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Food trucks might get avenue to Akron

5/15/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron City Council members Margo Sommerville (D-Ward 3) and Jeff Fusco (D-at large), after months of committee work, presented an ordinance May 12 that would allow food trucks to operate in the city.

Food truck operators would need to apply and pay a permit fee to bring their businesses onto public property in the city. The permit fee is $225 inside the city, and totals $1,975 within the Biomedical Corridor.

Fusco said the operators who choose to pay the higher fee would essentially have rights to their spot 14 hours a day, every day for the year. He said operators expressed the desire to be near the hospitals.

“This has been quite a journey,” he said.

At issue has been the collision of food truck operators’ wishes to bring their businesses into the city and the protestations of brick-and-mortar restaurateurs’, who have said they pay taxes and establish within the community and balk at the competition introduced by food trucks.

“The spirit of this … is balance,” Fusco said of the ordinance, on which he said he did not plan to ask for a vote May 12.

Sommerville commented that the committee established to study the food truck issue and research other cities’ ordinances learned “food truck legislation is not a one-size-fits-all type of situation,” and they hoped to find a happy medium.

The fee for operating in the Biomedical Corridor is, stressed Fusco, not a tax. The money would be distributed as follows: $1,400 to Akron Public Schools, $275 to Summit County, $225 to the city of Akron, $45 to the Akron-Summit County Public Library and $30 to the Summit Metro Parks.

Vendors also would be under restrictions regarding the distance they must operate from locations such as residences, schools and food service establishments.

Council will vote on the ordinance at a future meeting.

In legislative action, Council approved an ordinance authorizing the city to apply for grant funding from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to purchase equipment for the Akron Police Department’s Gun Violence Reduction Team.

The $15,000 grant — which does not require a local match — is through the Mortgage Settlement Grant Program and would focus gun violence reduction efforts in areas of the city most affected by foreclosures.

The one-year grant would provide for the purchase of cameras and computers for the 10-officer gun violence reduction unit.

Also at the meeting, Council approved an ordinance determining to proceed with the improvement of Kingswood Drive in Northwest Akron’s Merriman Woods neighborhood after the Assessment Equalization Board met and adjusted some property owners’ assessments.

Deputy Service Director Phil Montgomery told the Public Service Committee there had been a productive meeting in the neighborhood about the construction work and there has not been much pushback from residents.

“That road down there is in pretty bad shape and needs to be redone from top to bottom,” he said, adding the project has the support of Ward 1 Councilman Rich Swirsky.

During the City Council meeting, Planning Director Marco Sommerville announced there will be a vacant property survey taking place in the city between May 19 and July 31. Sommerville said interns will take photos of every house in the city using iPads. They will be wearing reflective vests.

Anyone who has questions can call Abraham Wescott at 330-375-2696.

In other business, Council’s Health and Social Services Committee hosted a meeting regarding Crisis Intervention Services available in Akron. Committee Chairwoman Linda Omobien (D-at large) noted May is the month devoted to mental health awareness, and the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is a resource available to address mental health situations that arise.

Akron Police Department (APD) Sgt. Michael Yohe said Akron was the first city to adopt the CIT model, in 2000. He said about 90 current APD officers have undergone CIT training, and the APD devotes considerable resources to responding to mental health crises, such as attempted suicides in progress.

“Unfortunately, when these individuals slip through the cracks, bad things happen,” he said.

Also presenting during the session were Joanne Arndt, mental health treatment and support services coordinator/clients’ rights coordinator with the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADM) Board, and Ragan Leff, the CIT coordinator at Community Support Services.

The ADM Board sponsors the training twice a year for about 24 people, Arndt said.

The next Council meeting will be May 19 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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