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County Council mulls peddler penalties

9/26/2013 - South 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 township law enforcement officials 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 rely on the ordinance but Bath officials believe 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 recommended Council adopt a resolution authorizing Pry’s office to execute an amendment to the term sheet with the city of Green and the Development Finance Authority (DFA) of Summit County for the county’s contribution to the construction of sanitary sewers for the CAK International Business Park’s Phase III.

Bryan Edwards, of the DFA, said the change is the result of negotiations between DFA and Akron-Canton Airport. He added that the city recently put in the road and other infrastructure improvements for the development, which is expected to bring 1,000 jobs to the area once it is completed.

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 in Downtown Akron. 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.

During its meeting, the Public Safety Committee recommended Council adopt a resolution authorizing the acceptance of a 2013 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant from the city of Akron in the amount of $32,000, which will be used to upgrade and replace computers in the Sheriff’s Office.

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, 175 S. Main St.

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