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County moves forward on wild animal plan

2/6/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County is moving forward to comply with a state law that requires Ohio counties to implement a plan to handle dangerous wild animal situations.

On Feb. 3, County Council’s Public Safety Committee recommended Council adopt a resolution regarding the Dangerous Wild Animal Response Team (DWART) Plan. According to the legislation, the DWART is part of a state law passed in 2012 as part of the state’s regulations on dangerous wild animals and snakes. The state-mandated plan describes how Summit County will plan and provide resource support before, during and after a dangerous wild animal emergency. The emergency may be caused through human acts, equipment malfunction or by natural disasters, according to county officials.

The plan must include the methods and procedures that will be utilized in the event of an escaped dangerous wild animal within Summit County. It is to be updated on an annual basis.

According to Brandon Davis, a planner with the Summit County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), the team’s members are those who help plan the local response in the event of a situation involving dangerous wild animals. But those individuals are not necessarily the ones who would be involved in working on the response.

Team members, who were appointed last May by Council, are the EMA’s Valerie DeRose, Akron Zoo General Manager Patricia Waickman, Boston Heights Mayor Bill Goncy, Richfield Assistant Fire Chief Phil McLean, Summit County Public Health’s Robert Hasenyager, Copley Township Trustee Helen Humphrys, Special Operations Response Team member John Carney, Copley Police Chief Michael Mier, reporter Kathy Antoniotti, Akron Zoo veterinarian Kimberly Cook and Summit County Animal Control Executive Director Christine Fatheree.

DeRose said the state acted to implement DWART after the 2011 incident in Zanesville in which a man released dozens of exotic wild animals he owned before he shot and killed himself.

Council members also noted that the need to address potentially dangerous situations has arisen close to home. A Copley resident, Lorenza Pearson, kept exotic animals on his Columbus Avenue property until Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter ordered in 2009 that animals be removed from the property due to violations of health and zoning codes.

Committee members also received a listing of locations of wild and dangerous animals registered with the state in and near Summit County. In the Akron area, most of the animals are part of the Akron Zoo, but there were also residents of Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and Peninsula with animals that needed to be registered.

DeRose noted the residents complying with the law are not necessarily the ones that Council should be concerned about.

“The people that have registered, we know they are responsible,” she said.

Also Monday, Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee recommended Council adopt a resolution allowing a grant agreement between the county and the Development Finance Authority of Summit County in the amount of $75,000. Committee member Gloria Rodgers (R-District 3) voted against the resolution after questioning the need for the grant, which is an annual resolution.

“I really think we can start reducing this amount,” Rodgers told the authority’s president, Chris Burnham. “I can see some of this money being used in another part of the county.”

Burnham said the money is not used for operating expenses but is put toward economic development activity.

Councilman Jerry Feeman (D-District 6) said he wondered what the agency could do if the county increased the grant amount. Burnham said he couldn’t say immediately how an increase would be used, but that he would collaborate with county officials to determine how to proceed if an increase was considered.

During the Public Works Committee meeting, members voted to recommend Council adopt resolutions regarding purchase orders for salt and calcium chloride to address snow and ice. Heidi Swindell, of the Engineer’s Office, was asked how the county is doing with its salt supplies in light of the season’s bad weather.

“Our bins were full before the last snow event,” Swindell said. “We’re good.”

The committee also recommended Council adopt a resolution confirming a contract with MS Consultants for program manager services in the Manchester Wastewater Treatment Plant and Sanitary Sewer Improvements Project in an amount not to exceed $867,000.

Mike Weant, of the Department of Environmental Services, said the contract will allow the company to handle all aspects of coordinating the extensive project, which will take about two years and will include coordinating with the Environmental Protection Agency and working on a new wastewater treatment plant in New Franklin.

“This is larger than any project we’ve managed,” Weant said.

The Finance Committee kept on time a resolution regarding the Capital Improvements Program for 2014-19 after Council member Tamela Lee (D-District 5) raised questions about flooding issues in the Copley area.

Summit County Council will meet Feb. 10 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. in Downtown Akron.

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