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Norton resident files petition over web broadcast of meetings

4/11/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Also, South Cleveland-Massillon Road waterline project moving forward

Norton resident William Paluch, not happy with Council meetings being streamed over the Internet, is pushing to have City Council meetings broadcast on live TV.

To that end, Paluch filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the 9th District Court of Appeals April 1, naming Mayor Mike Zita as respondent.

His filing cites Article III, Section 3.20, a portion of the city’s charter that was added after a citizen petition requiring Council meetings to be televised live was approved by voters last fall. The approved ballot measure gave city officials 60 days to comply by broadcasting all Council meetings, work sessions and workshops twice weekly.

“To this date no such compliance of the ordinance has been achieved,” according to a copy of Paluch’s filing.

Council OK’d live streaming over the Internet as the mode of compliance with the charter amendment Jan. 28, after hearing an interpretation of the requirements from Law Director Peter Kostoff. At that meeting, Kostoff said the requirements didn’t include language explicitly defining televised as meaning via cable or the web.

“Given this lack of definition, the city has broad discretion to comply,” he said. “Whatever method the City Council determines to implement, it doesn’t require the city of Norton to broadcast meetings on Time Warner Cable or be capable of reaching 100 percent of the city.”

Paluch told Council at the April 8 meeting he does not believe cable, DISH or satellite would satisfy the ordinance — only local television, he said.

According to the filing, Paluch seeks the writ of mandamus, as well as invalidation of all legislation passed from Jan. 4 until the time when meetings are televised.

Kostoff didn’t comment on Paluch’s filing, other than to say that it had been received and is being reviewed.

Also at the meeting, the mayor led off a discussion among city officials regarding a waterline replacement project beginning on South Cleveland-Massillon Road.

“I need some advice,” he told Council.

Council approved entering into the joint project with Barberton this past December to replace the waterline along 31st Street Northwest and South Cleveland-Massillon Road, to take place in front of Dayton’s Flower & Garden Center, as well as Milich’s Village Inn and the Budget Muffler Shop.

However, at Council’s March 25 meeting, business owner Susan Dayton asked that the project be delayed until at least August. She said she only found out the work would be happening when she saw a sign go up recently.

To help shield Norton businesses from a drop off in business during an expected busy season, Council members all signed a letter dated March 27, addressed to Barberton City Council members and Mayor William Judge, asking the project be rescheduled.

In the letter, Council stated its belief that people will look for another route rather than navigate around the construction “and therefore bypass the businesses with their dollars.”

At Council’s April 8 meeting, Zita read a letter he received in response from James Stender, Barberton’s utilities director, citing estimates up to $200,000 to stop and restart the work.

Stender, who was present at the meeting, added that since the two cities collaborated on the project, they were able to receive a no-interest loan, which would shoot up to 8 percent if they default on the contract.

Norton’s share of the project is approximately $1,055,000, according to an amended agreement for the cost of the project approved by Council March 4.

Zita said he took issue with Council’s letter to Barberton officials, since dollar amounts for delaying the work hadn’t yet been presented.

Stender noted that while the road will remain open, though reduced to one lane with flaggers directing traffic during the workday, and both lanes will be open in the evenings and on weekends.

The project should be complete by July, according to Stender.

Councilman Todd Bergstrom (Ward 1) suggested efforts be made to provide better signage, including possibly an electronic one, to make it clear the businesses are open.

“We need to find a way to help the situation now,” said Bergstrom. “We can’t afford to stop it.”

Ultimately, Council voted 5-2 to give Norton administrators authority to mitigate the situation, without defining the method precisely. Members Charlotte Whipkey (at large) and Bill Mowery (Ward 3) cast the dissenting votes.

Kostoff noted any spending over $15,000 would need to be approved by the Board of Control.

Whipkey asked what could be done to offset the income losses expected by the businesses, but that discussion fell flat.

In communications from the public, resident Rick Rodgers asked if the city manager’s position is only open to city residents.

The mayor responded he believes that to be the case, as outlined in Norton’s charter.

Councilman Don Nicolard (Ward 2) also commented on the subject briefly, noting that though the requirement is in the charter, he doesn’t think it would hold up in a court.

Resident Dennis Kornacki asked Council about the possibility of having catch basins and storm sewers cleaned out.

“We need to find out if this is going to help the [Environmental Protection Agency] situation,” he said, arguing that doing so would help to determine where pollution is coming from.

Paluch also weighed in on the ongoing discussion on sanitary sewers, asking if Council spent $650,000 on engineering fees without applying for federal, state or city of Akron-funded grants.

“I was aware of no help at all,” answered Mowery.

“It’s all your money,” noted Nicolard, of government money, whether from federal, state, city, or county. “It doesn’t matter where it comes from — it’s your money,” he added.

Council next plans to meet for a work session April 15 and for its regular meeting April 22, both at 7 p.m., in Council Chambers at the Safety-Administration Building, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

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