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West Side News & Notes

10/4/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Fatal house fire takes place in Copley

COPLEY — The Copley Police Department is investigating a fatal house fire that occurred Sept. 27 at about 11:24 a.m.

The Copley Fire Department responded to 1554 Earhart Ave. on the report of a house fire. Earhart Avenue is south of Copley Road on the east side of the township near its border with Akron.

Fire Department personnel found the single-family home fully involved in the fire. Firefighters entered the home and found the homeowner inside a first-floor room. The homeowner has been identified as Edward Draher, 66. According to Police Chief Michael Mier, firefighters immediately removed Draher from the residence, while the home was still in flames, and determined he was deceased.

The fire was under control by 12:45 p.m., and police and firefighters remained at the scene to conduct an investigation, according to Mier. They were assisted by the Bath, Copley, Fairlawn Fire Investigation Team, the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office, the Ohio Bureau of Investigation (BCI) and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

Investigators have determined the fire was purposely set and that Draher died of a single gunshot wound to the head. The fire was discovered by a friend of the family who had come to the home and then contacted the fire department, according to Mier.

Mier said the home sits well off the road and is situated on a large lot. There were several outbuildings that were not damaged. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries, but no one else was injured. They were treated and released from an area hospital.

Police located firearms in the home, but have not determined which, if any, caused Draher’s injuries.

Mier said the Police Department does not suspect foul play at this time but also has not ruled it out.


Akron reaches tentative agreements with labor unions

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron officials announced Oct. 1 that the city’s four labor unions have discussed with Mayor Don Plusquellic a proposal to resolve all four collective bargaining agreements at the same time.

As a result, the city and the unions now have a tentative agreement, city officials said.

Plusquellic has met with officials from the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local No. 330; the Fraternal Order of Police, Akron Lodge No. 7; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local No. 1360; and the Civil Service Personnel Association.

The tentative agreement is subject to each union’s ratification process, which is expected to occur over the next two weeks. State law prevents the release of the specific terms until after ratification, Akron officials stated in a press release.


Bath Parks Fall Into Nature set for Oct. 13

BATH — The Fourth Annual Bath Parks Fall Into Nature Celebration will take place Oct. 13. This free event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The University of Akron field station located in the Bath Nature Preserve at 4240 Ira Road. 

Handicapped-accesible parking will be available at the event site; others can park at the trailhead, where shuttle vehicles will provide transportation to the celebration.

Beginning at 11 a.m., the Akron Ceili Band will perform traditional Irish music. At 11:30, CleverPup101 Family Dog Training will offer a Blessing of the Dogs for dogs who are crowd- and canine-friendly. Other pets can be blessed in absentia if pet owners would like to bring a collar, toy or object of affection.

New this year is a 1-mile fun run in anticipation of next year’s “Steeple Chase” in the parks.

Throughout the day, local community groups will offer information, games and activities, including face painting, pumpkin painting, hayrides, a story walk and free identification tags for dogs or cats. The Field Station will be open with UA students on hand. Seasonal foods will be available for purchase from Acme Fresh Catering, and fall mums and cornstalks also will be offered for sale.


METRO aces federal review

AKRON — In a recent Federal Transit Administration (FTA) review, Summit County’s METRO Regional Transit Authority was found to be free of deficiencies in 24 performance areas examined during the review, according to METRO officials.

Transit authorities receiving federal funding must undergo a system-wide review every three years. These reviews are done to make sure transit authorities like METRO are following FTA requirements.

“Getting a perfect score on the FTA triennial review is not an easy accomplishment,” said Richard Enty, METRO executive director. “A lot of behind-the-scenes work from METRO staff over multiple years made this possible.”

It’s not often that a transit company reaches this high-water mark, according to METRO officials.

“Perfect scores are very rare on a triennial review,” said Dean Harris, METRO director of finance.

The 24 areas the FTA investigates include maintaining buses and equipment; complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act; using American-made steel, iron or other products; preserving a drug-free workplace; and offering equal opportunity employment.

High review scores may help to secure the federal funds necessary for METRO’s possible transit expansion during the next 20 years, Enty said.

“The more we prove our services are valuable and needed, the better chance we have at getting grants, where the competition is always tough,” Enty said.

METRO’s possible areas of service expansion could include more frequent bus service and additional bus shelters along its busiest Market Street and Arlington Road routes. METRO’s 20-year plan also proposes new service into suburban areas in the outlying areas of Summit County.


Report finds area’s traffic congestion declining; project funding, too

DOWNTOWN AKRON — A sluggish economy, rising gas prices and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on transportation projects during the past decade might explain why traffic congestion in the Greater Akron area has improved in the last several years, according to the 2012 Congestion Management Process Report.

Released by the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS), the report also finds that — while area traffic levels will likely increase between now and 2035 as economic growth returns — new congestion problems shouldn’t.

However, the report also predicts it’s unlikely there will be a lot of project funding available to deal with new problems, at least in the near future.

The report identifies existing and future congestion in the Greater Akron area and presents recommendations to reduce or eliminate problems. The agency attributes recent declines in congestion to a combination of people driving less and local, state and federal government investments in the area’s freeways, arterials and intersections.

Transit Planner Nate Brugler notes that the completion of improvements on state Route 8 and Interstate 77 have resulted in improved traffic flow throughout the region. The completion of these projects frees AMATS to target the area’s project funds to other congested locations.

“Previous reports had more than 100 recommendations. Our latest report presents 25 recommendations targeting only the most congested areas in our region. This is consistent with our agency’s ‘fix-it-first’ approach, which stresses the importance of maintaining roads before expanding them,” Brugler explained.

Under this approach, costly roadway expansion projects are seldom embarked upon, typically only when congestion and safety problems are severe. The report recognizes that high-cost, large-scale projects are increasingly unlikely, due to fiscal realities, and that the area’s congestion problems will need to be addressed at a smaller and attainable scale.

Of the 25 recommendations presented in the report, Akron’s Central Interchange produces the greatest amount of congestion and, with an estimated $300 million price tag, is the most costly. However, if the total project were to be broken into a number of smaller projects, improvement of this top congestion priority becomes more attainable, according to Brugler.

“For example, the Ohio Department of Transportation is in the planning phase of closing one of our area’s most problematic ramps at Wolf Ledges Parkway and [Interstate] 76/77,” he said. “This project is on our report’s list of freeway recommendations and should address a portion of the larger congestion issue in that area. We’re encouraging projects like this, which should provide incremental improvement in freeway congestion at a manageable cost.”

The report will be a key element of the agency’s upcoming Transportation Outlook 2035, the area’s long-range regional transportation plan, according to AMATS officials. The report’s 25 recommendations are available for viewing at www.amatsplanning.org.


Akron SCORE to counsel student entrepreneurs at UA’s Taylor Institute

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron SCORE, which counsels small businesses in Medina, Summit, Portage and Wayne counties, will initiate a program of counseling students at The Taylor Institute at The University of Akron (UA).

“The Taylor Institute is furnishing us with an office that will enable us to give advice and counsel to the many students who want to start a business,” said Tom Duke, Akron SCORE chair. “The program, which we have named the Student Entrepreneur Mentoring (SEM) program, expands our service to students for the first time because of the great interest expressed by them.” 

All of SCORE’s workshops are being held at The Taylor Institute.

In practice, the students will sign up for counseling, and SCORE counselors will be available at the new office on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. SCORE counselor Michael Bonsiewicz will coordinate this new program.


UA presents Chinese culture awareness during fourth annual China Week

DOWNTOWN AKRON — A physics lesson in table tennis, a view of China through American eyes, a reassessment of Confucianism and feminism and other lectures, demonstrations and events will take place at The University of Akron (UA) during China Week, Oct. 8-15.

Jon Huntsman, former presidential candidate, U.S. ambassador to China and governor of Utah, will headline the week with the keynote address, “U.S.-China Relations in an Election Year,” Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at UA’s E.J. Thomas Hall.

According to UA officials, China Week underscores UA’s commitment to providing globally relevant and distinctive programs.

“China is a significant world power. It’s a significant player in the international world market. It’s a significant player in the world economy, and for our students who are stepping into this world economy, the more they can understand about China — the more they know about the language, the culture, the customs, the traditions — the more likely they’ll be successful as they move forward into the future,” said Holly Harris Bane, UA’s associate vice president for strategic initiatives and partnerships.

The weeklong lineup will begin with a tai chi session Oct. 8 at 8:30 a.m. at Buchtel Commons and end with a traditional Chinese dumpling party Oct. 12 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at The Chapel, 135 Fir Hill. In between, presentation topics will range from “An American Who Uses Chinese Language in Business” to “Chinese Poetry Slam Accompanied by Traditional Chinese Musical Performances.”

For a complete schedule of China Week events, visit www.uakron.edu/ci/china-week/index.dot or call 330-972-7570 for ticket information for the Jon Huntsman lecture.


Ariel Hakim and Stephanie Kist contributed to these reports.

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