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West Side Real Estate News & Notes

2/14/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

FirstEnergy warning customers of debit card payment scam

AKRON — FirstEnergy Corp. utility officials are warning customers about a scam involving a telephone caller posing as an electric utility company employee threatening to shut off power unless an immediate payment is made using a prepaid debit card such as a Green Dot card.

These prepaid cards are available at convenience stores and drugstores and can be used by consumers to pay bills or add money to online accounts, according to FirstEnergy officials. Green Dot cards are not officially sanctioned as a bill payment method, according to FirstEnergy officials.

“Customers should know that if they get a call from someone demanding payment of their electric bill by using a Green Dot card, they are being scammed and should report the crime to local authorities,” said Ronald Green, vice president of customer service for FirstEnergy. “While we may phone a customer whose bill is in arrears in order to remind them that a payment is due, we would explain how a payment can be made using established payment options.”

FirstEnergy bill payment options include:

  • eBill electronic billing, where customers receive their bill and make payments electronically;
  • paying with a credit card;
  • using the Equal Payment Plan, in which uniform bill payments can be made to avoid seasonal fluctuation of payment amounts;
  • paying by phone using FirstEnergy’s automated phone system;
  • paying in person at an authorized payment agent for a nominal fee per transaction; and
  • paying by mail.

Customers can sign up for the various payment options online at www.firstenergycorp.com.

Countryside farms highlighted in regional conservation report

Daniel Greenfield’s Boston Township farm, Greenfield Berry Farm, was featured in a recent report on regional land conservation.
Photo courtesy of David Liam Kyle
NORTHEAST OHIO — The Countryside Initiative, a program in which old farms in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) are rehabilitated and revitalized, is featured in “Common Ground: The Regional Land Protection Report for Northern Ohio,” the first comprehensive look at regional land conservation, according to the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC), which coordinated the effort.

The report looks at the experience of Daniel Greenfield, owner of Greenfield Berry Farm in Boston Township. It is one of 11 farms within the CVNP boundaries in Boston, Bath, Peninsula, Brecksville, Valley View and Cuyahoga Falls.

The report determined that about 7 percent of the area, or 295,322 acres, in a 14-county region in Northern Ohio has been preserved — significantly less than the 10-percent to 15-percent level recommended by local experts, according to the WRLC. In addition, it found that 5 percent of the region’s farmland is now protected, meaning that 95 percent of the existing agricultural land could be lost to development.

The report was a collaborative effort by local land conservancies, park systems, community leaders, outdoor groups, soil and water conservation districts, property owners and nonprofit organizations. It was coordinated and funded by the WRLC.

The report’s authors and advisory board members hope the document can become a tool for the entire conservation community in discussions about land preservation in the region.

The report used data and other information from more than 60 sources ranging from park system databases to interviews with farmers. The goal was to document, for the first time, the state of land conservation in Northern Ohio and to analyze the information for use going forward.

Counties in the study area were Cuyahoga, Medina, Summit, Lorain, Lake, Geauga, Erie, Huron, Wayne, Stark, Portage, Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula.

According to the WRLC, other key findings included:

  • The region is now preserving land at a rate of about 1 percent per decade.
  • The number of farmland acres in the study area has dropped to less than 1.5 million — less than half the agricultural acreage in 1935.
  • Northern Ohio’s population has declined since peaking at 4.2 million people in 1970, yet residents have continued to develop 8 percent more of the land, according to land cover surveys.
  • Nearly 28 percent of the region’s residents live within what is considered a half mile from a park or other protected land.
  • The response to oil and gas drilling in the Utica Point Pleasant formation will largely determine whether the pace of land protection can be increased.
  • The Natural Heritage Database for the region lists more than 400 unique species. Sixty-seven percent of the 3,376 natural heritage records for this region occur on park, protected or managed land.
  • Many people have a clear understanding of public land protection as it pertains to parks and preserves. There is less understanding about other methods of private land protection.
  • Re-using the vacant land opened up by home demolitions will be critical to the revitalization of urban neighborhoods.
  • Federal funding for land preservation has not kept pace with the need. 

The report concludes that “the window of opportunity for preserving the best of our region’s natural resources is closing fast. It cannot be reopened.”

Coordinators plan to do this study every three years, with updates annually. Single copies of the report are available by calling WRLC at 440-528-4150. Conservation groups interested in a presentation about the report can also contact the WRLC.

Stephanie Kist and Maria Lindsay contributed to these reports.

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