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West Side News & Notes

6/20/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Two city of Akron cabinet members retiring

Richard Merolla
Laraine Duncan
Photos courtesy of the city of Akron
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Mayor Don Plusquellic announced June 14 that two veteran cabinet members are retiring later this summer: Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff Richard Merolla and Deputy Mayor for Intergovernmental Relations Laraine Duncan.

According to a city press release, the mayor has been discussing these changes with Merolla and is considering a list of candidates to fill the positions.

Merolla began his career with the city in 1973 as an economist in the Department of Planning and Urban Development. In 1986, he was named budget director and in 1993 was appointed by Plusquellic as the director of finance. Merolla left city hall in 1997 for the private sector, joining Deloitte Consulting as a senior manager in the company’s public sector practice until June 2000, when he became chief operating officer of Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs.

Merolla returned to the city in 2007 as the director of public service, overseeing more than 600 employees, and held this position until becoming deputy mayor last December. According to the press release, when approached to become deputy mayor when Dave Lieberth informed the mayor of his impending retirement, Merolla made his own planned retirement date known to Plusquellic, but Plusquellic wanted Merolla at the helm nonetheless.

“Rick was the right person at the right time to become my chief of staff,” Plusquellic stated in the press release. “He is a loyal, hard-working public servant who had the knowledge to step right into [retired] Dave Lieberth’s shoes and keep the city moving forward. I am losing a great employee and friend.”

“I have been honored to serve under Mayor Plusquellic’s leadership in a number of positions at City Hall,” said Merolla. “Because of these different roles, I have also had the pleasure of working with many great [City] Council representatives, cabinet members and city employees. Akron is a great city, and I am glad to have played a small part.”

Duncan joined the mayor’s staff in 2001 as an assistant to the mayor and was appointed as deputy mayor for intergovernmental relations in January 2004. Before joining the mayor’s staff, Duncan was the director of guest services for the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and prior to that, she was executive director of the Akron/Summit/Medina Private Industry Council.

“Laraine was an integral part of the implementation of the recommendations from the Imagine.Akron: 2025 project,” Plusquellic said. “She has since been in charge of maintaining relations and interacting with other elected officials throughout Summit County and on the state and federal levels. She has also worked as Akron’s education liaison, overseeing the Akron After School program and the massive rebuilding project of the Akron Public Schools. She has served well the citizens of Akron here at city hall.”

“It has been a genuine privilege to work with Mayor Plusquellic and serve the residents of Akron,” said Duncan. “Working with talented fellow cabinet members, Council and city employees has been rewarding. I am grateful I was able to participate.”


Metro Parks officials move forward with renewal levy

WEST AKRON — Metro Parks, Serving Summit County commissioners voted June 17 to place a seven-year renewal levy on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot.

According to park district officials, the property tax would annually collect $15.8 million — an amount certified by the Summit County Fiscal Office earlier this month — for the day-to-day maintenance, development and improvement of Metro Parks properties, beginning with tax year 2014 (collection year 2015) and continuing through 2020 (collection year 2021).

County voters approved the current levy at the rate of 1.46 mills in November 2006. Metro Parks spokesperson Nathan Eppink said the issue on the fall ballot is a renewal of the current tax, which funds capital and operating expenses for the 11,500-acre park system and is the only local source of public money. 

“We manage 14 parks and more than 125 miles of trails that are enjoyed by more than 5 million people every year,” Eppink said. “We’re not only stewards of natural resources, but also financial resources, and the voters believe we do a good job with their hard-earned dollars.”

Since the last levy campaign in 2006, Metro Parks officials said the district has completed projects such as a complete renovation of the Visitors Center at the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, added a new parking area for the jogging trail in Sand Run Metro Park, and worked with park partners to complete the Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath Trail in Summit County.

Throughout the parks, restrooms, parking lots and trails have been upgraded and improved, officials added.

Eppink said the next step is for Metro Parks officials to forward a copy of its resolution with the ballot language to the Summit County Board of Elections.

For more information, go to summitmetroparks.org or call 330-867-5511.


Ohio BMV offers installment plan for license reinstatement

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will soon begin a reinstatement fee installment plan for residents who have lost their license and have met all of their reinstatement requirements but have not been able to pay the reinstatement fees.

Effective July 15, the BMV will offer the plan, which will allow eligible drivers to renew, become valid or permitted to retest for their driver’s license.

In order to qualify for the installment plan, individuals must owe at least $150 in reinstatement fees, have met all other reinstatement requirements, show current insurance and pay a minimum payment of at least $50 every 30 days. Individuals may obtain an application online, at any Deputy Registrar, Regional Reinstatement office or through the mail.

Once approved, the individual’s license status will change to an expired, valid or eligible to test status. Once the applicant obtains a valid license, it will remain valid as long as the payment of at least $50 every 30 days continues to be made and no additional suspensions are placed on the record, according to BMV officials.

For details on the installment plan or to request an application, call 614-752-7600 or go to www.ohiobmv.gov.


Art, antiques available at Probate Court auction

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County Probate Court will hold a public auction on June 27 to sell a variety of items accumulated in the court’s offices during the past 30 years, according to court officials. 

The auction will be held at the Summit County Courthouse, 209 S. High St. The public preview will begin at 4 p.m., and the auction will start promptly at 5 p.m.

Probate Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer said the court is hoping to sell many of the items to help pay for court upgrades, such as replacing carpet, providing new signage for court visitors and creating a more user-friendly environment for those who visit the court.

“We have 27 beautiful clocks, including five grandfather clocks, that would look beautiful in the right home or office setting,” Stormer said. “There is beautiful artwork, bronze statues, antiques, antique leather chairs and marble-top tables all looking for a good home.” 

Up for auction also are three solid-oak roll-top desks.

“They are amazing examples of craftsmanship, but unfortunately, not very practical in a busy office setting,” Stormer said.

Other items include electric trains and other furniture pieces.

Young’s Auction Service is conducting the sale, and an inventory of all auction items can be viewed at www.youngsauctionservice.com. Terms of payment are cash or check only.


Summit County named pilot county to provide program

SOUTH AKRON — This year in Summit County, foster youths aged 15-18, as well as former foster youths and emancipated youths aged 18-21, will receive paid employment, educational support and mentorship opportunities to support them in their transition from foster care to adulthood thanks to a state and local partnership called Connecting the Dots.

A total of nearly $6 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding will be made available to five Ohio pilot counties (Summit, Cuyahoga, Montgomery, Hamilton and Lake) during the next three years by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS). Locally, the Summit County DJFS will act as the fiscal agent to administer the program and its $537,000 budget. Eligible foster and emancipated youths to take part in the program will be identified each year by staff from Summit County Children Services (SCCS), which will work with Summit DJFS staff to ensure employment and educational opportunities for participating youths.

In Summit, the program officially began this month with a two-week Connecting the Dots Camp held at SCCS and at the DJFS Job Center. Participants at the SCCS portion of the camp were scheduled to learn about independent-living skills such as housing, healthy relationships and identifying available community supports. During the DJFS portion of the camp, the same participants were scheduled to learn about career planning and assessment, academic support, résumé writing and interviewing skills.

At the conclusion of the two-week camp, participating youths are automatically enrolled in a summer youth employment program offering 10 weeks of paid work experience. They also will be linked with a mentor (through Big Brothers/Big Sisters), receive case management services and also will be eligible for an additional 10 weeks of work provided through Goodwill Industries of Akron during the upcoming school year.


City of Akron seeking new PeaceMakers class members

DOWNTOWN AKRON — The city of Akron PeaceMakers, Mayor Don Plusquellic’s anti-crime youth program and youth volunteer group, is seeking new members for its 16th class.

The group was designed to help Akron’s youth discover the ways the government, police and other organizations work together to keep the community safe and to use this knowledge as a platform to promote peace in the city.

 “We are looking for teens that have an interest in preserving the future of Akron and would like to play a role in promoting the positive image of youth in our city,” said Billy Soule, assistant to Plusquellic in charge of community relations. “Sixteen of our members graduated from high school this June and are going off to various colleges and universities. We need to replace them and to grow at the same time.”

Soule said the program has grown to 75-80 active members since its inception in 2007. Within the last year alone, members of the PeaceMakers volunteered and participated in more than two dozen different community projects, participated in community events such as Akron Night Out and Neighbor’s Day Akron, and provided more than 3,500 total volunteer hours.

“These young citizens are successfully promoting peace in our city and actively making Akron a stronger, safer community,” Plusquellic said in a news release. “They are spending their free time mentoring middle school-aged youngsters and performing community service projects. We’re extremely proud of them.”

The PeaceMakers will hold two summer accelerated orientation sessions to welcome and prepare new members for service on the following dates: July 16 -19 and Aug. 6-9. To qualify, the young person should reside in the Greater Akron area. Only applicants entering grades nine through 12 will be considered.

The deadline for the first orientation session is July 10, and the deadline for second orientation is July 29. Application forms are available online at www.akronpeacemakers.org.

For more information, call Willa Keith at 330-375-2712 or Soule at 330-375-2660 or send an email to PeaceMakers@akronohio.gov.


Kathleen Folkerth and Stephanie Kist contributed to these reports.

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