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Akron Council takes step to hire for CSO projects

5/8/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

DOWNTOWN AKRON — With little discussion and no opposition, Akron City Council unanimously approved an ordinance at its May 5 meeting giving the city the authority to function in the role of construction manager on combined sewer overflow (CSO) projects.

Mayor Don Plusquellic, in the afternoon Public Utilities Committee, was agitated as he introduced the ordinance and said it was not a step he would have chosen to take, calling it an “extra headache.”

The ordinance comes after the city’s policy to require that a certain percentage of workers on CSO projects be residents of Akron was challenged in federal court by the Ohio Contractors Association. It authorizes the city to utilize city workers and obtain trade union labor to perform portions of the Rack 15 storage basin project and Mud Run Pump Station project. The city is also authorized to enter into construction manager at-risk contracts, which would require the completion of the work at a fixed price.

By taking this step, the city can proceed with the Rack 15 project, which is mandated for completion by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by October of next year, while the local hiring and workforce policy is being challenged in court.

“This is what we need right now to stand up to the Ohio Contractors Association,” Plusquellic said.

He added the city’s engineering and construction departments are capable of handling the projects, and the city is not required to bid the work out to private contractors.

“We’re allowed to do this work; we just haven’t traditionally done it,” he said.

The ordinance paves the way for Akron residents to be the people working on the projects, and Plusquellic suggested he might see to it that 100 percent of the workers would be from Akron.

“Our residents are going to be on those jobs,” Plusquellic said, thumping the table. “I’m going to make it work. … If I have to do every single construction project, I will do that.”

“This is our money, and we should have a choice,” said Public Utilities Committee Chair Bob Hoch (D-Ward 6). “We should have a say-so as to where it’s going and who it’s going to.”

Councilman Michael Williams (D-at large) asked that Council be kept updated as the process unfolded so that Council members would be able to address citizens’ questions.

In other business, Council approved providing financial assistance to the troubled University Park Alliance (UPA). Plusquellic explained the $158,000 payment will help UPA settle past-due accounts in order to move forward and protect the investment made in the University Park neighborhood.

Council is continuing to take time on an ordinance that would allow for the city to provide similar assistance to East Akron Community House. Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) explained that additional meetings with the agency and its board were needed, as there is some discrepancy in the numbers in the amount requested by the board and the agency’s treasurer.

In other legislative action, Council approved three ordinances setting forth the year’s road resurfacing projects. Portions or all of the following streets in the West Side Leader’s coverage area are scheduled for resurfacing this year: Afton, Doris, Emma, Hillsdale, Mardon, Rhodes, Stadleman and Storer avenues; Barcelona, Madrid, Paddock, Rainbow and Thorndale drives; Barnstable, Inverness and Malvern roads; Barwell, Kathleen, Little, Orin and Woodrow streets; Cadillac Boulevard; and Tamiami Trail.

Alternates are Auldfarm and Hampshire roads; Cricket Circle; Garth Avenue; Goldleaf, Jumpers and Romayne drives; and Newport Road.

Council also approved a resolution honoring three brothers from West Akron who all attained the rank of Eagle Scout April 18. Gary Hearst II, George Hearst III and Garrison Hearst, along with their mother, Cornelia, stood in front of Council as the resolution in their honor was introduced by Williams.

“Go out there and rule the world … and don’t let us old folks get in the way,” Williams said.

All of the brothers are Akron Public Schools students. Gary Hearst, a senior at Firestone High School, took a moment to announce that he has signed a letter of intent to compete in track and field for Morehouse College in Atlanta, much to the delight of Morehouse alumnus Williams.

A resolution honoring Akron Police Officers Chris Crockett and Derrick Jackson also was approved, and the men were lauded with two hearty standing ovations. On April 29, they entered a burning home on Adelaide Boulevard and dragged an occupant safely outside.

“These two officers are heroes,” said Moneypenny, who co-sponsored the legislation. “They are an asset to their uniform, the Akron Police Department and the residents of Akron.”

Police Chief James Nice took a moment to note that the house was completely filled with smoke with no visibility, and the officers had to feel their way to the unconscious occupant. He added Jackson had been on the job less than two weeks.

Council also passed a resolution urging Akron voters to support the efforts of the Ohio Voters Bill of Rights, which would place a proposal on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot to amend the Ohio Constitution.

Council members said the Voters Bill of Rights would enact a solution to voter suppression in Ohio.

“The legislators [would] not be able to fool around with our right to vote,” said Councilwoman Linda Omobien (D-at large).

Councilwoman Tara Mosley-Samples (D-Ward 5) said 400,000 signatures are needed to get the proposal on the ballot.

Also on May 5, Council’s Health and Social Services Committee hosted a meeting with executives of several mental health and addiction services providers. Committee Chair Linda Omobien (D-at large) said the meeting was intended to familiarize Council members with resources available in the community to address the rising epidemic of heroin addiction.

The committee and numerous additional Council members heard from: John Ellis, clinical services manager with the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board; Bernie Rochford, executive vice president of Oriana House; Darnella McNeil, CEO of Legacy III; Robert Terry, compliance officer with Community Health Center; Don Finn, executive director of Interval Brotherhood Home Addiction Recovery Center; and Evaughn Cagle, CEO of Urban Ounce of Prevention.

The guests shared about their agencies’ services for people addicted to opiates and answered questions from Council members.

The next Akron City Council meeting will take place May 12 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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