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Council supports ‘Breaking Addiction Act’

7/31/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Akron Council also wraps up business before recess

DOWNTOWN AKRON — At its July 28 meeting, Akron City Council voted unanimously to support U.S. House Resolution 5136, the “Breaking Addiction Act of 2014.”

The resolution was introduced by U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-District 11) and Tim Ryan (D-District 13), who represent part of Summit County. It would pilot a program in a handful of states to allow Medicaid to reimburse the cost of residential addiction services in community-based programs that were previously excluded from Medicaid reimbursement.

According to the legislation approved by Council, the act is aimed at increasing community treatment options to address the heroin/opiate epidemic. The bill is currently in committee.

Councilmen Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10), Jeff Fusco (D-at large) and Bob Hoch (D-Ward 6) sponsored City Council’s legislation.

Fusco said heroin overdose has become the No. 1 cause of accidental death in Ohio.

“The heroin epidemic is increasing significantly,” he said. “It’s not slowing down by any stretch of the imagination.”

Council President Moneypenny, a former law enforcement official, said, “I don’t want to say we’re losing the war on drugs, but we’re way, way behind, and we need to do more.”

Hoch said the Breaking Addiction Act has the potential to be “huge as far as getting the help to the people that need it.”

In other legislative action, Council approved the following pieces of previously introduced legislation:

  • an ordinance approving the Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan, which is a comprehensive plan for the entirety of downtown to promote development. The plan does not include any property acquisition or zoning changes;
  • an amendment to an agreement with Testa Enterprises to provide for the construction of a hotel in the Northside District. Plans have been in the works for a 146-room Courtyard by Marriott. Construction of the hotel near Northside Lofts is expected to include additional parking for the area; and
  • an amendment to the city’s sewer service charges pertaining to master meter customers. There will be a slight decrease for Montrose and slight increases for Cuyahoga Falls, Mudbrook, Tallmadge and Lakemore, retroactive to February.

In other business, Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee heard a presentation from Akron youths who participated in the Summer Academic and Athletic Program. The students, under the leadership of Buchtel Community Learning Center (CLC) teachers Kenny Smith and Erica Glover and University of Akron preservice teachers, undertook a project to analyze the question, “How can we improve the community centers in our neighborhoods?”

The students offered a Prezi presentation that outlined their analysis using the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) technique and looked specifically at the Ed Davis and Summit Lake centers. Their project, which included a panel discussion with city officials, lead them to the realization the city’s CLCs could compensate for what the students feel the community centers lack.

They also offered suggestions for programming based on age groups.

Councilwoman Linda Omobien (D-at large), who served on the panel, commented that it might be time to review how the CLCs are being used by the public and if they are fulfilling their intended purposes.

Parks and Recreation Committee Chairman Russel Neal (D-Ward 4) commended the students.

“You guys did an outstanding job with your presentation,” he said. “I really appreciate what you shared with us.”

In other business, during the public comment period at the regular Council meeting, George Johnson and Pat Maher, the new president and vice president, respectively, of the East Akron Community House (EACH) Board of Directors, spoke. The two shared a statement with Council members following an agreement the EACH organization reached with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which had been investigating the troubled agency. The agreement enumerates several fiscal failures on the part of the agency’s overseers between 2010 and 2013 and outlines numerous steps for EACH to ensure better financial management.

Johnson told Council the new Board of Directors looks forward to getting EACH back on track and serving the community. Maher noted a petition was filed by more than 1,000 individuals who desire to keep EACH in the East Akron community and for services to continue.

In closing remarks from Council members, Councilman Rich Swirsky (D-Ward 1) announced Square Fest will take place Sept. 6 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Highland Square, and the third Porch Rokr event will take place Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Swirsky also said the Mustard Seed Market in Highland Square is set to open in February.

“Come to Highland Square,” Swirsky said. “It’s the place.”

Also, Neal and Michael Williams (D-at large) commented on the recent death of former Councilman Reggie Brooks. Brooks held the Ward 4 Council seat prior to Neal and Williams, who was a former ward councilman.

“He belonged to the West Akron community,” Williams said. “He is one of the lions that will sorely be missed.”

Council will break for summer recess in August and return to its regular schedule after Labor Day. The next meeting will be Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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