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County considers changes to Consumer Affairs office

3/14/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County Council members discussed but held off recommending adoption of legislation that would change how the county’s Office of Consumer Affairs is structured during a March 11 committee meeting.

Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry, told the Rules Committee that when the office was created about eight years ago, it was put under a board made up of county officials and eight other members appointed by the executive.

Now Pry’s office is proposing that the board be dissolved and the Consumer Affairs office staff report to Pry’s director of Law, Insurance and Risk management.

Cynthia Sich, director of Consumer Affairs, told the committee that dissolving the board would not be a problem, as the office is now well-established with a slate of programs. And since the office often confers with the law director over issues it comes across, the change would make sense, she said.

But Gloria Rodgers (R-District 3) raised concerns that the office should have a relationship with members of the community in some way.

“It’s good to have input,” she said.

Dodson said the Executive’s Office would not have a problem with establishing some kind of advisory board for the office.

Rodgers suggested that four to five people who are not involved in county government help advise the office.

The committee moved to put the change on time so that the idea of an advisory board could be worked out.

In other business, Council’s Public Safety Committee recommended Council adopt a resolution authorizing a one-year contract in the amount of $86,900 with the county’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board for the Sheriff’s Office to provide the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) program this year.

Bill Holland, of the Sheriff’s Office, said the contract helps pay for two deputies and a sergeant to conduct the program in schools in Green and Coventry, as well as several local Catholic and private schools.

In addition, the Planning and Economic Development Committee recommended Council adopt a resolution that will allow a property owner in the McKnight Park Subdivision in Springfield to consolidate two lots.

The Health and Human Services Committee recommended that Council adopt a resolution allowing a contract with the city of Akron to provide homeless prevention services from April 1 through Sept. 30.

Steve Zimmerman, assistant director of administration and finance for the department of Job and Family Services, said the $175,000 contract would see the county use Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds for programs already administered by the city to help those who are close to becoming homeless.

The committee also recommended Council adopt a resolution allowing a contract with Mature Services to provide adult and dislocated worker employment services from this April through June 2014 at a cost of $260,750. Zimmerman said 175 clients ages 50 and older would be served through the program.

Zimmerman was also asked if the county would again organize summer youth employment this year. He said plans call for the program to be offered, but funding for it is not yet determined.

In other business, Council President Jerry Feeman (D-District 6) said Akron Zoo President and CEO Patricia Simmons has asked to address Council and has also invited Council to the zoo March 19 at 8:30 a.m. to see improvements from the last few years. The zoo’s current tax levy is expiring soon, and Feeman said officials there are considering their options to be on the ballot in November.

Members noted that in addition to the zoo, Metro Parks, Serving Summit County and the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board are likely to be on the ballot this year as well.

Also Monday, Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro (D-at large) briefly discussed the trip to China she took with the Mayors Association of Portage, Summit and Stark Counties Feb. 27 through March 10.

Shapiro said she and the delegation visited cities including Shanghai and Beijing and visited the office opened by city of Akron officials there.

County Council will next meet March 18 at 4:30 p.m. for caucus, followed by the regular meeting in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, located at 175 S. Main St.

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