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Akron Council supports ‘The Brighter, the Better’

6/12/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Akron City Council members June 9 threw their support behind a new project to identify burned-out streetlights and make neighborhoods safer.

Council unanimously approved a resolution for the “The Brighter, the Better” program initiated by resident Carl Williams and getting underway with cooperation from the city and FirstEnergy Corp.

In partnership with the city’s Department of Neighborhood Assistance and FirstEnergy, the program will work with block clubs, faith-based organizations and other community groups to allow volunteers to mark inoperative streetlights with ribbons, focusing on one ward each month. FirstEnergy then will monitor and repair the nonworking lights.

At the Council meeting, Williams said he hopes this helps address burned-out streetlights while at the same time reducing calls to the city’s 3-1-1 call center.

In other legislative action, Council approved the following ordinances:

  • the donation of an easement interest in city property to Akron Children’s Hospital to allow for the construction of a skywalk between the hospital’s new critical care tower and the main hospital building as part of the hospital’s $200 million building project now underway;
  • an application for a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant that would be split with Summit County, with Akron receiving an 82 percent share in the amount of $152,114. This grant funding would be used to fund overtime for officers working hot-spot details; and
  • an application for $3.9 million in funding from the Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Grant Program. The city twice has received funding through the highly competitive grant process to provide lead hazard reduction rehabilitation services for low-income residents.

In other business, Council’s Public Safety Committee heard from Russ Brode, the new president of the city’s firefighters’ union. Brode said he wanted to introduce himself to Council and hopes to have a positive working relationship with Council and the city administration.

Brode shared his concerns for what he called the department’s “rapidly deteriorating rank structure.” He said it has been 10 years since there have been promotions in the department and the number of officers is below authorized levels.

“We can’t continue to operate like this,” he said, adding there are also manpower concerns. “Maybe together we can start working on these problems.”

Also during committee meetings, the Public Service Committee heard an update from Customer Service Administrator John Eaton and John Valle, director of the Department of Neighborhood Assistance, on high grass complaints. Last week, Eaton and Valle shared that, due to a number of considerations, including the weather and budgetary restrictions, complaints were coming in faster than they could be addressed.

On June 9, Eaton reiterated he hopes to catch up by the end of the month, and over the last week had been able to add crew members and obtain additional equipment and reduce the number of outstanding complaints to about 400.

He asked for Council’s patience as other nuisance complaints were being put on the back burner to allow for the needed mowing to be addressed.

Several Council members also met with local attorneys Sean Buchanan and Kandee Robinson, who urged Council to consider reducing the charge of possession of marijuana paraphernalia from a fourth-degree misdemeanor to a minor misdemeanor in line with a recent change in state law. Akron police officers and city prosecutors oppose such a change.

The next Akron City Council meeting will take place June 16 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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