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County Council mulling peddler penalties

9/26/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — A proposal to make solicitors, peddlers and canvassers subject to criminal charges when not in compliance with county regulations was met with questions by members of Summit County Council Sept. 23.

During Council’s Rules Committee meeting, Bath Township Administrator Vito Sinopoli said the proposed ordinance amending Section 775.99 of the county’s codified ordinances is a way that law enforcement can deal with for-profit salespeople whose intentions may not always be good.

“As a former police officer, I dealt with a number of people coming into our community selling magazines, tree trimming and painting house numbers,” Sinopoli said. “Many are simply not legitimate.”

The county established guidelines a few years ago to regulate solicitors and peddlers. Sinopoli said townships such as Bath rely on the ordinance but have felt that its civil penalty for noncompliance is not harsh enough.

“This would provide the opportunity for law enforcement to regulate this type of activity to make sure they maintain the proper licensing,” Sinopoli said.

The proposed ordinance would make violators subject to a minor misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $100.

When asked if there have been discussions among townships about the need for adding a criminal penalty, Sinopoli said there have been some informal discussions, but the Township Association of Summit County has not formally been involved.

Councilman John Schmidt (D-District 2) said Council staff provided him information that shows the cities of Akron and Cuyahoga Falls have established that infractions of their soliciting laws are minor misdemeanors, and Sinopoli said he’d like to see that happen for the townships.

Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry, said townships in this case can choose to be under the county’s ordinance or they can create their own.

“This is very much an anomaly,” he said.

Dodson added that county officials will contact the nine townships to see if any of them have enacted their own ordinance, though he, Sinopoli and a representative of the Prosecutor’s Office said to their knowledge there have not been any efforts.

Sinopoli said by implementing a criminal penalty over a civil penalty, those who do not pay the criminal fine will be subject to arrest. As a civil penalty, those who are charged and don’t pay can be sued by the township, but Sinopoli said Bath has yet to take anyone to court over the matter.

The committee voted to put the legislation on second-reading only so further research could be done on the issue.

In other business, the Planning and Economic Development Committee held a public hearing and then voted to recommend Council adopt a resolution approving the issuance of Health Care Facilities Refunding and Improvement Revenue Bonds through Franklin County for Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services (OPRS). With the $300 million in bonds, plans call for using about $29 million for improvements at OPRS’ Rockynol in West Akron.

“We should be excited about this,” said Councilman Frank Comunale (D-District 4). “They have been exceptional neighbors, and they provide great stability to that community and neighborhood.”

Rockynol’s Executive Director Kara Hanzie said plans call for work to begin on the community’s skilled nursing facility in the spring and the assisted living area in 18 months.

The committee also recommended Council adopt a resolution allowing a renewal of a five-year lease with the Akron Area Arts Alliance (AAAA) for its space at the Akron Center Building. AAAA will pay $1 a year for the lease and 20 percent of the cost of utilities.

AAAA Executive Director Sandy Kreisman thanked the committee for supporting the lease and talked briefly about some of the organization’s current initiatives.

“Over the last year, we adopted a strategic plan with mindfulness toward inertia and growth,” Kreisman said.

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

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