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County planning to move DJFS, other offices

3/20/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

County officials have proposed leasing the former Firestone property at 1180 S. Main St. to consolidate the Department of Job and Family Services, as well as other county offices.
Rendering courtesy of Summit County Executive’s Office
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County Council is considering a plan from County Executive Russ Pry to lease space in the former Firestone complex in South Akron for the Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS) and other county offices.

A resolution to accept two lease agreements for the space with Akron Phoenix Development Co. was a late filing and given first reading at Council’s March 17 meeting. The legislation was assigned to the Planning and Economic Development Committee, where it will be discussed in the next meeting March 24.

There was no discussion on the resolution at the meeting this week, which came a few days after Pry announced the plan in his State of the County address March 14.

According to the resolution, the site located at 1180 S. Main St. would be used to consolidate DJFS offices, which currently are divided among four buildings with limited parking for clients. The new site would offer ample free parking, Pry said in his address.

In addition, the resolution states that the Department of Environmental Services, Board of Revision, Administrative Services — Physical Plants, Summit Soil and Water, The Ohio State University Extension and County Records Office would all move to the South Main Street site from 2525 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls.

The lease for about 162,000 square feet of space on four floors would be for a period of 19 years and six months for a total cost of $30.6 million, according to the letter of intent between the county and Akron Phoenix Development, which is in the process of acquiring the property from the city of Akron.

In other business this week, Council approved on first reading a resolution authorizing Pry’s office to execute amendments to agreements with several communities regarding the Moving Ohio Forward demolition program.

The adoption means Green will receive an additional $7,000 and Coventry will receive $15,000 to address vacant and abandoned housing.

Council also adopted on first reading a resolution regarding funding for Phase II of the program that will see the city of Akron receive an additional $70,500 in Moving Ohio Forward funds matched with an additional $70,500 in Delinquent Tax Assessment and Collection funds for demolition of vacant and abandoned homes. Lakemore will receive an additional $37,500 in Moving Ohio Forward funds matched with an additional $37,500 in Delinquent Tax Assessment and Collection funds.

Also passed during the meeting on first reading was a resolution opposing the passage of Ohio Senate Bills 205 and 238, which made changes to the state’s early voting and absentee ballot application procedures. The resolution passed along Council’s political party lines by a vote of 8-2. Councilman Tim Crawford (D-District 7) was absent.

Council members Sandra Kurt (D-at large) and Tamela Lee (D-District 5) expressed disappointment at the changes, which were signed into law Feb. 20 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

“This really is a restriction of voting rights,” Lee said.

But Councilman Bill Roemer (R-at large), who voted against the resolution, said the changes proposed by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted were meant to make early and absentee voting more uniform throughout the state.

“To me, this isn’t a Republican or Democratic thing,” he said.

Council also heard during the meeting from Akron-Canton Airport President and CEO Rick McQueen, who gave an update on the airport’s growth and plans.

McQueen said the airport has doubled the number of passengers served in the past 12 years, with 2012 setting a record with 1.8 million passengers.

“When I started, we had 250,000 passengers,” said McQueen, who’s worked at the airport for 31 years.

The airport currently has 11 gates, but McQueen said there’s the possibility of expanding to 17 in the coming years. He added airport officials are working on a master plan that will result in a 20-year blueprint for the airport’s future.

Several Council members heaped praise on McQueen for the airport’s customer service and convenience.

“Our airport has become a real gem for our community,” said Council President Ilene Shapiro (D-at large). 

McQueen said currently the airport is working on improvements to the parking area but is trying to make the process have only a slight impact on travelers in the coming months.

Summit County Council will next meet for committee meetings March 24 at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.

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