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County to hear from public on sales tax

5/15/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County Council will hold two public hearings in June to seek input on a proposal asking for a 0.25 percent increase in sales and use taxes for the Summit County Jail, county emergency services and construction of an arena.

The hearings are set for June 2 at 4:30 p.m. and June 9 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers. The proposal would be submitted to voters in the Nov. 4 General Election.

County Executive Russ Pry announced his intention last month to seek the increase. Council heard first readings of legislation to put the proposal on the ballot during the meeting May 12.

Jason Dodson, chief of staff for the County Executive’s Office, requested those resolutions be kept on time until after the public hearings are held.

According to the new legislation, the additional taxes would provide revenue to: operate and maintain the Summit County Jail; acquire, construct, equip or repair permanent improvements for the county’s 800 megahertz emergency radio system, county 9-1-1 system, county-owned facilities and a county-owned arena; the county’s General Fund; and pay the expenses of administering the sales/use tax levy.

The same list of routing for the potential revenue would appear in the actual ballot language before voters, according to the pending legislation.

Currently, Summit County residents pay a 0.5 percent sales tax to operate county government, the lowest in the state along with Stark County, according to county officials. Summit County’s current total sales tax is 6.75 percent.

If approved by voters, the bump would bring in $19 million to $20 million annually, according to Pry’s office. About $7 million annually would go toward building and supporting an $80 million arena for concerts and sporting events across the street from Canal Park in conjunction with The University of Akron (UA) and in cooperation with the city of Akron, according to Pry’s office.

The arena would replace the James A. Rhodes (JAR) arena as home to the Zips basketball program, according to UA officials.

Council also adopted a lengthy list of routine legislation discussed in committee meetings last week. Among the 20 items on that list, Council approved a contract for the Summit County Jail that will bring in a technology upgrade to allow for video visitation.

Ten terminals and associated equipment valued at more than $300,000 will be provided at the jail by Inmate Solutions at no cost to the Sheriff’s Office, said Inspector Bill Holland, of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

Video visitation, which would be similar to Skyping, would cost $10 for 20 minutes and $15 for 30 minutes, according to Holland.

Council members held no discussion Monday regarding the slate of routine items, but according to Council President Ilene Shapiro (D-at large), Council has received satisfactory clarification on questions raised during last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting regarding whether the video visits would be recorded and filed among jail records.

Attorney visits over the video conferencing system would remain confidential and would not be recorded, Shapiro said. However, inmates’ personal calls using the new video system would be subject to recording, she said.

Also on its consent agenda, Council adopted legislation to conduct an auto auction for surplus vehicles in poor condition in the Sherriff’s Office inventory; confirming a contract with Jones Stuckey for design services for the Vanderhoof Road bridge replacement project in New Franklin; for funding correctional programs operated by the Summit County Adult Probation Department, Oriana House and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office; and for using E-Tactics Inc. and Bridgestone Americas Inc. for utility billing services for the Department of Environmental Services.

Other first reading passages included: authorization to go out for bid for replacing a heating and cooling system at the Engineer’s Office’s main office; acceptance of a $405,000 behavioral health and juvenile justice grant for Juvenile Court from the Ohio Department of Youth Services; and the hiring of the Callos Cos. as employer of record and to provide payroll services for the 2014 Summer Youth Employment Program.

Council will next meet for committee meetings May 19 at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St. in Downtown Akron.

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