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Summit first autism-friendly county in Ohio

4/20/2017 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Summit County Council declared the county an autism-friendly community April 17, the first in Ohio to do so.

“That’s a really amazing milestone for Summit County and Ohio to achieve,” Stow Mayor Sara Kline told Council.

Kline is serving as chair of the Board of Directors for the Autism Society of Greater Akron (ASGA) and has an 18-year-old daughter with autism, she said.

The initiative was launched by County Executive Ilene Shapiro as part of National Autism Awareness Month, according to county officials.

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability, affecting one in 68 children, said Laurie Cramer, ASGA executive director.

“We are partnering with members of the community to ensure that Summit County continues its progress as an inclusive community for people who live with autism and other disabilities,” Kline said.

Many communities within the county also are on board, having already declared their cities, townships and villages autism-friendly, Kline added.

“Being autism-friendly doesn’t just mean passing resolutions and proclamations, although those are an important piece of the conversation, but being committed to public policy and practices that improve and promote inclusion,” she said.

Some areas of opportunity are employment, transportation, recreation, housing and education, according to Kline.

“Because certainly, as you can imagine, whether or not you live with autism or any other kind of disability, the most important thing as human beings is to feel included and welcome and part of your community,” she added.

Shapiro said in a press release, “I am honored to work with the Autism Society of Greater Akron on this resolution. Embracing our differences not only enriches the lives of all who live in Summit County, but it also makes our community a more attractive place for people to live, work and play. Today is a win for all Summit County residents.”

Also that evening, Council President John Schmidt (D-District 2) read for the record a commendation honoring Keith Dambrot, who was not able to attend the meeting. Dambrot is known for having coached LeBron James during his freshman and sophomore years at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and for serving as head coach of The University of Akron’s men’s basketball team since 2004.

Last month, Dambrot accepted a position as head basketball coach at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where his father played in the 1950s, according to county officials. 

“This Council wishes to express its thanks and gratitude to coach Dambrot for his dedication and commitment to countless student athletes in this community,” Schmidt read.

“It’s a loss for Akron but a gain for Duquesne,” he said, following the reading.

In other news, Council adopted a handful of items following their first readings, including:

  • a resolution to seek offers to run a small pet supplies store inside the county’s Animal Control Facility in Downtown Akron;
  • a resolution expressing their support for Ohio Senate Bill 128, which would establish the Zero-Emissions Nuclear Resources Program. The program, which compensates nuclear power plants on a per-megawatt basis, is critical for the financial health of FirstEnergy Corp., which owns two such facilities, according to county officials; and
  • a resolution urging the Ohio General Assembly to adopt a biennial budget that adequately compensates Ohio counties for the loss of revenues through the elimination of the Medicaid Managed Care Organization sales tax.

In other action, Council adopted legislation considered routine, which included a resolution to invest $2 million from the county’s inactive funds with the Development Finance Authority (DFA) of Summit County’s Jobs Fund reserves.

Council also held the second of two public hearings on switching to the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council’s (NOPEC) gas aggregation program, again with no comments from the public, and decided to move forward. The change will affect natural gas consumers in eight of the nine townships in the county and the City of New Franklin.

Summit County Council next will meet April 24 at 4:30 p.m. for committee meetings in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, located at 175 S. Main St. in Downtown Akron.

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