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West Side News & Notes

2/16/2017 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Downtown intersection now closed, detours in effect

DOWNTOWN AKRON — City of Akron officials said they are monitoring traffic issues resulting from the closure of a downtown intersection that took place last week for two major infrastructure projects.

The intersection of North Main, North Howard and Perkins streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is now closed and will remain closed for the next 150 days as the city undertakes two construction projects: the Oak Park Renewal Project and the Old Main Sewer Separation (CSO Rack 21) Project.

Akron Public Service Director John Moore said city officials are aware there have been delays on the All-America Bridge (also known as the Y-Bridge) that connects North Hill with downtown since the closure last week.

“We are monitoring traffic patterns and will be adjusting traffic lights, as necessary, to reduce bottlenecking delays at key intersections during rush hour,” Moore said. “We appreciate your continued patience as construction moves forward, and encourage travelers to adjust their routes and expected drive times to accommodate these detours.”

Moore said doing both projects at once will lessen the impact on drivers overall.

“This intersection is currently one of the most dangerous intersections in Summit County, and this closure will not only allow the city to complete a sewer separation project, it will greatly improve the safety of this intersection, and allow the city to reclaim a section of the Innerbelt as green space for future downtown development,” said Moore.

In addition, there are several ramps and part of the Innerbelt that are closed either temporarily or permanently, according to Chris Ludle, deputy service director. They include the following:

  • The Innerbelt is permanently closed from West Exchange Street to West Market Street.
  • If traveling east into downtown, drivers cannot get off at Cedar and Exchange streets due to the removal of the ramp over top. Those drivers should exit at Opportunity Parkway to take Dart to Cedar and Exchange, or continue and get off at the Downtown/Market Street exit. This change will be in effect for about a month.
  • Drivers traveling west out of downtown should be aware that the exit to Vernon Odom Boulevard is permanently closed. The entrance ramp from Cedar Street to the Innerbelt will be closed for about four months.
  • The State Street bridge is going to be removed over the Innerbelt. State Street is also closed because of construction at the Ronald McDonald House. In addition, the  Center Street bridge just east of the State Street bridge will be widened.
  • The farthest point east to enter Rand Avenue is Market Street, and from there drivers can get onto the Innerbelt at West Exchange Street.

For more on traffic alerts, including recommended detours, go to www.DriveAkron.com or call 330-375-2311.

 

Governor appoints two to municipal court bench

COLUMBUS — Jason Adams and Ann Marie O’Brien have been appointed to fill two vacant judge seats on Akron Municipal Court.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced the appointments Feb. 10.

West Akron resident O’Brien will assume office Feb. 21 and must run in the November General Election to retain the seat for the full term commencing Jan. 3, 2018. The seat was previously held by Judge Joy Malek Oldfield, who won a seat on Summit County Common Pleas Court in the most recent General Election.

O’Brien received her bachelor’s degree from Hiram College and her juris doctorate from The University of Akron (UA). She currently serves as a judicial attorney for Summit County Common Pleas Court.

Adams, of West Akron, will assume office March 1 and also must run in the next General Election to retain the seat for the remainder of the unexpired term, which ends Dec. 31, 2019. He is replacing Judge Katarina Cook, who won election to Summit County Domestic Relations Court.

Adams received his bachelor’s degree and juris doctorate from UA. He has served as a magistrate for Summit County Common Pleas Court since 2009.

 

House explosion under investigation

WEST AKRON — A house explosion that left a man injured is under investigation, according to Akron Fire Department (AFD) officials.

The explosion took place Feb. 7 at 7:39 p.m. at a home on the northeast corner of South Hawkins and Courtland avenues. The intersection was closed as AFD crews fought the blaze.

AFD Public Information Officer Mike Brooks said the man, who was not identified, had injuries to his face and was taken to a local hospital. At presstime, Brooks said the man’s condition was unknown.

Brooks said the cause of the explosion has not yet been released.

 

Free parking restored at Main Library

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Patrons who visit the Akron-Summit County Main Library will once again have their first hour of parking in the deck adjacent to the library free of charge.

According to library officials, the library has reached an agreement with the City of Akron that allowed the free hour to return as of this week. The free hour is only valid at the deck located at the corner of South High Street and East Market Street. Also free again will be evening parking on weeknights in the deck for library visitors. The Main Library is located at 60 S. High St. Tickets must be validated at the second-floor security desk.

“Restoring the one free hour of parking at Main Library is key to encouraging use of the library Monday [through] Friday,” library officials said in a statement. “This agreement will remove a potential barrier for those using the library’s resources, and for those attending library programs and community meetings or events.”

The first hour of parking at the city-owned deck had been free for several years, but that changed last summer when the city changed the fees for its decks. The changes were in response to a suggestion from Mayor Dan Horrigan’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, which recommended the city make its parking operations more self-sustaining.

Also added last year were fees for evening parking on weekdays. Between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weeknights, parking is a flat fee of $2 in city-owned decks. But according to library officials, visitors to Main Library can once again park for free between 6 and 8 p.m.

On weekends, starting Friday at 6 p.m., parking is free in all city-owned decks. Metered street parking is free on weekends and evenings after 6 p.m.

 

Quaker social justice organization to close local office

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Social justice organization the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) will close its Northeast Ohio office on April 30, officials announced Feb. 9.

They said a significant decline in income to the national AFSC and a goal to be more impactful by focusing on fewer “core” peace and justice issue areas are the reasons for ending 44 years of AFSC education, advocacy and organizing across the region and state. A majority of the local office’s funding comes from the national office, AFSC officials said.

The Quaker organization is devoted to service, development and peace programs throughout the world. Local AFSC officials said several other AFSC programs across the U.S. and internationally have either already closed or are also scheduled to end in 2017.

“While it’s recognized within AFSC that our program has been very effective in the past and present, we’ve sometimes focused on problems and proposed solutions that have been unaddressed by the rest of the organization,” officials said in a statement. “The closing of our office not only ends our work on what we feel are important projects, activities and campaigns. It also means we’ll no longer be able as AFSC to connect with those who’ve been so supportive — volunteers, interns, donors and allies, as well as those who’ve encouraged and critiqued what we’ve done, who we’ve done it with and how and where we’ve done it.”

To mark the end of its local presence, the organization is planning two gatherings to thank supporters. The first will take place March 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron, 3300 Morewood Road in Fairlawn. The other will take place March 24 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland, 2728 Lancashire Road in Cleveland Heights.

The AFSC office is located at 2101 Front St.

 

Valley supporters seek addition of train depot

MERRIMAN VALLEY — A local resident has begun a petition to ask local officials to put a train depot in Merriman Valley.

Karen Zampelli, a West Akron resident, said she started the petition last year on change.org. She is planning to have it sent to members of Akron City Council and officials with the City of Akron, Summit Metro Parks and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, whose trains travel through the Valley.

She said she initially decided to propose the project because of the declining number of businesses in the neighborhood.

“Since I started this last year, we have seen an upward swing in businesses coming in,” she said. “It’s not any of my doing, but just a great time to get fresh minds aboard since these new business owners have a great stake in the Valley just as all of them do.”

Zampelli said a train depot would create foot traffic in the neighborhood’s business district, and that would help support businesses there. That, in turn, would increase property values and generate more tax revenue, she added.

“The train depot is, I believe, huge to a revitalization because it will bring people to us,” Zampelli said. “There are over 25 places in the Valley to grab a bite to eat and more than that to get a drink. There are four fitness businesses along with an awesome bicycle shop where you can not only buy a bike but rent one. There are over 100 other businesses in our little gem of a valley. Being cradled in between the Metro Parks and the National Park, we are a true gem. We are truly turning back into a full service valley and [it] should be enjoyed by all people as a true destination place.”

To see the “Valley Scenic Railroad depot stop in the Merriman Valley, Akron, Ohio” petition, go to change.org.

 

Flu season continues in state

COLUMBUS — State officials are reminding residents that the influenza vaccine is still available as flu season continues.

According to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), as of Feb. 10, there were 396 new confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations in Ohio compared to 395 the week before. There have been 2,075 total flu-associated hospitalizations since flu season began in October, officials added. During last year’s flu season, Ohio had 3,633 total flu-associated hospitalizations, and 9,374 two years ago.

Health officials also said Ohio has had three confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths in the last two weeks, including a 6-year-old girl in Cuyahoga County. A total of 20 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported this season nationwide, which officials said is a reminder of the danger flu poses to children.

“Influenza vaccination is the safest and most effective way to prevent the flu, except for infants younger than 6 months old, who aren’t eligible to receive it,” said Sietske de Fijter, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases and state epidemiologist for the ODH. “There are no flu vaccine shortages across Ohio and it is available at most health care providers’ offices, local health departments and retail pharmacies.”

Flu season in Ohio generally lasts from October to May and peaks around this time of year, according to the ODH. Last year’s flu season did not peak until early March.

While vaccination provides the greatest protection against the flu, other effective ways to avoid getting or spreading it include: washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, or coughing or sneezing into elbows; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; and staying home when sick and until fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication. Symptoms of influenza can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that clinicians administer one of two prescription antiviral drugs as a second line of defense as soon as possible to patients with confirmed or suspected influenza who are hospitalized, have severe illness or may be at higher risk for flu complications. Patients who could benefit from them include children younger than 2 years old; adults 65 and older; people with chronic medical conditions, including asthma, heart disease or weakened immune systems; pregnant women; American Indians/Alaska Natives; and people who are morbidly obese.

“These antiviral medications can reduce the severity of the flu and prevent serious flu complications,” de Fijter said. “They work best when started within two days of getting sick.”

Adult flu-associated deaths are not reportable to ODH, so those statistics are not available.

For more information about influenza and flu activity in Ohio, go to www.flu.ohio.gov.

 

Ohio EPA offers low-interest loans for water projects

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting applications until March 1 from Ohio communities seeking financing for drinking water infrastructure improvements.

Ohio EPA officials said programs include the following:

√ Principal forgiveness: Ohio EPA anticipates awarding between $6 million and $8 million in principal forgiveness with a special focus on projects that address regionalization, emergency power and asset management planning;

√ Lead service line replacement: Ohio EPA will offer no-interest loans to projects that involve the replacement of lead service lines;

√ Harmful algal blooms (HAB): Ohio EPA will continue to offer no-interest loans for eligible planning, design and construction projects that address HAB issues at surface water treatment plants; and

√ Planning loans: Ohio EPA will offer no-interest loans to all applicants for planning purposes. The loans can be used for a variety of planning activities, including traditional infrastructure or treating for unregulated contaminants, as well as more specialized planning, such as asset management or corrosion control studies.

Communities may nominate projects by submitting forms and supporting documents, which are available at epa.ohio.gov/defa/ofa.aspx, to epa.DEFAmail@epa.ohio.gov by March 1.

The loans are part of the state’s Water Supply Revolving Loan Account (WSRLA) program, which offers below-market rate loans to eligible public water systems to fund infrastructure improvements that eliminate public health threats and ensure compliance with federal and state drinking water laws and regulations. Ohio EPA administers the program with assistance from the Ohio Water Development Authority.

 

Intellectual property scholar to speak March 7 to open Urban League luncheon series

AKRON — Akron Urban League’s (AUL) Urban Speaks Luncheon Series opens March 7 with legal scholar Ruth Okediji delivering a keynote lecture on Protecting Your Intellectual Property.

Okediji is the University of Minnesota William L. Prosser Professor of Law and an internationally known intellectual property rights scholar, according to AUL officials.

Tickets for the March 7 luncheon at Akron Urban League headquarters, 440 Vernon Odom Blvd., are $30 per person or $500 for a table of eight. Reservations may be made at akronurbanleague.org/urban- speaks. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. and the keynote address will begin at 12:30 p.m. Continuing legal education (CLE) credits from The University of Akron School of Law are available, according to AUL officials.

Okediji focuses on issues of innovation policy, economic development, and global knowledge governance in the context of international institutions and public international law. She has been acknowledged nationally and internationally for her research and professional service, according to AUL officials.

Okediji also has served as a consultant for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Development Program and the World Intellectual Property Organization and has directed research and technical assistance projects in Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, according to AUL officials.

A graduate of the University of Jos in Nigeria and Harvard Law School, Okediji is licensed to practice law in New York and Minnesota.

The Urban Speaks series is a quarterly event designed to foster dialogue and critical thinking on topics related to legal, civil rights and criminal justice issues, said AUL officials.

The Akron Urban League, an affiliate of the National Urban League, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that empowers individuals to earn financial self-sufficiency through transformative programs in the areas of education, employment and entrepreneurship.

 

Women’s Network to host awards luncheon

FAIRLAWN — Women’s Network of Northeast Ohio is accepting nominations for its 18th annual Women of Achievement Awards.

The awards, which recognize female professionals for their achievements both at work and in the community, will be presented at the organization’s annual luncheon, which will take place June 16 at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn, 3180 W. Market St.

According to event officials, the awards include: the Woman of Achievement Award (for individuals); the Emerging Leader Award (for individuals); and the Dorothy O. Jackson Award (for businesses). Paid sponsorships are being accepted through April 7 for Women of Professional Excellence recognitions.

Women’s Network officials stated nominations, accepted through March 3, can include women in all levels of leadership in for-profit, nonprofit, academia and government areas. Nomination forms and guidelines for the awards are available at womensnetworkneohio.com/womenofachievement.

Officials added nominated and sponsored recipients, as well as their organizations, will be notified prior to the luncheon event.

The luncheon will feature Robyn Gordon, director of center operations at NASA Glenn Research Center, as the keynote speaker. Also, Lashawrida Fellows, of the Boys & Girls Club of the Western Reserve, will serve as emcee, and Dr. Jennifer Savitski, from Cleveland Clinic Akron General, is the honorary chairperson for the event.

Event officials stated proceeds from the awards luncheon will benefit Women’s Network programs. For more information, visit womensnetworkneohio.com.

 

State reports decreases in opioid prescribing, dispensing

COLUMBUS — Opioid prescribing in Ohio declined for the fourth consecutive year in 2016, according to a newly released report from the State Board of Pharmacy’s Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS).

The state board reports that between 2012 and 2016, the total number of opioids dispensed to Ohio patients decreased by 162 million doses, or 20.4 percent, from a peak of 793 million doses to 631 million doses. The number of opioid prescriptions provided to Ohio patients decreased by 20 percent during the same period.

The report also shows a 78.2 percent decrease in the number of people engaged in the practice of “doctor shopping” since 2012. Additionally, the use of OARRS continued to increase, reaching an all-time high of 24.1 million requests in 2016.

Established in 2006, OARRS is the only statewide database that collects information on all prescriptions for controlled substances that are dispensed by pharmacies and personally furnished by licensed prescribers in Ohio. OARRS data is available to prescribers when they treat patients, pharmacists when presented with prescriptions from patients and law enforcement officers during active drug-related investigations.

The 2016 OARRS report is available at www.pharmacy.ohio.gov/OARRS2016.

 

Kathleen Folkerth and Pam Lifke contributed to these reports.

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