Tall-grass complaints growing in Akron
Akron City Council’s Public Service Committee heard a gloomy report June 2 regarding the volume, and in some cases the tone, of complaints about high grass in the city.
Many Council members reported receiving a large number of calls, many of them angry, regarding unmown private and city-owned lots as the summer begins.
Director of Neighborhood Assistance John Valle said a “perfect storm” of alternately rainy and warm, sunny weather, coupled with reduced manpower, is to blame. Valle said court-ordered community service participation is down, but he hopes to see an increase in the number of individuals available to work.
Community Service Administrator John Eaton reported there were 733 open complaints and only a limited number of employees available to work a limited number of hours. In addition, he said there are issues with equipment and an antiquated computer system. He said there are 1,400 city-owned properties to maintain, as well as abandoned and uncared-for privately owned properties in the city.
Some Council members, whose frustration was apparent, expressed disappointment that it might take into July to catch up, and urged an immediate search for solutions, suggesting the city work with neighborhood and volunteer organizations.
“I think we have to have the attitude that it has to get done, and no excuses,” said Councilman Rich Swirsky (D-Ward 1).
Councilman Donnie Kammer (D-Ward 7) likened the situation to a snowstorm when there is an immediate, urgent need to treat and plow the roadways, and Councilman Michael Williams (D-at large) said he wanted Valle and Eaton to return to the committee with suggestions, plans and even requests for funding to address the situation.
Eaton said using contractors is a possibility, because “I can’t just hire more people if I don’t have the equipment.”
Valle said they would have a plan to present next week.
In other business, Mayor Don Plusquellic and Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) withdrew an ordinance they had presented to Council April 28 intended to authorize the city to assist the troubled East Akron Community House (EACH) and pay its monthly bills. The ordinance was withdrawn and replaced with a new ordinance following a heated Budget and Finance Committee meeting, at which Moneypenny said there would not be enough votes to pass the ordinance if it were to come up for a vote.
He requested Council take time before voting on the new ordinance, which, as Plusquellic described it, basically formalizes and authorizes the city’s attempts to help EACH maintain services.
The new ordinance would authorize Plusquellic and Director of Finance Diane Miller-Dawson to negotiate and enter into agreements to secure the EACH building for the purposes of continuing programs and services for the residents of East Akron and to make payments in connection with any agreements reached.
Plusquellic said that, as the situation with EACH has evolved over the last several weeks, the original ordinance, which authorized up to $60,000 to help with utility and mortgage bills, wouldn’t “make a bit of difference” and the city would need to find another solution.
In legislative action at the regular Council meeting, Council passed resolutions honoring several individuals, including makeup artists Kayla Ludle and Chinna Parker, as well as Stan’s Towing Co., for volunteering for the Buchtel Community Learning Center Prom Promise event. Ludle and Parker performed services free of charge for the mock fatal accident, and Stan’s Towing donated vehicles and towing services.
Council also honored Chelsea Smith, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Fortis College, for donating time and resources to various city programs, including active shooter training, the Witness Safety Program and the upcoming Safe Surrender Program.
“We are very excited to help Council in any way that we can,” Smith said.
In related business, Council members heard a presentation on the Safe Surrender Program, which will take place June 25-28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the House of the Lord, 1650 Diagonal Road in West Akron.
Robert Davis, Fugitive Safe Surrender coordinator with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, noted Safe Surrender is not an amnesty program, but it does offer “favorable consideration” to those turning themselves in on felony and misdemeanor warrants. Virtually none of the participants is taken into custody, he said.
For more information, call the Ohio Attorney General’s Safe Surrender hotline at 877-647-8773.
Council also heard a brief update from Deputy Service Director Phil Montgomery regarding the city’s program to train and employ residents as haulers for the Combined Sewer Overflow Program. Montgomery said 11 of the 20 participants in the first class were able to earn a commercial driver license (CDL), and five of those individuals were hired by the city. The remaining six have all found employment, he said.
“We’re putting people to work,” he said, adding a second class has begun.
During the public comment period, George Johnson, president of the AFSCME Local 1360, said he could confirm that the city’s hiring program is fulfilling its purpose.
“The program seems to be working real well,” he said, adding he was pleased to see for himself that minorities and Akron residents are being hired for the projects. “It’s happening.”
The next Akron City Council meeting will take place June 9 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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