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Council urges Goodyear to build in Akron

7/3/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

DOWNTOWN AKRON — At its June 30 meeting, Akron City Council approved a resolution urging Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to locate its planned new manufacturing plant in Akron.

According to the resolution, Goodyear plans to build a $500 million tire factory, its first in the Americas since 1990.

Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) and Councilman Jeff Fusco (D-at large), who offered the legislation, which was eventually approved as sponsored by mayor and Council as a whole, said Akron offers the talent and infrastructure, as well as the loyalty and legacy, to support the new plant.

“I believe that we’ve proved to Goodyear that we’re willing to do what it takes,” Fusco said. “We will not disappoint.”

Moneypenny said the planned factory is expected to offer 500 new jobs, the income tax from which would be more than welcome to support the city.

Goodyear has been headquartered in Akron since its founding in 1898 and recently invested $160 million in building a new global headquarters here.

Also at the meeting, Council approved an ordinance appointing former Public Service Director and Chief of Staff Rick Merolla, a West Akron resident, and former Ward 5 Councilman Ken Jones to the city Planning Commission. The appointments restore the commission to its full five members.

Fusco, chair of Council’s Planning Committee, said the men would be “a good fit.”

In other business, Council unanimously approved the consent agenda, which contained two rather high-profile items: an ordinance authorizing Mayor Don Plusquellic and Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson to negotiate and enter into agreements to secure the East Akron Community House 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, and an ordinance permitting a replacement guaranty agreement among the city, the Akron Urban League and Summit County to allow for refinancing a 2007 loan for the Urban League’s community service center.

Council also approved an ordinance authorizing the surfacing preparation and painting of about 2,000 of the city’s approximately 11,000 fire hydrants.

After a discussion with several city officials, Council’s Public Utilities Committee declined, for now, an alternative proposal by Councilman Russel Neal Jr. (D-Ward 4) to hire city residents, rather than a private contractor, to paint the 2,000 hydrants slated for this year. Neal had offered the proposal as a way to save money and put Akronites to work.

However, Public Service and Fire Department officials had numerous concerns and saw several potential problems with the proposal.

Service Director John Moore told Neal he looked at his proposal in depth and asked Water Distribution Superintendent Rick Forsythe and Water Supply Bureau Manager Jeff Bronowski, as well as Fire Chief Rob Ross, to offer their input.

Forsythe said the city plans to try a new method for hydrant painting this year that would last for seven to 10 years, rather than just a couple of years. The new method would require a higher level of experience and might not save money off the bat but would be expected to offer a cost saving long-term.

Ross added he had safety and liability concerns, and also suggested the city would need to procure extra equipment, the costs for which are not included in Neal’s proposal.

Bronowski characterized hydrant painting as a critical task, and said the safety of the city’s water supply did need to be taken into consideration.

Moore said the Fire Department was being put in a bad position, as Ross has said firefighters have had trouble finding hydrants on calls at night, and he is anxious to move forward using a contractor that has experience painting hydrants.

Neal was displeased with the criticism of his proposal, reiterating that if the city could train residents to participate in the city’s massive combined sewer overflow project, surely residents could be trained to paint hydrants. Furthermore, he said the city utilizes temporary workers to pick up leaves at night in autumn, and “that’s more dangerous than painting these hydrants.”

He requested the city look for a way to bring more of the work in-house. Moore said he was open to alternative ideas and expressed enthusiasm for the idea of growing a local business that would offer the hydrant painting service.

Also at the meeting, Moneypenny said caucus planned for Aug. 4, during Council’s summer break, has been rescheduled for July 15 from 3 to 6 p.m. to accommodate Council members’ and city department directors’ schedules.

The next Council meeting will be July 7 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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