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County assessing storm damage

5/22/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

During their first meeting after an evening storm rolled across the northern part of Summit County May 12, Summit County Council considered the aftermath.

The Public Safety Committee heard a report from Deb Matz, director for the Executive’s Department of Law, Insurance and Risk Management, May 19 on the storm damage felt across the county.

As a result of the severe weather May 12, the Summit County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) activated the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) at 10:30 p.m. due to flooding, she said. Ultimately, shelter was not needed, but the EOC remained open during the week for varying hours to assist during the continuing storms, said Matz.

The county has conducted 39 damage assessments for residences and determined 16 properties had structural damage. The homes that had structural damage are inhabitable, said Matz, including two in Akron, one in Bath, eight in Cuyahoga Falls, one in Munroe Falls, one in New Franklin, one in Silver Lake and two in Stow.

Summit County Executive Russ Pry also declared a state of emergency for the county May 16. That declaration is part of the eligibility process for state and federal funds that may be released to assist with storm damage, said Matz. The EMA will continue to compile damage reports through local government offices.

To report damage, Akron residents can call 3-1-1 or 330-375-2311. Residents of other communities should call: 330-666-4007 in Bath; 330-657-2059 in Boston; 330-666-1853 in Copley; 330-971-8000 in Cuyahoga Falls; 330-668-9500 in Fairlawn; 330-825-7815 in Norton; 330-657-2995 in Peninsula; 330-659-9201 in Richfield Village; and 330-659-4700 in Richfield Township.

“From three years ago to today, how the county has come together and put together a very organized, well-crafted response is just absolutely fabulous, and I am so proud,” said Councilwoman Tamela Lee (D-District 5).

Heidi Swindell, of the Engineer’s Office, said the county is applying to the Ohio Public Works Commission for funding to replace a bridge on Shaw Road in Bath, which was a complete washout, she said. Swindell added the bridge is currently unsupported and urged people not to climb or walk on it. The goal is to have the fix done before the start of the next school year, she said.

Also Monday, the Finance Committee considered next steps for resolutions proposing a 0.25 percent increase in sales and use taxes to appear on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot and recommended Council hear second readings only of the legislation at the next regular meeting.

That legislation lists spending priorities for the $19 million to $20 million in potential revenue, which include the Summit County Jail, the county’s 800 megahertz emergency radio system, the county 9-1-1 system, county-owned facilities, a county-owned arena, the county’s General Fund and expenses related to administering the tax.

“I’m not comfortable moving forward [with this legislation] unless storm water is mentioned and we do something about it,” said Councilwoman Gloria Rodgers (R-District 3). “I think it’s time for us to step up to the plate and address storm water and take a good amount of money and start working on this.”

Jason Dodson, chief of staff for the Executive’s Office, gave a lengthy reply to Rodgers’ objection, focusing in part on the undefined nature of a countywide solution to storm water problems.

“We have needs that we have identified over the last three years,” said Dodson.

“I don’t think anybody can tell us what we need annually to fight storm water in the county, what the jurisdictional issues are in the county,” he added. “I can tell you we need $3.9 to $4.5 million for the Sheriff’s Office, we need $5.2 million for the 800 megahertz [emergency radio system] and the 9-1-1 system; we need $2 million for capital needs, and the arena has the potential to create jobs here in Summit County.”

Dodson said he is planning a detailed presentation to be made at the public hearings, set for June 2 at 4:30 p.m. and June 9 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers on the subject.

He added that a countywide storm water management utility recently proposed was rejected by a majority of the townships.

Rodgers argued for making a start on storm water issues by at least setting aside some money for a study.

“We have this blaring issue out there and we need to address it,” she said. “This is the time to do it.”

Dodson noted Council would have the authority, if the sale/use tax is approved by voters, to use revenue earmarked for the General Fund to fund storm water improvements.

“There is nothing in this legislation that would prohibit that from being the case,” he said.

Councilwoman Sandra Kurt (D-at large) added she had the same question about storm water priorities being included when she first heard of the sales tax legislation. However, storm water issues may be better addressed at the state level, she said.

“I appreciate what you’re saying, but this is not necessarily the time or mechanism,” she added.

In other business, Council committees discussed newly introduced legislation.

The Public Safety Committee recommended the Council adopt legislation at the next meeting to purchase one 2014 Chevrolet Impala, three 2014 Chevrolet Malibu vehicles, one 2014 Ford Escape and five 2015 Ford Explorers for the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Office Inspector Bill Holland said the Explorers would go into the fleet, while the others would be unmarked vehicles for the Detective Bureau and administration.

The Rules Committee recommended Council next week approve a settlement agreement for $15,000 in a lawsuit brought by Anthony Miller against the county filed in September 2012 in Summit County Common Pleas Court. The case stemmed from a physical altercation between a juvenile housed in the Detention Center and a corrections officer, Dodson said. The plaintiff alleged he sustained injuries, Dodson said. Ultimately, the employee involved was let go, and the settlement is considered reasonable, Dodson said.

Council will not meet next week due to Memorial Day.

Council will next meet June 2 at 4:30 p.m. for caucus, followed by a regular meeting in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St. in Downtown Akron.

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