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County considering new panhandling regs for townships

7/25/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County Council is considering new legislation that would not require panhandlers in the county’s townships to register.

Discussed in the Rules Committee meeting July 22, Councilwoman Tamela Lee (D-District 5), who heads the committee, said the proposed legislation was extensively discussed, with township officials providing input.

Last June, Council looked at legislation to regulate panhandling. Proposed at that time were requirements that panhandlers wear reflective safety vests and only panhandle from 9 a.m. to sunset, but neither of those items are included in the legislation now being considered by Council. That legislation also would have required panhandlers to register with the county’s Office of Consumer Affairs, pay a $10 fee and be issued identification badges.

“When we register somebody and allow them to be a panhandler, we are saying that they’re a business,” said Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro (D-at large).

“The townships said they were not interested in a regulatory component because the flipside of regulation is legitimization,” added Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry.

The proposed ordinance is strictly for identifying criminal offenses associated with panhandling, said Dodson.

“The legislation is written in a way that law enforcement of all of these townships and communities can protect their areas and the public,” said Lee.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit, in townships in the county, panhandling within 25 feet of any intersecting streets or crosswalks; entrances or exits of commercial establishments, including shopping plazas, churches, schools and libraries; bus stops; banks or ATM machines; restaurants with outdoor seating; and entrances or exits of “automobile service stations.”

Also considered unlawful would be panhandling while using public transportation.

According to the proposed legislation, penalties for first-offense violations would be a minor misdemeanor with fines of not more than $100 for each offense.

Also during the Rules Committee meeting, members recommended Council approve at next week’s meeting a new investment policy for the county’s Investment Advisory Board.

Revising policies adopted in October 2011, the new legislation would allow investments in debt interest issued by foreign nations, according to Jack LaMonica, of the Summit County Fiscal Office.

Debt interest issued by foreign nations will be allowed only in cases where it “is backed by the full faith and credit of that foreign nation, there is no prior history of default and the debt interest matures not later than five years after purchase,” according to the proposed policy.

“This is something I support,” said Councilman Bill Roemer (R-at large); however, he noted, there is a “small incremental additional risk” that goes along with the new policy, as well as “incremental opportunity.”

Also July 22, the Public Safety Committee recommended renewing a contract with Inmate Calling Solutions LLC for inmate pay phone services at the Summit County Jail, for the contract year beginning July 15 through July 14, 2014, at a commission rate of 70 percent.

Pam Murray, of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, said this is a second renewal of the contract. The county receives about $40,000 in revenue per month from inmate calls, she said.

During the Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting, several pieces of legislation were recommended for adoption.

The first was a resolution revising assessments for residents of Firestone Trace in Bath for drainage maintenance. Heidi Swindell, of the Engineer’s Office, said property owners are being billed correctly and their assessments will not change, and the resolution will allow paperwork to be corrected.

Also, the committee recommended a resolution stating condominium residents who live on Creekstone Parkway and Clifford Drive in Copley be assessed individually for drainage maintenance $119 annually.

The committee also recommended amending appropriations by $7,000 to allow money not needed for parking deck maintenance to pay for the demolition of the Veterans Services’ former offices on Park Street.

In other business, that committee also recommended for adoption two pieces of legislation related to the county’s land bank, the Summit County Land Reutilization Corp. (SCLRC).

One would amend the county’s codified ordinances to give the county fiscal officer and county executive authority to provide administrative services to the SCLRC.

The second would authorize a three-year agreement between the land bank and the county. The land bank will be the county’s agent in its reclamation, rehabilitation and reutilization of vacant, abandoned, tax-foreclosed or other real property within the county, according to Dodson. County employees would, therefore, manage the day-to-day operations of the land bank, said Dodson. Under the agreement, the land bank would pay the county $100,000 a year for 2013-15 for its services, he added.

Council will meet July 29 at 4:30 p.m. for caucus, followed by the regular meeting in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St. Committee meetings will next take place Aug. 5 at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers.

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