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Norris focused on New Franklin safety forces

1/23/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Andrea Norris
NEW FRANKLIN — Andrea Norris is returning to familiar territory as an elected representative.

Norris, 54, was elected to the at-large seat on New Franklin City Council that was left vacant when Councilman Joe Parsons decided not to run for re-election this past November. She was elected along with incumbents Judy Jones and Harry Gehm, both at-large members.

“I am really excited to take on this challenge,” said Norris, who is married with one stepchild and one grandchild.

Norris comes to the seat after having served five years as clerk of the Barberton Municipal Court from 2004 2009 and seven years as a member of Summit County Council, from 1995 to 2002. She added she also did some legal work for Franklin Village before it became a city and served on the original Charter Commission.

Norris earned a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in 1982 and a law degree from The University of Akron School of Law in 1985. She is a self-employed attorney, with a 25-year-old practice in New Franklin.

According to Norris, she also serves as a member of the Facilities Governing Board for Oriana House and was a member of the Young Graduates Board, a group that mentors at-risk senior high school students, from 1996 to 2012. She said she has done some fundraising for the Akron Rotary Camp and plans to become more active in assisting that organization.

“My background and qualifications offer experience and a unique perspective,” said Norris. “I am also the second woman on Council, bringing a little more balance to the representation.”

Norris said the city’s safety forces, including police and fire, will be her primary focus as she begins her term in office.

“They have been doing a great job, and they have the equipment they need,” said Norris. “We have had discussions on funding issues for the safety forces for years. My goal this year is to go beyond discussion and work to implement a plan to secure more funding. Our safety forces are the backbone of this community, and I want to see them remain strong and viable.”

According to city officials, the Police Department has two continuing levies, including a 2.5-mill levy first approved by voters in 1981 that now collects $292,000 annually and a 3-mill levy first passed in 1991 that currently collects $531,718.

The city used the General Fund to supplement the Police Department’s $1.7 million budget by more than $700,000 last year, according to Mayor Al Bollas.

The Fire Department has a five-year, 5.75-mill fire levy due to expire Dec. 31. It collects $1.7 million for Fire Department operations, according to city officials.

Norris said she would like to do some research on what kind of revenue source would be most useful before proceeding to the ballot, and she believes presenting the request as a safety forces need might help residents understand and support the request.

“We know this is needed,” she said. “If we don’t have to supplement the Police Department operations with General Fund money, we can use that extra money to do other things for the community.”

Norris also said she wants to look into the need for a full-time finance director for the city.

According to Bollas, the state auditor has said it is time for the city to hire a full-time finance director. Currently, the city has a part-time finance director.

Norris said there have been three different people serving in the position in the past five years.

“This position requires continuity and stability, and we may need to consider hiring someone full-time,” she said.

Norris added she intends to address other issues as they arise.

“I am looking forward to working with Council and the administration,” she said.

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