memorial Cider Festival. [See related story on the festival on Page 24.] Moss, who was Norton finance director and community development director, died two weeks ago in a motorcycle accident. [See related story in the online archives at www.akron.com.]

“The cider festival was very important to him,” Zita said. “He spent hours volunteering.”

The meeting ended with Councilman Todd Bergstrom (Ward 1) and Councilwoman Charlotte Whipkey (at large) vying for the position of Council vice president. After a vote of 4-3, Bergstrom was named vice president. Voting in favor of Bergstrom were Bergstrom, Nicolard, Scott Pelot (at large) and John Conklin (Ward 4). The latter was named as the replacement for the recently retired Councilman Ken Braman, who was vice president.

The next Council meeting will take place Oct. 9, instead of Oct. 8 due to Columbus Day, at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at the Safety-Administration Building, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

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