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Council committee seats questioned

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

DOWNTOWN AKRON — During its Jan. 27 meeting, Summit County Council adopted a motion to establish its standing committee memberships for the year, despite the opposition of its two Republican members.

Gloria Rodgers (R-District 3) and Bill Roemer (R-at large) voted against the motion, which was introduced during the meeting.

Rodgers said she believes the committees should return to having seven members instead of five. There were seven members on committees in recent years until last year.

But Roemer said in a statement following the meeting he doesn’t appreciate the partisan nature of the committee assignments.

“For several years, I have requested to be assigned to both the Finance and the Planning and Economic Development committees,” he said. “As a certified public accountant having an MBA with a concentration in finance, this would be a good use of my talents. For the fourth year, this was ignored. Additionally, both Gloria Rodgers and I are neither chair or vice chair of any committees.”

He added that in Cuyahoga County, which also is led by a county council, three Republicans have had the chance to chair committees.

“It’s extremely ironic that Cuyahoga County Council is less partisan than Summit County Council,” he said.

During the meeting, Council President Ilene Shapiro (D-at large) thanked Rodgers for sharing her opinion, as well as Councilman John Schmidt (D-District 2), who said he thought the committees should be even smaller, with just three members.

According to Council Chief of Staff Mark Potter, Council is required to have at least three members of each committee.

Committees for 2014 and their members are:

  • Health and Human Services: Paula Prentice (D-District 8), chair; Tamela Lee (D-District 5), vice chair; members Frank Comunale (D-District 4), Rodgers and Schmidt;
  • Finance: Jerry Feeman (D-District 6), chair; Sandra Kurt (D-at large), vice chair; members Lee, Nick Kostandaras (D-District 1) and Shapiro;
  • Long-Term Planning: Tim Crawford (D-District 7), chair; Comunale, vice chair; members Kurt, Prentice and Rodgers;
  • Personnel: Lee, chair; Kostandaras, vice chair; members Feeman, Roemer and Prentice;
  • Planning and Economic Development: Kostandaras, chair; Shapiro, vice chair; members Comunale, Kurt and Rodgers;
  • Public Safety: Schmidt, chair; Feeman, vice chair; members Lee, Roemer and Shapiro;
  • Public Works: Kurt, chair; Comunale, vice chair; members Crawford, Feeman and Roemer;
  • Rules: Comunale, chair; Schmidt, vice chair; members Crawford, Kostandaras and Shapiro.

Also during the meeting, Council adopted on first reading a resolution allowing a change order for the Canton Road improvement project in Lakemore and Springfield.

Joe Paradise, of the Summit County Engineer’s Office, said the resolution was meant to document the many changes that have been made to the project, which has grown in scope thanks to additional state and federal funding.

He added the project started in 2007 with the new signalization at Springfield Lake Drive and was originally less than half a million dollars. Now the project is worth about $9 million, with most of the funding coming from other agencies, Paradise said.

Included are additional turn lanes and improved medians, access management and traffic signalization.

Council also heard from Karen Hackenberry, executive director of PAWSibilities®, Humane Society of Greater Akron (HSGA), who noted the “incredible partnership” the organization has with Summit County Animal Control.

She added the humane society rescued more than 2,000 animals in 2013 and found homes for nearly 1,300. Also, humane officers conducted 850 investigations.

“We could not do this work without the support of the community,” Hackenberry said.

Lee asked if the recent cold weather has led to an increase in calls and complaints to the HSGA regarding animals left outdoors. Hackenberry said there have been calls but noted that residents have for the most part been responsive to their pets’ needs.

“The citizens of Summit County are bringing their dogs indoors more than they used to,” she said.

Council held off adopting a resolution regarding the Capital Improvements Program for 2014-19. Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry, requested that Council keep the resolution on second reading.

Also during the meeting, Council adopted motions appointing Julie Barnes to several boards. The new executive director of Summit County Children Services will serve on the Child Fatality Review Board, Criminal Justice Advisory Board and Social Services Advisory Board.

Barnes attended the meeting to meet Council and said she has spent her entire career in child welfare administration, most recently in Stark County.

Council will next meet for committee meetings Feb. 3 at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.

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