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Community News

New Peninsula Council members eager to serve

1/30/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Carol Kramer
Mike Matusz
Pamela Schneider
PENINSULA — Half of the members of Peninsula Village Council are newcomers, but the three newly elected officials said they are ready and eager to get started addressing the community’s needs.

Residents Carol Kramer, Mike Matusz and Pamela Schneider entered last November’s General Election race and ran unopposed. They were sworn in Jan. 13, joining incumbent Dan Schneider — Pamela Schneider’s father, who kept his seat after running as a write-in candidate — and members Dee Holody and Brian Schall.

Kramer, 66, is a six-year resident of the village. She said she grew up in New Jersey and came to Ohio to attend Ohio University, earning a bachelor’s degree there and a master’s degree at Cleveland State University. She and her husband, Kevin, settled in Berea, and she worked for the Berea City Schools as a speech/language pathologist and English as a second language teacher until retirement.

She and her husband left Ohio at that point, but six years ago decided to return, and Peninsula was their choice of community to settle in.

“When we first moved here, we started to go to the Council meetings because we thought it would be a good way to learn about what was important and going on in the town,” she said. “We’ve been going to the meetings ever since.”

When someone suggested a year ago that she run for Council, she started to think that it would be a good way to serve.

“I’m retired, I have an interest and I have some time to do something to give back to the community,” she said.

Kramer said she believes how the village addresses wastewater will be the biggest issue Council will deal with this year. During Council’s Dec. 9 meeting, Peninsula Mayor Douglas Mayer said he was researching the issue as a result of letters to the village and some businesses there from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The village has, through our mayor, been gathering information from as many different sources as possible,” Kramer said. “We will be keeping people informed so that the residents and Council and mayor will be able to work together to work with some kind of a solution to the problem.”

New Councilman Matusz, 42, who is a lifelong village resident, agrees that the possible installation of sewers is going to be a big issue in the coming months. He supports the idea.

“It’s going to be an amazing project, really, but it’s going to be a lot of work,” Matusz said. “I’m excited about that. I think we’ve gotten a great start on it. The mayor has a good grasp on what we are doing.”

Matusz is a Woodridge High School graduate who has worked the past seven years in maintenance for the Ohio Turnpike. Prior to that, he worked for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

He’s been involved as a member of the village’s Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals but saw being on Council as a way to be involved in the direction of the village.

“Everyone is always talking about Peninsula and the community and how it’s going, and we don’t have money and we can’t do anything,” he said. “I just want to keep it going along. It’s a great place to live.”

Also likely to be a point of discussion is how to use additional money the village is set to receive due to an increase in the income tax approved in the Nov. 5 General Election.

“I know we were running on a shoestring budget, and it’s going to help out to be able to just operate,” Matusz said. “By no means is it going to be a massive influx of money. We’re going to be able to operate pretty normally.”

Like Matusz, Pamela Schneider, 50, is also a lifelong Peninsula resident. She said she ran for Council to try to make a difference in her hometown.

“I wanted to try to do what was better for the community,” she said.

She’s been involved in the community as the clerk for the Valley Fire District but wanted to do more, she added.

Schneider said she sees the sewer issue differently than her two new counterparts. She said the village has no money for the project and is unlikely to find help from higher levels of government.

“It’s been an issue in the past, but we’ve always worked with the EPA,” she said.

She added that some have suggested the village connect with Akron’s lines, but those are 7 miles away.

“No one has spoken with Akron, and Akron has its own issues,” she said, noting she’s not sure if the city would be willing to work with the village.

Schneider said another big issue this year would be adding another full-time position to the village’s police force.

She added one of the bright spots in the community is that new Police Chief Joseph Varga is in place to lead the department.

Varga, the former police chief of Boston Heights, was hired in Peninsula in August. His hiring came after the village had been without a permanent chief since Council fired Chief Kevin James McCue in October 2009 for misfeasance and malfeasance of duty, following conduct complaints made by former Mayor Richard Fisher. Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Teodosio reversed Council’s decision in December 2010, and Council filed an appeal. In September 2011, the village dropped the appeal and settled a lawsuit brought by McCue, agreeing to pay $120,000 and fund his pension through June 1, 2014.

The village had been seeking a full-time chief since March 2012. A candidate selected in November 2012 was unable to successfully complete prehire testing.

Schneider said Council may be split on some issues, such as sewers, but she does believe the members can work together civilly.

“We have to; we’re a public entity,” she said. “The public put us on there to do what is best. We have to look at what is best for the community.”

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