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I’ve had enough! Enough of eating fast food because I am too tired to cook after a long day. Enough of doing the funky Egyptian chicken dance around the bedroom after I put on my jeans just so I can breath. Enough of being tired and run down all the time. I have definitely had enough of getting winded from just walking upstairs! And now I am going to finally do something about it.

While I was typing up the press release for the Community EMS Boot Camp for last week’s paper, I thought how easy that it would be to get involved – I mean after all it is for a good cause. I would like to lose some pounds and get into shape. But I know that doing it alone is my biggest downfall everytime I begin another “diet”. So after speaking with the owners of the paper, we have all decided to do some “self-improvement” around the office.
This morning, bright and early at 8am Captain Craig Barrett agreed to meet Michelle, Chris and me for our physical fitness test so that I could outline the beginning our of journey for our readers. (I might include that I had written a rough draft of my obituary in case of my untimely death by exercise occurred.) The fitness test provided us with a baseline so that we could improve upon ourselves.
Our goals are different, Michelle would like to tone up and get into better shape, while Chris and I would like to lose some weight and get into shape.

After taking the fitness test, we have all agreed that we will go home tonight and write our goals out to share with each other tomorrow. In next week’s column I will let you all know what our goals are and how we are going to go about achieving them. Community EMS will also provide us with information and sessions we can attend if we choose.
If you are worried about joining the Boot Camp…no need to worry because your results will probably be better than ours collectively. And remember the idea behind Boot Camp is to provide you with support from a group of people who are trying to improve themselves just like you. Working together as a group will provide motivation and support and make it fun. Need some further motivation? Last year one of the participants, Sandy, lost 40 pounds!

We all know getting started with any diet or exercise program is easier to do when you have a friend to complain and whine to. What? That is what we all do and we expect our friend to not baby us around and tell us to stop our whining and throw the candy bar away! (Nothing beats the brutal honesty of a friend!) We here at the Villager are inviting you to join us in our “self-improvement” by signing up for the Community EMS Boot Camp by calling the station at (330) 527-4100. Check out what is happening on Facebook by visiting the Community EMS Boot Camp page.

Hiram – After lengthy delays since mid-November, Portage County Commissioners finally held hearings to consider the annexation of approximately139 acres from Hiram Township to Hiram Village last week. The proposed annexation would pave the way for private developers to build retirement housing on the parcel of land originally set aside for Hiram College expansion.

Hiram College and Village Builders of Hiram originally petitioned to annex land adjacent to the village’s north border, for phased construction of approximately 200 residential units for retirees on 90 acres north of the Hiram College campus. The college expects to set aside 50 acres in part of the Silver Creek Watershed as a conservation area.

A surprise awaited those attending Monday’s opening session, according to various reliable  sources. Ed Wurm, a partner with Mike Maschek Sr. in Village Builders of Hiram Inc., announced their firm is withdrawing as developer of the construction project. The decision reportedly is due to economic issues unrelated to the long and contentious annexation battle.

Wurm said the 90 acres Hiram Builders purchased from Hiram College for development would revert back to the college, as stipulated in the purchase agreement. Hiram College President Tom Chema indicated that Village Builder’s pullout will not impede the project’s progress, saying he expects no difficulty in finding another builder for the 55-and-older independent and assisted living development.
Following Monday’s testimony, ensuing hearings were postponed for two days, due to Commissioner Maureen Frederick’s battle with the flu. Consequently, conflicts arose in scheduling expert witnesses and testifying attorneys. So, although hearings resumed on Thursday, further hearings now have been extended nine additional days, through March 18. Commissioners will deliver a decision on the annexation request within 30 days after overall hearings conclude.

Last November, two of three commissioners — Chuck Keiper and Chris Smeiles — cited potential conflicts of interest for being unable to participate in the hearings. Consequently, hearings were postponed until late January, when newly-elected Commissioner Tommie Jo Marsilio would be in office and could preside over the hearings with Frederick (Commissioner Chris Smiles continued to recuse himself.) A majority of the three commissioners is needed for any vote.

Marsilio – a Republican –  replaces Democrat Keiper, who served on the board since 1993. Democrat Maureen Frederick has been a commissioner since 2003. Democrat Smeiles is the senior commissioner, having taken office in 1989.

The hearings were reset for January 24-26 at the Portage County Administration Building in Ravenna, with three sides represented:  the petitioners for the annexation, the village and the township.

But they were cancelled January 25 and 26 after a full day of testimony January 24, due to Frederick’s illness. They resumed January 27 with testimony from Hiram Mayor Louis Bertrand, Police Chief Mark Lombardi and Hiram Village Administrator Robert Wood.

Garrettsville – Bulletin: the James A. Garfield Quiz Masters appeared this past Saturday on the WEWS Channel 5 Academic Challenge program at 7:00.  Interesting mix of competitors–Indian Valley (Gnadenhutten, Tuscarawas County), Canton Central Catholic and Garfield.  Quite an extensive viewing area the station has from which  to draw participation.  It was a “Great Battle of the Brains” whereby the Quiz Masters gave quite a performance! Team Captain  Molly Everett, Logan Dean and Eileen Mangan did a wonderful job  squeaking out a very impressive win which included capturing several bonus round  points!!  Great Job!

Apropos of which, here’s a heads-up   about the return of Machine-O-Mania/Touch-A-Truck in concert with the annual village-wide yard/garage/porch sale on May 21st & 22nd.  Save that Sunday morning and afternoon to come on out to the James A. Garfield parking area to get a look at the BIG BOYS…and GIRLS, for that matter.  If it’s large and lovingly polished, if it’s fast and fairly loud, if it’s got tires that could be lived in by most of the population of Latvia, it’ll be there.  The gathering is a fund-raising activity of the Garfield Quiz Masters and it’s FUN!  Plan now to attend.

Garrettsville – The rumors have been spreading like wildfire. Yes, it is true. Now that the ink is dry, Monica has given us her blessing to let you know that it is official — Miller’s Family Restaurant will be moving to a new location.
Miller’s, which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary in December 2010, was started by Monica Miller and located in Windham. Fourteen years ago she made the decision to move to Garrettsville when a space on Main Street became available. From her Main Street location, Monica and her family have served up delicious meals to many faithful customers. Now Monica has found a way to better serve those loyal customers who have dined there for years, and new customers who have yet to walk through the door.

Miller’s Family Restaurant is happy to announce that they will be moving, but not far! They are headed just down the road to 8045 State Street, the old Sky Bank and Garden Bistro building. When I asked Monica what her customers thought she commented that they are very excited – especially about the parking. Customers will now enjoy the convenience of a parking lot and the fact that the restaurant will now be handicap accessible. Inside, customers will enjoy more seating in a roomy atmosphere.

Miller’s will still offer the same great menu and prices, and they will also be bringing back an old favorite — Monica is pleased to announce that she will open her doors on Thursday and Friday nights for fish fry dinners.

Miller’s Family Restaurant is planning on being open at their new location the first week of March.

Newton Falls - The council members gathered at the community center with the mayor, city manager, and city clerk last week for a special work session. The law director was not present.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Waddell opened the workshop, instructing those present that this was a time to put ideas and questions on the open table and “resolve differences in a professional and productive manner.” This time should be used to find ways in which Council would continue to serve the public and the best interests of the community.
During the two-hour time frame, Police Chief John Kuivila reminded Council about the issues with dispatching and the importance of moving forward with the intention of addressing them quickly. “I believe we need to keep dispatch,” he said. “It’s a benefit to the community.” However, he cautioned that the budget has already been cut and more cuts may be in the future for the police department. The dispatch center is currently costing roughly $300,000 a year. It could possibly be outsourced if it comes down to it, but the Chief expressed concern that other departments would not want to dispatch for Newton Falls because of the turmoil that has been going on. He also stated he needs the support of council whichever way he decides to go concerning this matter and is still seeking clarification from council on which way they will collectively agree.
Councilman Monteville suggested that he would like to have the opportunity to sit down and write out the pros and cons for the various options and see something on paper in order to make a decision. Mr. Haney has plans to prepare a report so that Council may schedule an executive session to “hammer things out” and start to move forward on what is becoming quite the time-sensitive issue.
Further in monetary concerns for the city, the Finance Director has “serious concerns about the general fund going forward” and discussed plans for road maintenance around town. “By 2012 we will be unable to carry current services in as they are,” she explained, anticipating changes in government funding. Councilwoman Johnson asked about how the city is collecting from people who have not paid their utility bills, specifically those who have been consistently in arrears for months and months. The Finance Director assured that “we will be pursuing a higher level of collections this year for people who are delinquent.”
Also on the agenda for the special meeting was setting clear and specific performance goals for the city manager. Each council member submitted a list of what projects they would like to see Mr. Haney involved in and tangible goals he is expected to meet. Other highlights include discussion of the new baseball concession stand to be built for the youth leagues, which is in its early stages; looking at long-term design of the park facilities in general and the most effective and architecturally-pleasing layout for twenty years down the road; a suggestion made by Mr. Haney to institute an Adopt-a-Spot program to encourage local businesses or groups to volunteer to clean up, beautify and maintain the landscaping in public areas, mentioning specifically the Waste Water Plant signs; and fine-tuning the aforementioned list of expectations for the city manager by identifying what are reasonable requests and quantifiable goals.
Councilman Luonuansuu made the motion to hold a regularly-scheduled conversational caucus before the official business portion of council meetings. Effective starting with the next meeting on February 7th at 6pm, this time will be untelevised and will allow council members to hash out details and be on the same page on issues to be discussed in front of the public. The motion passed 4-1. The televised portion will now begin at 7pm.
A meeting is also planned for February 28th to further discuss the finance and dispatch issues.

Have you or someone you know been touched by cancer? Would you like to have this person remembered in a quilt? I am making a Relay for Life quilt that will be raffled off at the Newton Falls relay. This is a quilt to honor those who have been touched by cancer. If you would like to donate a piece of fabric to be a part of this quilt, please drop off a 4 by 5 inch piece of 100% cotton and a note with either “in memory of…” or “in honor of…” the person you know or knew that has struggled with cancer. This person’s name will be put on the backing of the quilt and included in a booklet of stories or comments about the people honored on the quilt. You can drop off your fabric at Sassy Hair-N-Nails, 101 Milton Blvd South (across from IGA). I would like to have the quilt ready in time for the Relay, so please drop off your fabric pieces soon.

Burton – At 7 pm, Mayor Blair called the Burton Village Council Meeting to order.  All councilpersons were present.

The police chief’s report was submitted to the council.  The report submitted covered November and December 2010.  There were 317 calls in November and 325 in December along with six arrests in November and two in December.  The police department has increased their visibility by the elementary school between 3 pm and 4:15 pm.  The police chief stops by the schools periodically to find out what the parents and faculty would like to see the police department do to help the schools.  Also, they have filed dispositions to destroy old evidence and that project is proceeding.

The police chief detailed that he went to Amber Alert training in Columbus and he explained the procedures that need to be followed in order to have an Amber Alert activated.  There must be a kidnapping; there are other processes available for missing children (assumed not kidnapped).  He also met with people from the Child Missing Program in Columbus.  The Geauga Chief Association has agreed on procedures to follow in the case of an Amber Alert being issued in the county.  Various local resources will be available until the child is found.  He expressed how important it is to be prepared, because the sooner alerts are issued, the better the chances of finding the child.

The solicitor did not have a report to submit but brought up an issue for future council consideration.  Solicitor Hicks spoke about the increase of Internet sweepstake cafes popping up in the area.  These cafes are operated for purpose of legalized gambling and he is concerned that one might want to open in the area.  He suggested that he write up an ordinance requiring a six-month moratorium if one were to want to open.  This would give the Council ample time to consider the consequences of such a business opening in the Village.  Council agreed that Solicitor Hicks should draft an ordinance and present it to Council at the next meeting.

First Readings:

Ordinance 2213-11: amending Section 303(A) of the Board of Public Affairs Rules and Regulations for the Village of Burton and Section 925.02(A) of the Village of Burton Codified Ordinances so as to amend the sewer rates.

Ordinance 2214-11: amending Section 302(A) of the Board of Public Affairs Rules and Regulations for the Village of Burton and Section 925.01(A) of the Village of Burton Codified Ordinances so as to amend the sewer tap-in or connection fee.

The Fiscal Officer asked for a motion to approve bills to be paid.  This motion passed.  He also requested a motion to approve the minutes of the January 10 meeting.  Councilperson Rogue had a few corrections.  A motion was then passed to accept the minutes as amended.

The Fiscal Officer also went over a few changes that he made to the 2011 budget.  There was some discussion and clarification regarding those changes.  The Fiscal Officer will present the amended budget to Council next month.

The Mayor’s Report will be emailed to the members of Council.  The Mayor also mentioned that the time was fast approaching for maple sugaring and that means more traffic in the Village.  He asked everyone to be patient and tolerant with the traffic increases.

Councilperson Coleman made a comment regarding the increase of  village water and sewer fees stating that he felt they were too high and could create a burden to residents.  He suggested that council consider phasing in increases over approximately three years, thus easing some of the burden on the residents.  Councilperson Ronyak stated his concerns for being able to pay for upcoming costs and maintenance of the existing systems.  It was mentioned that the past government body did not raise rates for water and sewer and now it must be done in order to update present equipment.  Councilperson Coleman agreed but would like to see a gradual increase of rates, especially in this economy.  Councilperson Rogue agreed that the increase was too much abrupt and too steep, regardless of the reason for it. The Mayor told council that the increase was not even as much as was recommended to him by others.  There will be a public hearing about this increase on February 15.

New Business included quotes sent out for spring brush pick-up.  Four quotes were sent out and only two were returned.  Northeast Tree and Stump and Van Curen were the two that returned the quotes.  Northeast had the lower bid.  It was requested that a motion be made to allow them the contract for spring brush pick-up; it was passed.
Councilperson Hauser gave a public thank you to Marty and the street crew for always keeping the village running smoothly.  He also received a round of applause from council.
The meeting was then adjourned.

Freedom Twp. – Highlights of the January 20 meeting of the Freedom Township Trustees include the following:

Zoning Inspector Derthick said he will be meeting with the Prosecutor regarding a storage trailer problem. He also said at another location the owner has been given until the end of July to remove an accessory building; in the meantime, no one is allowed to live in it, according to the prosecutor. The Board of Appeals re-elected Gil Krohn as chair and Jeff Rinearson as vice chair.

Mr. Hammar said the Zoning Commission re-elected Stan Lawrence as chair and Kathy Knerem as vice chair. Two other people have expressed interest in serving on the zoning board and Mr. Hammar will follow through.

Mr. VanSteenberg said road-clearing is on-going, new fuel tanks are in place,  old tanks have been emptied, electricity  has been hooked up. The transmission line for the Kodiak truck had a hole and was replaced. Another person will be performing community service (24 hours) at the town hall and church building. There was a problem with the well at the town hall and Mr. Burrows replaced the torque boot, wiring, switch and tank.

Mr. Zizka reported on EMS. Mr. Kaiser is chair and Mr. Wilson is vice chair. They are still working to resolve Workers’ Compensation issues. For the first six months, new hires will be getting fifty cents less per hour.

Trustees approved application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for funds for park development. Mr. Hammar will work with Mrs. Nicholas on this project.
Mrs. Nicholas spoke of her conversation with Frontier phone/internet services to upgrade the zoning office. This change will not be made since voice mail is not available at this time for our location.

Regarding gutter repair on the church, Mr. Zizka will follow up so it is completed before springs rains begin.
Zoning Planning Study information will be made available on the township’s website.
Small increases were made to the pay rates of the road crew. No increases are scheduled for calendar year 2011 in the pay rates for the zoning inspector, assistant zoning inspector and zoning secretary.

Windham - Windham Village met for their regularly scheduled January meeting  with all members and fiscal officer present.  In the mayor’s report the mayor stated that the library is nearly  moved into the Renaissance Family Center and they are working on finalizing the agreement with the Portage County District Library Council.

After some discussion on the library contract, council decided to pay the library subsidy monthly rather than quarterly, they also agreed to discharge the library from  its previous lease. The mayor also announced that they have agreed to have the local garden center Gearhart Gardens, do the flower baskets for the bicentennial. The village will commit $2600 to the Bicentennial Committee for this year’s celebration; this amount was what the village normally spends on the flower baskets. The Mayor also suggested the village look into doing something with the community center. One suggestion was to donate it to the historical society. One board member thought that they should get it appraised before making a decision on the facility. The historical society will tour the facility and determined if they can use it before making any decisions on their end as well. No decision was rendered on this issue.

Rob Haehn from Glacial Energy presented a month-to-month agreement for the village with Glacial Energy for supplying electricity. Glacial Energy only supplies electricity to businesses and municipalities. After some consideration, the board agreed to authorize the fiscal officer and the solicitor to enter into an agreement with Glacial Energy, after they have investigated the offer.

In other business, council voted to approve the resignation of Loretta Workman effective January 31, 2011.  After a brief executive session council approved the promotion of Mary Geraci to full-time dispatcher. Geraci has been a part-time dispatcher for the Windham Police Department for 7 years.  Council also agreed to advertise for another part-time dispatcher. They voted to repeal a sewer resolution due to a typo in the resolution and they also voted to repeal the senior discount for the water usage. In a previous meeting they had changed how the water billing is done. The current water billing is billed in increments of 1000 gallons; before there had been a minimum usage charged per month whether  one used that amount or not. By changing the billing method, seniors and those who use less water are paying less than they did with the senior discount.

One resident asked about a water and sewer issue that wasn’t on the agenda and another resident questioned what they were doing about a problem property near RFC. The mayor said the water and sewer issue was added to council’s agenda but not placed on the published  one. The situation about the property that was in question is going through the proper legal channels and hopefully will be resolved soon. The Village council meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 pm in council chambers.

Garrettsville – Do you need a little motivation to lose weight, diet properly and exercise? Community EMS Boot Camp is a weight-loss challenge in the form of two physical fitness tests over a three-month period for only $20. Each participant will receive a commemorative T-shirt upon completion of Boot Camp. Gift card prizes will also be awarded to the following categories: best physical fitness test score for male and female, most improved physical fitness test score for male and female, and most weight lost for male and female.
Boot Camp will begin with a physical fitness test on Saturday, February 12th at 10am (call if you need to set up another time). This test will establish a baseline fitness level for each participant. Participants will then work towards their personal goals. This can be done individually or in groups. Workout and motivation groups will be set up after the first test. Then everyone will return on May 7th for the final fitness test. Physical fitness tests will consist of as many push-ups as you can do in two minutes, as many abdominal crunches as you can do in two minutes, pull-ups or flexed arm hang, and a 2-mile run that can be completed as a walk, run or both.

Grab your friends, family and neighbors to join in the challenge with you! To sign up, stop in at 10804 Forest Street in Garrettsville, or call the station at (330) 527-4100. The $20 can be paid on February 12th at the first fitness test. Proceeds will go to Community EMS Association, an employee based, non-profit organization that raises money to buy state-of-the-art equipment to better serve our community. All participants will be recognized at our open house on May 14th.

Nelson Township – The regularly scheduled Nelson Township Trustees meeting was moved to the community house due to no heat at the maintenance building and the meeting room. The meeting was called to order with all trustees and fiscal officer present. The minutes from the January 5, 2011 were approved as read. Fiscal officer Dave Finney presented the bills and wages and they were approved to be paid. Mr. Finney presented the 2011 revised budget; the board revised the NOPEC Fund 2901 due to the fact that they had not used all the funds.

The gutters that were torn down by the wind last month have been replaced.  The cost of the repair was $700; the township turned the bill into their insurance company. The township paid the $500 deductible then the insurance company paid the difference.

At  the previous trustee meeting there was a discussion on whether the trustees should establish policy on whether they would reimburse elected officials and employees for spousal coverage on Medicare insurance payments. Mr. Leonard contacted Assistant Prosecutor Chris Meduri for a ruling. Meduri recommended that they limit the reimbursements to the elected officials and full time employees even though there hasn’t been a ruling made on the issue by the Attorney General. After some discussion, the trustees chose to take the assistant prosecutors recommendation and not reimburse elected officials or full time employees for spousal Medicare payments.

They tabled the appointments to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) until the next meeting. The trustees want to conduct short interviews with each candidate before appointing ZBA representatives. Interviews are scheduled to take place prior to the next trustee meeting.

Mr. Turos explained the heat problem at the maintenance garage and meeting room. Late last fall they realized that their gas well lines had waxed up, leaving them without natural gas until the lines from the tank could be swabbed. The call to the company has been made and they will be out as soon as they can to open up the lines. In the mean time the garage will be using space heaters to keep the water lines from freezing. This is a common problem that is being solved by establishing routine maintenance on the well.

The actual figure for the window bid is a little higher than quoted due to the fact they have discovered two more windows that were not counted in the original quote. The added expense will be $861.30. The board expects to have the new doors and windows at the Community house installed by the end of February. AM Doors and Supply will be replacing the doors and Hershberger Roofing and Siding will replace the windows. Both contracts will be paid for by the NOPEC Grant.

Chairman Joe Leonard stated that the next meeting scheduled for February 3, 2011 will be held at the Community House at 7:30. They will be joined by Hiram Township Trustees and Sheriff Doak. The sheriff will present a block watch program to both Hiram and Nelson Trustees and talk about the recent rise in car thefts and break-ins.

Finally, the trustees announced that they are missing a new, large coffee pot from the community house. Will the party that borrowed it please return it.

Mantua - During the January meeting of the Mantua Chamber of Commerce old business was discussed including the success of Santa on the Corner and the Lighting in the Park in December. Everyone was pleased with how successful the event was.

New officers were sworn in by Janet Espisito. The members are President Christine Pitsinger, Vice President Melissa Lyle, Secretary Becky Tipton and Treasurer Joan Sweet.

New business was discussed. A report was given on the Robinson Clinic in Garrettsville. The weather has held up the project, but things are now back on track for building. The Chamber decided to pro-rate dues for this year to allow members who join in July or after a lowered dues rate.

Congratulations to Dorothy Caldwell, winner of  $25 donated by K & K Meats.

The next meeting will be held on February 16th.

Garrettsville – If you have recently become engaged, have been engaged for some time, or would like to renew your wedding vows, why not enter for a chance to become Garrettsville Summerfest’s First Couple!

This year’s Vegas-style theme, “The Biggest Game In Town”, easily lends itself to thoughts of wedding chapels and getting married. But don’t worry, you won’t need to dress like Elvis to say “I do” at Summerfest.

Send the committee a letter and tell us why you would like to be Summerfest’s First Couple. The selected couple will need to provide their own attire and rings, but they will receive everything else they need to tie the knot.

Start off your wedding with uniquely-designed invitations by Villager Printing so you can invite your friends. Luann from The Golden Mirror will pamper the bride with a hairstyle befitting a queen. Art-n-Flowers and The Bay Window will make sure your floral needs are fresh and fun. Choose to get married by Mayor Moser or Rev. Adkins and Harpist Ellen Eckhouse will play  wedding music as you walk down Main Street to the Main Stage. The couple and their guests will then attend a private reception. While at the reception they will toast with champagne from SkyLane Drive-Thru and local area wines from The Cellar Winery and Candlelight Winery and share in the age-old tradition of cutting the wedding cake provided by Carolyn’s Cakes.

After dinner at Main Street Grill and Brewery, and enjoying the largest fireworks display in the area, the happy couple will receive accommodations at the Hiram Inn. Then the winning couple will return on Sunday to ride in the Summerfest Grand Parade, which steps off at noon. Ronda Brady Photography will be on hand to capture all your wedding memories.

Enter for a chance to be the First Couple and celebrate at the biggest party in Northeast Ohio. Send your letters and a photo to Garrettsville Summerfest’s First Couple, c/o The Weekly Villager, PO Box 331, Garrettsville, OH 44231. Deadline for all submissions is April 29, 2011. The winning couple will be contacted May 4, 2011. For more information contact The Weekly Villager during normal business hours at (330) 527-5761 or visit the www.garrettsvillesummerfest.com/wedding.html.

Hiram – During the 105th annual meeting of Hiram Village Council on January 11, Mayor Lou Bertrand delivered his 2011 State of Hiram Village Address. He opened with a reassuring statement that “Hiram village government is in stable financial condition, operating in an efficient manner and providing good service to the public, our citizens, businesses, students, staff, administration and faculty of Hiram College.”

He went on to spotlight several village and college projects that will take shape in 2011. Last December, the Village received approval for a $50,000 NOPEC energy efficiency grant, which will be utilized this new year to make energy-saving permanent improvements in village structures.

Hiram College has received a donation of approximately $300,000 for renovation of the old Miller Dining Hall. Also, renovations to the Art Building for a black box theatre on campus will be completed this Spring. There are future plans to also remodel the locker room and Henry Field.

The college and village have pursued federal and state infrastructure funds to complete the roadway from Winrock Road to Hinsdale Road. Hiram Village has received a grant from Ohio Public Works Commission for $177,500 to fund a Hinsdale Road extension to meet at the north-south extension of Winrock Road. Although now on college property, it will be dedicated to public use. This grant will be awarded in July 2011, with construction completed within a year thereafter.

The village and college are in negotiations for the purchase of 5.1 acres at the old Hiram School property. A proposed Community Block Grant was increased from $82,000 to $113,000. The demolition of the old Hiram School is now almost completed for the bid contract of $66,900 to Ace – Zuver, LLC.

Through the auspices of the Akron Metropolitan Area Transit System [AMATS], Hiram has received approval for $145,000, plus an additional 15% for the East Hill storm sewer project. The $130,548 Curb and Storm Sewer project on East Hill (SR 305) was completed last June.

Looking for long-term solutions to rising water and sewer system costs, Hiram considered becoming part of a proposed county water and sewer district led in part by the Portage County municipal/village governments. Mayor Bertrand met with the mayors of Windham, Garrettsville, Mantua and representatives of Portage County, who together sought a grant to explore a combined water and sewer district. “However, neither Mantua and Garrettsville Village Councils would help us fund this $330,000 study,” Bertrand said. “But Windham Village would. It makes no sense that this region of the world that has almost 20% of the world’s fresh water reserves have some of the highest water and sewer rates in our nation.”

Last May, Hiram Village Council purchased a $422,000 2010 diesel Fire Pumper-Tanker, weighing 26,000 pounds, to be jointly owned by Hiram Village and township. In June 2010, a newly revised Fire and EMS two-year contract was signed with Hiram Township, going into effect this January.

The old Hiram firehouse has come back into the possession of the village and is currently being utilized to park village equipment and vehicles. Last summer, Hiram College President Tom Chema expressed interest in utilizing the old Fire Hall for the College’s Business Incubator Program. “We should all determine what use can be best made of this property,” Bertrand said.

All in all, Mayor Bertrand’s outlook for 2011 sees the Village of Hiram entering a period of renovation and growth, in cooperation with Hiram College, Hiram Township and neighboring communities.

Hiram-Mayor Bertrand called the meeting to order at 7 pm.  Rob Dempsey was not in attendance.  Mayor Bertrand asked for a moment of silence to reflect on the Arizona shootings then continued with the Pledge of Allegiance.

The council approved the 11/30/10 Special Council Meeting minutes, approved the 12/14/10 Council Meeting minutes, updated this evening’s agenda while the Mayor requested a motion to approve the use of the 10th edition of Robert’s Rules of Orders (motion approved) in future meetings, he named Tom Wadkins as Council President and moved that public comments be limited to three minutes.  The times and dates for the 2011 Council Meetings were also set as the second Tuesday of the month at 7 pm.  The Mayor detailed appointments to Village Committees.

A letter was drafted on December 13, 2010 to Douglas Brewer, Fiscal Officer, of the Hiram Township Board of Trustees.  This letter details a Hiram Village Income Tax that is required of the employees of Hiram Township due to the fact that both the Township Hall and Township Garage are located in the Village limits.  Two Ohio Supreme Court cases were cited supporting this tax and the necessary steps to adhere to the Village of Hiram Tax Code were detailed.  Hiram Township Trustee, Kathy Schuda, was in attendance to voice her concerns about this tax and its implications on the Township workers.  Schuda explained that since the taxes due date back five years they would cause financial hardships to many of the Township employees.  No one was pleased with this outcome but according to Ohio Supreme Court cases, the taxes are due to the Village.

The Police Report was submitted to the Council.  The Police Chief had nothing unusual to report and said he would have the 2010 yearly report available at the February meeting.

The Fire and EMS Report was submitted to the Council.  The Fire Chief gave a very detailed presentation with the 2010 statistics including incident report breakdowns, fire statistics, EMS statistics, ten-year trends and overall response time calculations.  The overall response time is down from previous years and the department is proud of those statistics.  There was on-going training throughout the year.  There was a rundown of 2011 projects which included an update and the delivery information of the new Fire Engine #2.  The delivery should be in February or March.  More details will be available at the February meeting.

The Village Administrator Report was submitted to Council.  The Cemetery Report will be submitted at the February meeting.  Work has begun on how to best distribute a $50,000 grant issued to the Village for general energy savings.  It was agreed that by putting jobs out for bid, the grant money might be stretched to get as many energy savings projects done as possible.

The Mayor’s Report was submitted to Council.  The Mayor commented that the Village was in very stable condition and operating efficiently.  A grant was approved for renovation of the dining hall and theater at the college.  Future plans will be forthcoming from the college.

The Fiscal Officer’s Report was submitted to Council.  A motion was made to approve the report and to pay bills.  Both motions were passed.  This is a busy time of the year and work is progressing toward all that needs to be done fiscally.  The bank reconciliation statement was distributed and approved.

Ordinance 2010-22: Increase fines for illegal parking (3rd reading): Motion passed.  The fines have not increased since 1999.

Ordinance 2010-14: Contract for Trash Hauler (3rd reading): Delayed and moved to table this ordinance for the time being.

Ordinance 2011-01: Zoning Permit and Fee Schedule (1st reading):  It was brought up that the cost for a variance may be too high and that it should be reviewed by the Zoning Board in February.  Then this ordinance can come back to the Council for further review.

There were no resolutions to be discussed.  A motion was made to convene in Executive Session for personnel matters.  Meeting was adjourned.

Garrettsville – Returning to his favorite metaphor, Mayor Craig Moser likened historic Garrettsville to “our old century home” in his annual State of the Village Report, delivered at the Garrettsville Village Council meeting on January 12.

Recapping the past year, Moser said, “Life in G’ville in 2010 had its good moments indeed. Our old century home had the lights on and the good times were there for all to enjoy!”

Highlights of 2010 included the “best-ever” SummerFest, which featured a long tractor parade, canoe races and an overflow crowd on Main Street for fireworks and the Grand Parade. The mayor was also proud of another “Academically Excellent with Distinction” rating for the James A Garfield Schools, the Garfield Historical Society’s Bi-Annual Christmas Walk, the JAG State Champion Girl’s Softball Team, and the Chamber of Commerce’s  inaugural village celebration on St Patrick’s Day.

“As mayor, I have the shared responsibility to maintain the old homestead, keep it safe, and make appropriate, affordable improvements to it,” Moser went on to say. Despite rising gas prices and higher health insurance premiums than in 2009, the village’s tax revenues in 2010 were surprisingly a bit higher. This improvement was due to the quarter-percent income tax rate increase passed in November 2007.

“My personal thanks to the voters of Garrettsville for understanding we get what we pay for,” he said. “In addition, we need to pay for what we get. And what you pay for is worth it. We do try to spend your tax money wisely.”

Other village accomplishments for 2010 included a review of village equipment needs, the annexation of three properties on Brosius Road into the village, the purchase of 10 acres of adjacent land for future Park Cemetery expansion, the annual crack sealing of several village streets, the replacement of some sidewalks, the replacement of some equipment at South Park and Park Avenue playgrounds, and the purchase of the Irwin Hardware parking lot. The village website was also revised and updated.

The Ohio Department of Transportation started demolishing the Windham/Freedom Street (Route 82) Bridge in May 2010, “and the long-lasting bridge project is not done yet but will be completed soon,” Moser reported.

Finally, “The  long-neglected Irwin Hardware building has been weatherproofed and we have a strategy to move forward on this project in partnership with a private developer, however there are a lot of if’s and then’s in our strategy…” according to the mayor.

Mayor Moser — also Professor of Economics at Hiram College — stated that “Our village’s financial balances at the end of 2010 tell us we had a stable result year for our cash balances over the course of the year. So, I remain conservative and cautious about our spending plans for 2011. Likely, our 2011 income tax revenues will be flat due to the continued high unemployment rate and inclement economic conditions which have lasted for a while, but seem to be abating.”

During this new year, village employees are receiving a two percent raise, matching the two-percent raises given the previous three years. Plans in 2011 also include purchasing a new dump truck/snowplow, new fuel tanks, and new leaf removal equipment for the street department, plus a new canine vehicle/cruiser for the police department.

More sidewalk replacements and repairs will continue in 2011 with a focus on Center Street. Additional new sidewalk installations are expected on Liberty Street to complement the Liberty Street/Water Street Bridge sidewalk.

Progress is also expected to be made on the village’s wastewater treatment plant’s planned expansion under the guidance of the Board of Public Affairs and Jeff Sheehan. The $5+ million project was started in late 2010, but should gain real momentum in 2011.

Garrettsville’s Economic Development Committee continues to meet every other month, exploring new possibilities for the vacant Amweld, Giant Eagle, Paul’s Lumber and Chrysler buildings. Additional commercial, residential and industrial buildings and acreage are also available for development.

“We will continue to seek out persons to join us in Garrettsville,” Moser said. “I know economic conditions are very difficult, but we do have something to offer here and I am proud to host interested parties to a cup of coffee (on me) and discuss the virtues of G’ville.”

In closing, Moser said, “I enjoy serving you as your mayor. I welcome continuing to work with Council, the Clerk, the Board of Public Affairs, and the many other citizens who ably serve on various Village committees and civic groups. All together, we make Garrettsville a good place to live and raise a family.”

Garrettsville - Alien adolescents (Yes, yes, aren’t they all?) wandered the halls of James A. Garfield Middle School on Saturday, January 15, 2011, looking for the auditorium (the Iva Walker Auditorium), looking for their assigned rooms, looking for inspiration.  It was the District Power of the Pen tournament, locally underwritten by the Garrettsville-Hiram Rotary, and attended by schools including Southeast, Crestwood, Stanton, Aurora as well as Garfield.

The standard procedure is this: Students and judges are assigned numbers–no names, please–and directed to writing rooms by number only, (No judge will read papers by any writer from his/her own district).  Writing form sheets are passed out in the rooms and each session–each grade–receives a writing prompt (a topic to be written about…how my dog got fleas, my first act as President, my deepest regret, whatever) and forty minutes in which to write.  The students then move on to their next room and the judges read the papers while a new batch of scribblers comes in to work on a new prompt.  The judges confer and sort the writings as to their perceived merits. The adjudicated writings –originals and copies–are sent to a central tabulation location, the points for placement are assigned to individuals and to teams and the number one papers from each room go to master readers for “best of round” designation.

This repeats for a total of three rounds then kids and judges break for lunch and a movie.  Tabulators and master readers continue slaving away until all papers have been read, all points awarded, all tabulations completed.  Awards time!

A table-full of trophies and awards (Thank you, Rotary!) is distributed to the assembled writers.  Some excerpts are read, some happy people come to the stage, some parents and teachers beam with pride, pictures are taken.  Team standings are met with applause and cheers; trophies go home.

Congratulations to the James A. Garfield 8th grade Power of the Pen Team for placing 4th at the district tournament. Strong finishes were made by 8th grader Lindsey Jones who placed 9th overall, 8th grader Evelyn West who placed 12th, and 7th grader Collette Rhoads who placed 11th. Crestwood’s 8th grade team took 3rd place while their 7th grade team placed 4th. Joanna Ondash (2nd), Hannah Bennett (7th) and Angelina Neno (10th) were Crestwood’s strong finishers.

And you just know that some of them will be writing about this in a journal to use again sometime in a story.

Hiram - Prize-winning organist Tom Trenney will bring silent films to life on the Hiram College campus, Friday, February 11th  at 7:00 pm. This will be Trenney’s thirteenth February visit to Hiram, funded by the Hiram Community Trust Fund.

Trenney impresses audiences all over the country with his ability to improvise at the pipe organ. The silent film shorts including Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd will  provide great family-friendly fun on a winter evening.

Trenney’s annual “Introduction to the Pipe Organ for 5th Graders” is open to home-schooled children in the area as well as the scheduled school groups. The presentation will be on the 25-rank Holtkamp mechanical pipe organ at the Hiram Christian Church in the morning on Friday, February 11th.  Please contact the Hiram College music department at (330) 569-5294 for times.

A master of improvisation, Trenney won both the First Prize and the Audience Prize in the American Guild of Organists’ National Competition in Organ Improvisation, the first to win both prizes.

A native of Perry, OH  Trenney is Director of Music Ministries and Organist at First Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Trenney has been a featured performer at regional and national conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society in Dallas, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Buffalo, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Cleveland. He has served as Organ and Choral Clinician at the Westminster and Montreat conferences of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians.

Windham – A little after 2:00 pm Monday, when residents and community leaders began to gather outside the new Circle K Gas Station and Store in Windham anticipating the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the store. Store Manager A.J. Weiss was given the honor to cut the ribbon and declaring the store open for business. Once the ribbon was cut, residents flocked into the store to be the first customers to view the new facility. Police Chief Gene Fixler was the first one to test drive the hotdogs. He stated “The dogs are great and this was a wonderful place for the community.”  It wasn’t too long after that Circle K saw its first customer at the fuel pumps. It is a great day in Windham and everyone was excited for A.J as he débuted his new store.

A.J. stated that it took five years of negotiating to arrive at the point we’re at today. Being persistent and patient had paid off. The new Circle K features prepay gas pumps, beer cave, more varieties of polar pops, more coffees and cappuccinos, milk shakes, frostees, smoothies, hot sandwiches — including breakfast sandwiches — donuts and more. They also have public restrooms. The store will be open 24/7 and one will also be able to pump gas, diesel or kerosene 24/7 as well. The new store is located near the intersection of Maple Grove Road and E. Center Streets in Windham Village.

Hiram Twp. – Last summer, a local woman snapped a photo of a creek scene in her back yard and sent it off to a national photo contest. Now that photo is the centerpiece of a national advertising campaign.

Diane Wilthew enjoys capturing the beauty of the changing seasons on her family’s 21-acre wooded property along Hankee Road — a designated certified Family Forest. It’s commonplace for her to snap photos of nature scenes along Slippery Rock Run, which drains into Garrettsville’s Eagle Creek. Last summer, she stood in the creekbed and took a photograph of the morning sun illuminating the leaves of overhanging trees and draping ferns along the sloping banks of the peaceful waters.

Diane’s husband, Jerry, suggested that she submit the photo in the 2010 Tree Farm Photo Contest sponsored by STIHL, which he had seen promoted in Tree Farmer Magazine. Diane submitted a few photos to the contest and then forgot about it. Just last week, she was notified that one of her photos was selected as first runner-up in the national contest, and would be featured in STIHL ads, in Tree Farmer Magazine, on the ATFS (American Tree Farm System) website www.treefarmsystem.org and the STIHL website, www.stihlusa.com/atfs. The first-place winner was from Mississippi while the second runner-up was from Wisconsin.

For those thinking the chain saw manufacturer and the ATFS make strange bedfellows, that’s actually the subject tackled in the ad campaign. The headline reads, “Can a chain saw company and 90,000 Tree Farmers possibly find common ground?” The ad copy goes on to explain that STIHL is a proud partner of ATFS, supporting the organization’s mission “to promote the growth of renewable forest resources while protecting environmental benefits and increasing public understanding of all benefits of productive forestry. As an industry leader, STIHL believes it is our duty to set the example in sustainability and continue to invest in innovative technologies, programs and partnerships as part of our ongoing commitment to socially responsible environmental stewardship.”

As tree farmers, Diane and Jerry rely on their forester/brother/neighbor Mark Wilthew with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry to help them maintain a healthy woodlot. Part of that process is identifying and marking trees that should be thinned out in order to allow healthier native hardwoods to flourish. Like weeding a garden, cutting down invasive species and damaged trees gives more desirable tree species the advantage in a natural system of competition for soil nutrients, water and sunlight. A chain saw is a useful tool in this process.

The Wilthews have been a member of the American Tree Farm System for approximately 15 years. ATFS provides them with updated forestry information, including an online, searchable database, the Woodland Owners Resource, which contains information on special sites, threatened and endangered species and management for desired tree species (www.treefarmsystem.org/woodlandresources).

“Joining the ATFS helps to make it clear to those around us why we timber, because they can see that the tree farmer does indeed promote renewable resources,” Diane says. ATFS has established standards and guidelines for private forest owners to develop a management plan that encourages sustainable forestry with clean water, healthy wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

While Diane gets the credit for taking the winning photograph in the national ad campaign, Jerry gets the $250 STIHL gift certificate, which he plans to redeem at his local STIHL dealer, Garrettsville Hardware.

Did you just get engaged over the holidays? Have you been engaged for what seems like forever and haven’t tied the knot yet? Waiting to get married until you can “afford” it? Why not consider getting married or renewing your vows during Garrettsville Summerfest 2011!

This years Vegas-style theme ~ “The Biggest Game In Town” ~ easily lends itself to thoughts of wedding chapels.  If you’re engaged and would like to have your wedding at Garrettsville Summerfest 2011, send the committee your letter and tell us why you should be Summerfest’s First Couple. The wedding would take place on Saturday, June 25th   and the winning couple will need to provide their own attire. In addition to flowers, appetizers and bubbly, the winning couple will receive overnight accommodations for Saturday and then return to ride in the parade on Sunday, June 26th.

Applicants need to include the couples’ names, address, phone number and a brief story on why they should be selected as Summerfest’s First Couple. Please send your information to: Garrettsville Summerfest’s First Couple, c/o The Weekly Villager, PO Box 331, Garrettsville, OH 44231. Deadline for all submissions is April 29, 2011. Information packages and complete rules will be sent those who submit their stories or by by contacting the Villager during regular business hours at (330) 527-5761 or by filling in the form below.

[form id=”994″]

Windham – It was just last week when Windham was hit with another blow to the local economy when the owner of T & J’s Restaurant announced the closing of its doors because of the sluggish economy. However, just across the parking lot from T& J’s Restaurant there is a new business in town, one that will hopefully deny the sluggish economy a victory. The new business is actually two businesses in one, a laundromat and a barber shop. I know you’re going to say there has always been a laundromat there, that is true but that laundromat closed last summer, leaving Windham without one, at least until last month. Dave and Igner Devlin opened the new Windham Laundromat in the old remodeled laundromat facilities in December and have plans to open a barber shop in there as well. The barber shop is slated to open in February. One can suds their duds and get hair cut in one stop.

The laundromat is open from 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. seven days a week and offers new washers and dryers. The washers have a 35 lb capacity and the dryers 50 lbs. Each load will cost $2 to wash and $2 to dry as long as one doesn’t overload the dryer. One will find the laundromat is manned most of the time and when it isn’t, Dave and Igner live just down the road and can be there in a few minutes to solve whatever  problem one might have. Besides the laundromat, they also have an ATM machine inside and claim it is the cheapest ATM in the area.

Slated to open in early February is the barber shop. Igner brings with her over 20 years barber experience and is excited to be opening a shop in Windham. She stated that it will be a cut-n-go type of shop. She will offer men’s haircuts and women’s hair cuts but if you’re looking for a perm or color than you will need to go to a regular beauty shop.  One can expect to pay $12 for a hair cut and those who are serving in the Armed Forces will receive $2 off a regular cut. The barber shop hours of operation will be Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Dave and Igner are relatively new to the area. They moved here last year from Alaska and they absolutely love Windham. Dave, who is originally from Youngstown, and Igner, originally from Florida, decided last winter to make this area their home, with their teenage son, Peyton. When they came here, Igner had dreamed of opening a barber shop in Windham and when the laundry mat became available they were able to reconfigure the facility to house both businesses.

This is not the first time they have owned and operated a business. In Alaska they owned and operated a laundromat and a barber shop and at one time owned and operated a restaurant and a store there as well. They are both excited to be a part of the Windham business community,  look forward to getting to know folks and are thrilled to serve area residents. The laundry and barber shop are located in the small plaza where Circle K is located.

Newton Falls – Residents of the 44444 will have an opportunity to visit the polls once again in the second special election since the regular voting season concluded in November.

Last Friday afternoon, the council members met during a special meeting at the community center to designate a date for another recall election. Last November, then-mayor Patrick Layshock was removed from office by a closely split vote and replaced by the current mayor Lyle Waddell. This time around the man in question is James Luonuansuu, representative for the Fourth Ward who has held the seat just over a year. Petitions concerning the councilman’s possible exit have been circulating since around the time the former mayor was ousted. The Board of Elections verified the signatures and instructed the city to set a date for the election, suggesting February 8th since that date  would save Newton Falls some money.

At the special meeting, Councilwoman Johnson questioned the need to set a date now because she had “heard through the grapevine” about a possible appeal to the Board’s verification being filed. Mayor Waddell replied that there had been none filed to his knowledge, nor any official paperwork presently on the table, so there was no reason not to proceed.

Councilwoman Hoffman and Councilman Zamecnik made the motion to set the date as suggested by the Board for February 8th. Councilman Monteville voted in the affirmative as well, and Councilwoman Johnson was the single vote against.

The special election for the possible recall of Fourth Ward representative James Luonuansuu will be February 8th.

As in the November mayoral recall election, voters will have the opportunity to vote for or against the recall itself and then to vote for a replacement candidate should Mr. Luonuansuu indeed be recalled. One such candidate vying for the Fourth Ward seat is Phillip Beer, one of the residents responsible for leading the recall effort. Mr. Luonuansuu has told other media outlets that when he was voted into office over a year ago, in fact then beating out Mr. Beer, it was by a solid majority so he feels the same support is likely. Mr. Beer, however, had been a write-in vote at that time and he is hopeful the outcome will be different next month when his name is actually listed on the ballot.

Council meetings are currently held at the Community Center on Quarry Street, the first and third Monday of each month at 6pm. Due to the upcoming holiday, the second meeting of January will be held Tuesday the 18th. The public is welcome to attend or can tune into the local access channel for the televised proceedings.

Iva Walker & Rellajeanne Cooke with the Piecemaker quilt (photo: Kim Breyley)

Garrettsville - The Village Piecemakers, a Garrettsville area quilt guild raffled a beautiful king size quilt over the Christmas season. The winning ticket was drawn by Iva Walker as the quilt was displayed and tickets were sold in her home during the 2010 Christmas Walk. The winner of this stunning quilt was Ms. Carol Claus of Independence, Ohio. Ms Claus traditionally participates in every Christmas Walk. She sets aside the time and titles it, ‘the sacred weekend’ that she, her sister and neighbor faithfully attend.

Ms Claus contributed a generous donation to the guild after receiving her prize.  Funds received by the guild are used to further club activities and are donated to worthy local non-profit organizations.

This quilt, machine-pieced and quilted by guild members, is comprised  mostly of fabrics purchased from a local quilt and gift shop, “The Shaker Tree” on Main Street in Garrettsville.

The Garrettsville Christmas Walk is sponsored by the Garrettsville Historical Society and this organization graciously allowed the Village Piecemakers the privilege of displaying and selling tickets for their quilt in one of many homes on the Christmas Walk.

Chandler Bee and Ethan Milko (Photo: Iva Walker)

Garrettsville – Excitement filled the air.  Tension mounted as the contestants moved into position for the competition.  The crowd was hushed….  No, wait…this was the annual James A Garfield Middle School Spelling Bee…this crowd is never hushed…quiet, maybe…attentive, perhaps…but hushed?   In your dreams, Principal Tom Sullivan, organizer Jackie Lovelace, in your dreams.

The judges table featured a Webster’s Unabridged, three judges and the dreaded bell to signal lack of orthographic (Look it up) success.

The microphone–center stage–was adjusted  to pick up the veriest whisper from the height-challenged or the stratospherically-inclined.

And the words rolled forth: gnash, versatile, suffrage, grammarian, monstrosity …speaking of which, who picks these things out anyway?   One interesting moment of the event came about when Becky Kirk, who was cruisin’ up to that point, got the word, “yippee”.  The pronouncer spoke the word…silence…spoke the word again–with definition…silence…spoke once more, with feeling…then Becky turned  and said, incredulously, “Is that THE WORD?”  It was, and she spelled it right to move on to the next round.  At one point, all of the spellers in the rotation had missed their words, so everyone got another crack at the brass ring.

The two survivors of the process, Chandler Bee and Ethan Milko–a seventh grader and an eighth grader, held up through all that and the finale words–surmountable and   herringbone–to take finalist honors and head for the county bee which will take place at Maplewood Career Center on February 1st at 6:30 p.m.  Congratulations to all participants and good luck to our champs as they head to The Big Enchilada.

Windham – The Village of Windham’s search for a police chief came to an end last week with council approving the hiring of Gene H. Fixler to serve as the Chief of Police for the village.  Mayor Rob Donham II issued the oath of office to the chief in front of a crowd of well wishers, friends, former colleagues and family at the December council meeting. The chief’s son Brian Fixler was given the honor of affixing the Windham Police Department (WPD) chief badge on his father.

Chief Fixler brings 36 plus years experience to the Windham Police Department. During the course of his career Fixler has served in various capacities in law enforcement and most recently served as a Lieutenant with the Grand River Police Department and also served as a Lieutenant of the State of Ohio of Mental Health Police Department Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare. Chief Fixler is expected to be officially on the job within the next few weeks.

In other council news, Mayor Donham stated that he attended the last Portage County District Library (PCDL) board meeting and the board appreciated the village subsidizing the library. The Village of Windham agreed at their November meeting to subsidize the library $800/ month if they would relocate to a facility within the village limits. The PCDL expects to relocate to the Renaissance Family Center (RFC) in the next month or so. The village also thanked Windham Township for their willingness to loan them snow removal material if their supply became depleted in the recent storms, however, the assistance was appreciated and turned out not to be needed. Finally, the Parks and Recreation Committee announced the winners of the annual lighting contest. Committee chairman Phil Snyder stated that they had 160 homes entered in the contest and the winners are:

1st place: Bud and Rella Mullinax of Spring Drive,

2nd place: Carl and Marian Angus of Spring Drive

3rd place: Ken and Kaye Friend of North Main Street

Honorable mention: Don and Kim Ridenbaugh & Ken and Freda Shearer

Mr. Snyder thanked all the participants and encourages more folks to considering entering next year. Prizes were donated by local businesses.

In other Windham Safety news, the W.V.F.D. Joint Fire District issued the oath of office to newly-appointed Fire Chief Mike Iwanyckyj. The Fire Board Fiscal Officer Jayme Neikirk issued the oath of office while retiring Fire Chief Clair Simpson affixed the chief’s new badge.

Source: http://www.myspace.com/dustbustersmusic

Source: http://www.myspace.com/dustbustersmusic

Hiram – The old-time string band The Dust Busters will play a free concert in Frohring Recital Hall, Hiram College on Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m.   The group includes Walker Shepherd (banjo, guitar, bantar, fiddle), Craig Judelman (fiddle, pump organ) and Eli Smith (guitar, banjo, manjo, bantar, harmonica, autoharp).  Their music integrates a wide range of old-time songs, ballads, fiddle tunes and jug band blues infused with the freewheeling high energy that characterized early string bands such as The Skillet Lickers.  They are inspired by the fusion of Scots-Irish and African music that took place in Appalachia, the Western states and the Deep South from earliest colonial times through the Second World War.  Carrying this music forward with authenticity and creativity, the Dust Busters make it thoroughly contemporary, meaningful, and fun.

Band members met while playing in a larger group with folk legends John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers and Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders.   The Dust Busters are presently based in Brooklyn, NY where they have played at venues such as Club Passim, the Jalopy Theater, The Brooklyn Folk Festival and Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour.  Their website is www.DustBustersMusic.com.

The concert is sponsored by the Hiram College Convocation program, Special Events, and the Music Department.   Frohring Recital Hall is at 11746 Dean Street, Hiram.  For further information, call 330-569-5294.

Mantua – Rick Frato is committed to helping his neighbors retire with dignity. With the opening of his new financial services firm on Main Street, he is in the perfect position to fulfill that hometown commitment.

The Edward Jones financial advisor invites the public to join him at a grand opening celebration starting at 2 p.m. on Friday, January 7 at his office at 10803 Main Street, Suite C. (south door entrance) of the University Hospitals building, in the old village school. Various activities are planned, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony, refreshments and door prizes.

Frato is a graduate of Crestwood High School and Hiram College. He not only lives in Mantua and has established his business here, but he also is a member of The Mantua-Shalersville Chamber of Commerce, The Mantua Rotary Club and The Downtown Mantua Revitalization Corporation. When he states that this community and its people are important to him, his walk confirms his talk.

Frato opened the office in Mantua because this is where he, his wife and five children share a home. However, this office serves surrounding areas including Hiram, Garrettsville and Shalersville. He is licensed in several states and has clients all over the country. Previously an operations manager with Kellogg’s in Cincinnati, Frato has a background in finance and operations management. After joining Edward Jones, he relocated back to Mantua to open his own hometown office.

Frato is passionate about people planning for their retirement and also making sure they have enough life insurance so their families won’t have to struggle without them. All too often, he has encountered people who are getting ready to retire within five or six years, but are just now starting to consider a financial plan to prepare for it.

Edward Jones provides financial services for individual investors in the United States and, through its affiliate, in Canada. The firm’s 12,000-plus financial advisors work directly with nearly 7 million clients to understand their personal goals — from college savings to retirement — and create long-term investment solutions that emphasize a well-balanced portfolio and a buy-and-hold strategy. Edward Jones prioritizes building long-term, face-to-face relationships with clients, helping them to make sense of the investment options available to them.

Edward Jones, which ranked No. 2 on FORTUNE Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2010, is headquartered in St. Louis. The Edward Jones website is located at www.edwardjones.com, and its recruiting web site is www.careers.edwardjones.com.

In order to schedule a financial services appointment with Rick Frato, contact Office Administrator Jeanne Cowart at (330) 274-8087. You may also email Frato directly at Rick.Frato@EdwardJones.com. Or simply stop by the office during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Commissioner Marsilio being sworn in by her mother, Sandy Pelphrey.

Garrettsville – On Tuesday, December 28, 2010, amid  Portage County political figures, law officers, friends and family, Tommie Jo Marsilio was sworn into office as Portage County Commissioner. The ceremony took place in the Iva L. Walker Auditorium, a fitting location for this James A Garfield alum  who credits former Social Studies teacher, Iva Walker, for her desire to get involved in government.

Assistant County Prosecutor David Brode led the proceedings.  Members of Garrettsville Girl Scout Troop 632 opened the ceremony with the Pledge of Allegiance and Pastor Gray of the First Baptist Church in Garrettsville offered the Blessing.

Commissioner Marsilio was sworn in by her mother, Sandy Pelphrey.

Tommie Jo Marsilio offered her thanks to those who supported her during her campaign and for their continued support. She vowed to do her very best in holding government officials accountable for their actions and to bring government back to where it truly represents the people.

Everyone who attended was offered refreshments of cake and punch in the Commons area following the ceremony.

January 3rd was Tommie Jo’s first official day in office.

Windham –  All little girls have a dream of being Cinderella even if it is only for a moment. Danielle Hickman has had two opportunities to have Cinderella experiences in her life. The first one was last fall when she was crowned homecoming queen at Windham High School. The second opportunity presented itself because of the first one. Danielle received an application through the school to apply for America’s Homecoming Queen Court to represent the area at the Liberty Bowl held in Memphis, Tennessee on New Years Eve. Danielle was one of 107 homecoming queens nationwide selected to participate in the half-time show at the game. The event wasn’t a contest nor was there a naming of “America’s Homecoming Queen”, per se, it was just an opportunity to represent the area and participate in the half-time performance at the Liberty Bowl Game.

Each participant was required to purchase a bowl package that included tickets to the game, a welcome reception, a luncheon and tour of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, pre-game buffet, participation in the parade and local transportation to the bowl festivities. The girls were welcomed on Wednesday and the next few days were a flurry of activity. Danielle said she felt like a celebrity as they ushered her around to the various events and deemed it a once in a lifetime experience.

The featured event was their performance with the O’Jays during the half-time show at the game. The girls were featured in long white gowns and danced to “Love Train” which was performed by the O’Jays. According to Danielle’s mother, Tammy, it was an awesome site to behold.

The Windham senior said “The trip was an incredible experience where I was able to make new friends from all over the country; it was a trip I will never forget.”  Miss Hickman was one of five Ohioans selected for the honor.

Garrettsville – We received many requests.  Some wishes were large and some were small.  We had a wish all picked out.  Then we received a letter from Portage County Children Services’ Director, Penny Ray.  Penny nominated Samantha Mitchell.  Samantha is a mother of an infant son.   She lives in Ravenna.  Two friends from Family and Community Services also nominated her.

The wish was very simple – she needed home furnishings and supplies for her baby.  Samantha is an enthusiastic mother who is looking for work and trying hard to make a good life for her son and herself.

Upon hearing this story, there was no doubt- this was our Christmas wish to be granted.  The shopping was immensely fun.  Chris Perme was an enthusiastic financial partner, but his schedule did not allow him to shop for the gifts.  So our editor agreed to help with the shopping.  Instead of taking the list as suggestions, we decided to treat it as a shopping list.  We bought ALL of the suggested items – a baby swing, cookware, a microwave, and more.

After buying the items, we wrapped it all up and delivered it to our winner on December 23.  This was the best part of all.  Four of us delivered the gifts.  It still took multiple trips from car to Samantha’s home.   I can honestly say this made my Christmas.  I was happy to help such a grateful young lady.  The smile on her face when we carried in the gifts just made my heart smile.

My fellow Santa, Chris Perme, shared these sentiments.  “It started as just something nice to do for the community.  It ended up being a bright spot of my Christmas.  It is truly better to give than to receive.”

On behalf of Perme Financial Group, the Weekly Villager, and me, we wish Samantha and her son the very best.  We were happy to meet her and make her our 2010 Christmas Wish recipient.

A Special Election will be held on Tuesday, February 8, 2011.
Those residents of Geauga County residing in the Cardinal Local School District who would like to vote an absentee ballot should make arrangements now.
In order to request an absentee ballot for the Election, registered voters must fill out an absentee application. Each request must have the applicant’s original signature. Requests may be mailed to:
Geauga County Board of Elections
470 Center St., Bldg. 6-A
Chardon, Ohio  44024
440-279-2030
The Board of Elections will accept mail-in requests for absentee ballots for the February 8, 2011, Special Election thru noon on Saturday, February 5, 2011.  Voters may also vote absentee in person at the Board of Elections office January 4, 2011, through the close of business on Monday, February 7, 2011.
The Board of Elections will be open extended hours for absentee voting on Saturday, February 5th, from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
Voters can download an Absentee Application on line at:
http://www.co.geauga.oh.us/Departments/BOE/Absentee.aspx

A Special Election will be held on Tuesday, February 8, 2011.Those residents of Geauga County residing in the Cardinal Local School District who would like to vote an absentee ballot should make arrangements now.In order to request an absentee ballot for the Election, registered voters must fill out an absentee application. Each request must have the applicant’s original signature. Requests may be mailed to:Geauga County Board of Elections470 Center St., Bldg. 6-AChardon, Ohio  44024440-279-2030The Board of Elections will accept mail-in requests for absentee ballots for the February 8, 2011, Special Election thru noon on Saturday, February 5, 2011.  Voters may also vote absentee in person at the Board of Elections office January 4, 2011, through the close of business on Monday, February 7, 2011.The Board of Elections will be open extended hours for absentee voting on Saturday, February 5th, from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noonVoters can download an Absentee Application on line at:http://www.co.geauga.oh.us/Departments/BOE/Absentee.aspx

Because of voter support in November, the Geauga County Public Library system will reinstate opening at 9:00 a.m. six days a week at Bainbridge,   Chardon, Geauga West, and Middlefield libraries beginning January 3. Sunday hours remain 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Story-time classes continue, and additional programs for school-age children, teens, and adults will begin soon.
The website has been updated and provides valuable information, databases, catalog connection, and ebook titles. The Ohio E-Book Project found at www.geaugalibrary.net offers titles to library card holders that can be downloaded to such devices as Nooks, Sony e-readers, and Kobos.  If you have questions about accessing any library service, there is now more time available for staff to assist you!

Mantua – A simple “Thank You” does not seem to be adequate to express our appreciation for all the help we received during the holiday season. Because of the wonderful support 4 C’s received from the community we were able to serve many people this holiday season. We supplied food and gifts for 175 families and that includes 200 children. A special thanks goes out to C-Act, Ravenna Giant Eagle, Monroe’s Orchard and Farm Market, Hilltop Church and all the area churches, Barky Mart, the Mantua Chamber of Commerce, the Knights of Columbus, Crestwood Lions, Kiwanis, American Legion and all of you in the community who donated food items for our give-away.  A thank you too, to our wonderful volunteers, who spent hours packing it all up and distributing it. Every year we realize how blessed we are to live in such a caring community. 4 C’s Council says, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!”

Garrettsville – James A. Garfield Intermediate School presented Carols and Choruses recently at their annual Christmas Concert. The 5th and 6th grade concert was under the direction of Mr. Gaither and had something for everyone.
The concert started off with a new addition to the music department, the hand bell choir. The ten member hand bell choir played two holiday numbers that delighted those in attendance. They were followed by the jazz band, which performed two selections as well.  The concert moved on to the Fifth Grade Choir, which I must say, was awesome. The choir performed “Christmas Canon” written by Pachelbel and arranged specifically for this performance by Mr. Gaither. This selection was performed in five-part harmony featuring Ramsey Goodner on the violin while Nick Crawford tickled the ivories. The performance knocked the socks off the audience as everyone sat mesmerized by the harmonious sounds coming out of fifth graders’ mouths. The kids did such a wonderful job one could easily forget they were listening to fifth graders. The talent these students displayed totally wowed the audience and made them a difficult act to follow.
Although the choir was a tough act to follow, the sixth grade band stepped up to the plate to put on a concert to remember. We heard many favorite carols, including some new ones, all to usher in the season of good tidings and great joy. Those kids really rocked the house!
The holiday season would not be complete without fruitcake and this concert was no exception. The kids sang a fun selection, “Everlasting Fruitcake” which had the audience chuckling over the lyrics as they sang about the fruitcake that would reappear no matter how hard they tried to get rid of it. The evening closed out with the choir leading everyone in a Christmas Carol sing-a-long. The students and Mr. Gaither made this a concert to remember.

The state’s largest land conservancy is applauding the renewal of a federal tax incentive for private landowners – especially working family farmers – who protect their land with a voluntary conservation easement.
Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which serves a 14-county region in northern Ohio, endorsed the move by Congress to renew the incentive, which had expired at the end of 2009.  The tax incentive has helped the Land Conservancy work with willing landowners in our community to preserve more than 22,000 acres of productive agricultural lands and natural areas.
Conservation-minded landowners now have until December 31, 2011 to take advantage of a significant tax deduction for donating a voluntary conservation agreement to permanently protect important natural or historic resources on their land.  When landowners donate a conservation easement to the Land Conservancy, they maintain ownership and management of their land and can sell or pass the land on to their heirs, while foregoing future development rights.
The enhanced incentive applies to a landowner’s federal income tax.  It:
• Raises the deduction a donor can take for donating a voluntary conservation agreement from 30 percent of their income in any year to 50 percent;
• Allows farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100 percent of their income; and
• Increases the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from six to 16 years.
“Conservation easements have become an extremely important tool for protecting our treasured natural resources in northern Ohio, and we thank Congress for recognizing the need to renew this incentive,” said Land Conservancy Vice President Eddie Dengg.  “Our whole community wins when thoughtful landowners voluntarily conserve their land this way, protecting wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, productive agricultural land, parkland and scenic landscapes.”
Anyone wanting more information about the voluntary conservation easements can contact the Land Conservancy at (440) 729-9621 or info@wrlandconservancy.org.
According to the Land Trust Alliance, the national organization that provides a voice for land trusts in Washington, D.C., bills to make this incentive permanent have 274 House and 41 Senate co-sponsors from all 50 states, including majorities of Democrats and Republicans in the House. This legislation is supported by more than 60 national agricultural, sport and conservation organizations.
Western Reserve Land Conservancy was formed in 2006 when eight local land trusts joined forces in the largest-ever merger of its type.  The Land Conservancy, which works to preserve the scenic beauty, rural character and natural resources of northern Ohio, has preserved more than 350 properties and more than 22,000 acres.

Hiram – In planning and zoning matters it was earlier reported that the Commission has recommended that Hiram Village adjust its fees on par with other area community zoning permit fees. The new zoning fee schedule will be submitted to Council at the January 2011 meeting. An organizational meeting for 2011 is scheduled for January 4th beginning at 7pm.
The Commissioners’ hearing on the annexation is rescheduled for January 24th beginning at 9am. The hearing will continue until all relevant data has been submitted to that board. The Board will then consider the Petition for Annexation and vote to allow or deny. Their decision can be appealed by either side to the Portage County Common Pleas Court and will not become final until that court decides the appeal, if any.
The demolition of the old Hiram School is now in progress, with the county contract executed and the two demolition permits having been issued for the bid contract of $66,900 to Ace-Zuver, LLC.
Last month the Village applied for a $50,000 NOPEC energy efficiency grant. The grant will be utilized to make energy-saving permanent improvements in village structures. This grant should be awarded shortly.
A grant from Ohio Public Works Commission for $177,500 to fund a Hinsdale Road extension will be awarded in July 2011 with construction completed within a year. Although the extension is now on College property, it will be dedicated to public use.
The Hiram Police Department has recently applied for a $30,000 Federal Grant for the purchase of a police vehicle. This grant would fund the vehicle 100% and there would be no need to use village funds for the purchase.
On Tuesday, December 14th a change-of-command ceremony was conducted swearing in Hiram’s new Fire Chief Bill Byers. Fire Chief Gary Bott has served the community for 36 years, beginning in 1974. Gary now carries the rank of Captain and continues to serve his beloved community. Both Village Mayor and Hiram Township Trustees participated in the change-of-command ceremony and the Rev. Jeff Jackson gave the invocation and benediction. On Monday, January 3rd a meeting is scheduled to discuss the Fire and Police contract with the college and an agreement is expected shortly.
Effective January 1st, Hiram has adopted a newly-revised village income tax, Ord.#2009-31, replacing the 43-year old ordinance. A full copy is posted on the village’s website at www.hiramvillage.org. Other pending legislation includes Ord. # 2010-22, Increase in Fines for Parking Violations will see its third and final reading in January; and Ord.#2010-24, Uniform Trash Hauler for Village and Township will see its second reading in January.
Upcoming meetings for January are the Planning and Zoning, Tuesday, January 4th at 7pm in the Fire Dept. and a Regular Council Meeting, Tuesday, January 11th at 7pm in Council Chambers.

Nelson Township – The Nelson Township Trustees met for their regularly-scheduled meeting last Wednesday with all trustees and fiscal officer in attendance.  The meeting was moved to the community house due to lack of heat at the maintenance building. The trustees stated that the fuel line that runs from the tank to the maintenance building was plugged with salt and need to be flushed out. Until it was completed, they were unable to use the heating system at the maintenance building. Currently, they were using an alternative heat source to keep the pipes from freezing.
The first item on the agenda was to open the sealed bids for replacement doors and windows at the community house.  The window bids ranged from $12,940 – $22,515 and door bids ranged from $5,980-$ 13,900. After some discussion the trustees decided they would table a decision on the bids until they discussed bids with their architect. This decision was based on the fact that the bids were as one trustees stated “All over the place.”
The trustees then discussed the option of possibility renting fuel tanks from Western Reserve. The fuel tanks woulc be  to replace the ones the township uses now to refuel equipment. The current ones are not compliant with the new codes and the cost to upgrade the old ones is out of reach for the township right now. The agreement with Western Reserve would include tank maintenance, changing filters and nozzles. They decided to postpone any decision on this matter until next month, due to a very tight budget.
Speaking of money, Trustee Leonard said he is looking into refinancing the mortgage or trying to prepay the loan on the township garage. After further investigation he discovered that there is a possibility of refinancing or paying down the current mortgage without penalties.  Currently, the township loan is structured so that out of the $21,626 paid annually  $8,000 is applied to the principal and while also paying $13,626 in interest. Leonard was sure he could find a method that would save the township money. Trustee Turos stated that they didn’t have extra money to pay down the loan and when they looked at this issue before, the local banks would only go 15 years, they would need 30 years like the current loan. Turos also stated there was a concern that doing this would bring the township funds too low. The fiscal officer stated that they have $1000 in the debt reduction fund that could be used toward prepaying the mortgage. Trustee Leonard said he will keep looking into the issue to see if he can find a way to save the township money. In other cost-cutting measures, Trustee Wilson has elected to take Medicare Part B rather than the township’s medical insurance. The township will pay Wilson $150 per month to cover his $150 reduction in Social Security benefits each month. This is expected to save the township approximately $12,000 a year. Since there was no other business to discuss the trustees closed out the 2010 year.
They opened the 2011 organizational meeting and on the agenda was choosing a chairman of the board, establishing a meeting date, employee evaluations and making  temporary appropriations.  The board voted Joe Leonard to serve as chairman of the board. They also set the meeting dates as the first and third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 pm at the maintenance building. The trustees went into executive session to discuss employee evaluations, salaries and benefit packages.  The trustees returned from executive session and, there being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.

Nelson Township – The Nelson Township Trustees met for their regularly-scheduled meeting last Wednesday with all trustees and fiscal officer in attendance.  The meeting was moved to the community house due to lack of heat at the maintenance building. The trustees stated that the fuel line that runs from the tank to the maintenance building was plugged with salt and need to be flushed out. Until it was completed, they were unable to use the heating system at the maintenance building. Currently, they were using an alternative heat source to keep the pipes from freezing. The first item on the agenda was to open the sealed bids for replacement doors and windows at the community house.  The window bids ranged from $12,940 – $22,515 and door bids ranged from $5,980-$ 13,900. After some discussion the trustees decided they would table a decision on the bids until they discussed bids with their architect. This decision was based on the fact that the bids were as one trustees stated “All over the place.”  The trustees then discussed the option of possibility renting fuel tanks from Western Reserve. The fuel tanks woulc be  to replace the ones the township uses now to refuel equipment. The current ones are not compliant with the new codes and the cost to upgrade the old ones is out of reach for the township right now. The agreement with Western Reserve would include tank maintenance, changing filters and nozzles. They decided to postpone any decision on this matter until next month, due to a very tight budget. Speaking of money, Trustee Leonard said he is looking into refinancing the mortgage or trying to prepay the loan on the township garage. After further investigation he discovered that there is a possibility of refinancing or paying down the current mortgage without penalties.  Currently, the township loan is structured so that out of the $21,626 paid annually  $8,000 is applied to the principal and while also paying $13,626 in interest. Leonard was sure he could find a method that would save the township money. Trustee Turos stated that they didn’t have extra money to pay down the loan and when they looked at this issue before, the local banks would only go 15 years, they would need 30 years like the current loan. Turos also stated there was a concern that doing this would bring the township funds too low. The fiscal officer stated that they have $1000 in the debt reduction fund that could be used toward prepaying the mortgage. Trustee Leonard said he will keep looking into the issue to see if he can find a way to save the township money. In other cost-cutting measures, Trustee Wilson has elected to take Medicare Part B rather than the township’s medical insurance. The township will pay Wilson $150 per month to cover his $150 reduction in Social Security benefits each month. This is expected to save the township approximately $12,000 a year. Since there was no other business to discuss the trustees closed out the 2010 year. They opened the 2011 organizational meeting and on the agenda was choosing a chairman of the board, establishing a meeting date, employee evaluations and making  temporary appropriations.  The board voted Joe Leonard to serve as chairman of the board. They also set the meeting dates as the first and third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 pm at the maintenance building. The trustees went into executive session to discuss employee evaluations, salaries and benefit packages.  The trustees returned from executive session and, there being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.

Garrettsville – James A. Garfield Schools will be sponsoring the Mobile Dentist again this year.  They will arrive at the Elementary, Intermediate, Middle, and High Schools on January 26.  We have invited the Smile Programs to bring their on-site preventative dental care services to our schools because we know how important good oral health is to a child’s overall health.  The program can provide services to families who need financial assistance, accepts insurance and/or can subsidize fees for persons who can partially cover the cost of an exam and services.
The dentist will arrive at the Elementary, Intermediate, Middle, and High Schools on January 26.  A mini clinic will be set up in the buildings and the dentist and team will provide preventative services for students who return the registration forms that were sent home.  If you would like to register, you may also contact your child’s school.

Girl Scout Troop 632 of Garrettsville took a moment out of their Christmas break to spread some holiday cheer at The Woodlands in Ravenna. The girls brought smiles to the residents by singing some holiday favorites throughout the building. This is the third year that the Troop has gone to The Woodlands to carol. The residents and the staff are very welcoming and enjoy the chance to listen to the girls. This opportunity also helps the girls to understand that something as simple as singing can bring joy to others.

You see it in the movies… someone is having an emotional meltdown, babbling away about their seemingly insurmountable troubles… then a good friend gives them an alarming slap in the face. Suddenly, the babbling idiot looks up, refreshed and ready to move forward with new energy and a fresh perspective. “Thanks! I needed that,” they say.

Traveling to Nicaragua last week was my proverbial slap in the face. This was no classic resort vacation, where I was pampered and restored with VIP accommodations, R&R and therapeutic spa treatments. In fact, under any other circumstances, I would have considered it a disaster: Only a dribble of cold water in the sink and shower (and don’t you dare drink the untreated tap water!); sparse dormitory-style accommodations in simple bunk beds with hard pillows; toilets that can’t handle toilet paper; up before 6 a.m. each morning; simple mid-day meals of turkey-and-cheese sandwiches made by the side of the dirt road each day; sudden, unexplained blackouts… You get the picture.

And yet, this was luxurious compared to the plight of the people outside the high walls of the Land of Judah orphanage in central Nicaragua, where my Living Waters mission team stayed for the week. Along the roads from Managua to Masaya and Granada, and in the small towns and villages like Masatepe, San Marcos, Santa Teresa, Casares and Los Medranos, I witnessed crushing poverty among the people. They weren’t hidden away in contained slums; they were everywhere, walking along the road, riding a bicycle or motorbike, sometimes heaped along with dozens more in the bed of a pickup truck or crammed into a rickety bus.

They were walking for hours to get to work at the big chicken processing center or picking coffee beans for our special shade-grown blend of gourmet brew. They were gathering firewood along the side of the road; or grazing their scrawny cows or horses along the berm of the highway; or burning their heaping trash wherever it happened to pile up (because there is no trash-pick-up program in Nicaragua)… or begging for a handout at the airport and tourist attractions.

The homes we passed by ranged from miserable to inconceivable. The best ones were made of adobe-type material with either clay or thatched roofs. Others were made simply of sapling pole frames with sheets of cardboard and plastic stretched across. Most North Americans wouldn’t find these shelters fit for a stray animal.

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America (about the size of the state of New York); one of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean to the east. North of it is Honduras; Costa Rica lies to the south.

This tropical nation has been pretty much out-of-sight-out-of-mind since the Iran-Contra affair blew onto the scene during the Reagan era. But this country appears to be suffering from a deep, pernicious neglect. Consider these statistics from Global Exchange, Britannica and the Central Intelligence Agency:

The five major causes of death in Nicaragua are: 1) circulatory system diseases; 2) infectious and parasitic diseases; 3) accidents and violence; 4) respiratory diseases; 5) cancer.

Nicaragua’s health care crisis is pretty simple: There’s only one physician per 1,882 patients and one hospital bed per 804 persons. The life expectancy of the average Nicaraguan is 71 years.

Beyond that, 16 percent of the working-age population is unemployed; 36 percent is under-employed. Those fortunate enough to secure a minimum-wage job rake in cordobas equivalent to $4 a day. (Per day; not per hour.) Nearly 50 percent of the population exists below the poverty line.

The nation of Nicaragua relies on international economic assistance to meet internal- and external-debt financing obligations. The country cannot sustain itself.

These statistics are overwhelming. Immersing ourselves into this reality was nearly unbearable at times. It seemed that our efforts here would prove fruitless at best. As an extension of the indigenous Christian missionary organization, Messiah Project Nicaragua, our mission was “to reflect God’s love by bringing relief to physical suffering along with spiritual truth and direction through Jesus Christ to those without hope.” All we had to offer were songs of praise and encouragement, a funny puppet show, an encouraging message, practical Christmas gifts for the children, our prayers and hugs.

All of these small measures were warmly and graciously received by the throngs of people who met us at the intersection of a rural dirt road, in an empty urban warehouse, in the back yard of someone’s home, in a church recently built by the faithful community once ruled by gangs… even by a community subsisting across the road from the local dump. The former gang leaders now are indigenous street preachers who deliver the Good News as well as a food program, medicine, vitamins, reading glasses, radio programming and even a public lending library. These efforts are nothing less than revolutionary. The effect is miraculous.

So, Nicaragua has been my slap in the face this Christmas season. I’m not sweating the small stuff any more. I realize – despite my troubles – I am richly blessed. My New Year’s resolution is to hold on to this Nicaragua state of mind.

The stage at W.D. Packard Music Hall hosted several notable characters over the last few months.
In September Dr. Elliot Engel, a PMH fixture, entertained loyal fans and newcomers alike as the opener for this year’s Trumbull Town Hall Lecture Series. Dr. Engel, a professor, scholar, and literary performer, graciously stepped in when the planned speaker, actor Jamie Farr (or Corporal Klinger to M*A*S*H fans) had a scheduling conflict. Recounting the origins of the American fairytale, The Wizard of Oz, Dr. Engel explained, in his own special way, just how this fantastical tale came to exist. Mixing true history with a bit of believable legend, he led those in attendance on a special journey of L. Frank Baum’s life and the creation of this classic story, adding the bit of flair and humor that his fans have come to expect, and which will keep newcomers keeping an eye out for his next visit.
October stirred up quite a crowd as visitors were treated to the Taste of Home Cooking Show. With a practically sold-out attendance of 1300 tickets, audience members watched as six delectable dishes were whipped up just for them, with a suspended video camera projecting the step-by-step action on a big screen behind the capable instructor. Sponsored locally by the Tribune Chronicle, the event offered menu items ranging from a simple soup to gooey dessert and the ingredients featured in the various recipes were included in goodie bags given to each spectator. Dozens of themed door prizes donated by area businesses were given away, adding to the excitement, and local vendors answered questions about products, passed out samples, and offered merchandise specials should anyone be adventurous enough to put their newly-learned kitchen skills to good use.
November saw an Emmy and Oscar winner from the small and silver screens grace the small stage. As the next speaker in the four-part Town Hall Lecture Series, actress/comedienne/musician Cloris Leachman entertained, amused and bemused guests with her stories of working alongside celebrities, coming into her own on Broadway, and even of riding the streetcar in the small Iowa town where she grew up. The spry 84-year-old discussed her determination at a young age not to become one of those “gray people” (the dreary 9-5ers surrounding her on that streetcar), shared her wisdom on growing old and preparing for the looming end (“Cremation sounds like you’re going to wind up as a non-dairy coffee additive.”) and confessed her distaste of dying: “I hate death, I hate the thought of dying. Whoever thought up that rotten idea…?” In true Cloris style, the lighter moments reigned as she took time to tickle the ivories, sang a few bars of “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy” and recited ad lib “As You Like It.” She also shamelessly plugged her recent endeavor, “Raising Hope,” a comedy on Fox (after Glee!) in which she plays the not-quite-all-there great-grandmother Maw Maw of the infant title character.
The highlight of the morning presentation was the opportunity after her speech to buy her autobiography, co-written by her former husband George Englund, along with personalized autograph and photo op. (For those who may have missed the fall speakers, the Town Hall Series will resume in March with an appearance by Tom Gjelten, a national security correspondent. Damaris Peters Pike, a local Women of Note impersonator, will wrap up the season in April as Dolores Hope, the wife of the legendary Bob Hope.)
And now in December, though the weather is growing cold, the stage very much remains hot ringing-in the holiday season with the Big Band sounds of Packard backing up the soaring vocals of England-born, Ohio-transplant singer Helen Welch. This past Friday, the Hall held a free concert Jingle Bell Swing performance inviting the audience to get into the spirit of the season. Among the usual Christmas favorites, Welch led into intermission with a medley from the musical  “Chicago”, starting with “All That Jazz” and blending it with the equally jazzy “Razzle Dazzle ‘em.” It is safe to say that whatever their favorite part of the show, the spectators very much enjoyed the razzle and the dazzle of the evening.
Though some of the events require ticket purchases (The Town Hall Lectures are $5 with a student ID) Packard Music Hall offers many family-friendly experiences for free. The next free W.D. Packard Concert Band performance is scheduled for January 17th at 3pm. Check out http://www.packardmusichall.com for more details and a current listing of all upcoming events.

Pictured above (front L-R) Marilyn Paul, Jessica Bittence, M.D., Dave Vaughn, Commissioner Maureen Frederick, Stephen Colecchi, Eric Hummel, (back L-R) Jack Monda, Commissioner Chris Smeiles, Ty Barksdale, Rick Coe, Mayor Craig L. Moser

Garrettsville – The cold and snow did not deter folks from attending the ground breaking ceremony for the new Robinson Health Center in Garrettsville. On December 9, 2010 about 20 people gathered at the intersection of Liberty Street and South Street, the future site of the Robinson Health Center to observe and or take part in the ceremony. After the ceremonial ground breaking the group was treated to coffee and donuts.

The 1,644 square foot facility is expected to open this summer (2011) and will be home to Garrettsville Family Medicine.  Dr. Jessica Bittence from Hiram will be the primary physician at the center.
Stephen Colecchi FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer stated that “Garrettsville has always been a key part of the hospitals service area. The addition of the health center will further support our mission of continually improving and extending our care to the communities that we serve.”
The center will be an affiliate of Robinson Memorial Hospital, which is a progressive hospital serving Portage County and the surrounding communities. The facility is the second-largest employer in Portage County including an urgent care facility, a free-standing comprehensive imaging facility, a network of physician practices, and off-site health centers and medical facilities throughout Portage County.  Robinson’s staff includes 350 physicians  representing over 30 medical specialties.
Robinson Memorial Hospital is recognized as one of the best places to work in Northeast Ohio by the Employer’s Resource Council and has been designated as a Magnet Hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The hospital is an affiliate member of Summa Health System.

Garrettsville – Owners of The Garden Bistro  decided late Sunday night  that December 12th would be their  last official day of business. Co-owner Tawny Criblez stated via e-mail that “we have exhausted many possibilities, but the decision was made late tonight to no longer operate.”
The Garden Bistro opened in the spring and provided diners with affordable meals and delicious desserts. Owners will be meeting again to tie up any loose ends. No additional information was available at the time of publication deadline.

Newton Falls – Not too many people use maps these days, instead they find their location or destination using cell phones and GPS equipment, not so with the 5th and 6th grade class of SS. Mary & Joseph School in Newton Falls. The class worked together as a team to create an elevation map of the United States.  The Social Studies class worked together drawing patterns, molding, coloring and arranging the pieces like a giant puzzle to form the 4×8  likeness of the United States. After the lesson was complete the students were able to identify a state by its shape, name of its capital and they could also give historical facts pertinent to each state. If you think the lesson ends here you would be mistaken. The classroom teacher Ms. Folan says, “next comes the Math lesson”. The students will calculate, compare and contrast the areas and populations of the 50 states.

Newton Falls – Enhancing the bridge by the waterfalls are the new stone planters donated to the Flower committee from the benefit held last year at the Riverview Inn.  The event, the D.J. Jagers Poker run, was organized by Debbie Sutherland and Sarah Corley.  Proceeds were donated to the Newton Falls Flower Committee to expand the beautification of the town.  The Newton Falls street department secured the planters with steel rods and bolted them to the supports.  The new planters as well as the other parts of the city were decorated for the Holidays on December 1st.

Lori Rankin who owns the Flower Shoppe arranged the centerpieces for each planter.  The live greens placed throughout town were donated by Jill Weekly and Terry Hardbarger who filled all of the large planters.  Much appreciation also goes to Scott Nussle of Nussle Florist for his continued assistance, City Manager Jack Haney, City Clerk Kathy King, City Councilwoman Nancy Hoffman, Ashley King Grunder, and Doris Lingo who joined the flower committee members Judy Babyak and Alma Griffith on a very cold morning to complete the Christmas decoration.  Thanks to everyone for a job well done.

Pictured are Debbie Sutherland who organized the benefit at the Riverview Inn that purchased the new bridge planters and Lori Rankin, owner of The Flower Shoppe, who arranged the décor for the planters.

Newton Falls – At the first council meeting of December, the snow-blanketed roads did not keep concerned citizens away.

All officials were present and, after opening the proceedings, Mayor Waddell started the meeting by announcing that, on the heels of the recent budget meeting, it was mutually agreed there will be no laying-off any officers in the police department.

Members of the public addressed the constant “infamous” 3-2 vote, pointing out that the new mayor will have little chance to make a difference if current council remains intact as is. Others chastised council for reportedly setting a bad example of a productive society and giving a negative reputation in representing the town to other communities, going even so far as to comment “This town is the laughingstock of the area right now.”

When it was time for individual reports, Mayor Waddell thanked everyone who came out to vote in the recent recall election. Acknowledging it was a close race, he also thanked those in particular who supported him. “We all need to move forward now,” he said. He mentioned his commitment to the oath of office that he took during his inauguration ceremony. “I take the oath of office very seriously,” he said, specifying a line in the oath which references NOT being influenced by any individual or group. He reassured that his loyalty lies with the betterment of the city and not with any particular individual or entity.

Then Mayor Waddell announced that he will be donating 25% of his salary to a town charity, starting with the next council meeting. For consideration, send a letter to the mayor’s office (19 N. Canal Street, Attn: Mayor) with information about your charitable organization. Each respective meeting’s beneficiary will be drawn at random from the submitted letters and will receive a $50 check from the mayor.

By way of individual reports from council members, Councilman Monteville thanked the officers who recently saved a local gentleman’s life, and intends to include a proclamation of appreciation on a future agenda. The City Manager mentioned the new holiday decorations in town, brightening the community for the Christmas season. Home 44444 the Holidays is Saturday and organizers, in conjunction with the NFPD, will be attempting to fill-a-school-bus with non-perishables from 10am-4pm at the high school. Also be sure and check out the Identi-kits available at the event, courtesy of the police department. Councilman Luonuansuu then made a motion to adjourn immediately into executive session. The motion passed by 3-2.

Closing public comments reiterated the same points made earlier, with most opinions expressed concerning the town’s financial situation and/or the unfavorable impressions residents of other towns have of Newton Falls by the regular bad press in recent history. Encouraging comments included support for the hardworking members of the police department, gratitude for the positive relationship between the PD and the fire department, and hope for constructive changes in the coming months.

Mayor Waddell closed the meeting by saying “This is an absolutely great community and I still believe that.”

Hiram – In the information age, sharing critical heath care information with emergency medical providers – even when you can’t talk – just got a whole lot easier for all Hiram College students and faculty. My LifePlan, a Ravenna, OH-based health care information technology and services company started by Ruth Skocic ’06, has partnered with the College to provide My LifePlan’s MyChoice service to all current students and faculty, as well as to all incoming freshmen. Parents of Hiram College students can rest assured their children’s vital medical information can be immediately available to medical and rescue workers in the event of an emergency.

My LifePlan integrates the latest biometric technology and Web-based access to provide first responders and hospital emergency staff with secure, immediate access – via a fingerprint scan or ID card – to patients’ critical information. This includes medical history, emergency contacts, allergies, medications and advanced directives, speaking for a person who may not be able to speak for him or herself.

Skocic, a former nursing home social services director, founded My LifePlan in 2006 to provide health information services and technology. She wanted individuals to be able to control their medical information and personal directives – and provide that information to authorized emergency and health care providers in a timely, secure fashion when every moment counts.

“Hiram College is recognized nationwide as a premier facility for higher learning, and we are honored to work with their team in providing students and faculty with the safest possible campus experience, as well as giving parents valuable peace of mind that their children are protected,” said Skocic. “MyChoice empowers life-saving personnel to thoroughly assess a situation and deliver the best possible care and treatment – when every second counts.”

And while the company’s growth has gone global – it provides services to China and Israel, for instance – Skocic’s experience as a Weekend College student at Hiram keeps her attention right here at home, too. She wanted to give back to her alma mater while growing her company. Earlier this year, My LifePlan announced the successful deployment of MyChoice with the fire department of Stow, OH, and executed a definitive master collaboration agreement with Akron General to begin rollout of the MyChoice service at multiple emergency departments in surrounding communities.

For more information about My LifePlan, go to www.MyLifePlaninc.com.

Burton – The Burton Grille and Pizzeria in the center of historic Burton Village will be transformed into an elegant dining location the evening of Friday, December 31, 2010.  Plans are to close the restaurant to regular dining at 3:00 p.m. on that date.  Later, when the doors re-open, the interior space will have become festive and glittering, and ready for serving an exceptional New Year’s Eve dinner.

But don’t expect to find pizza on the menu.  Instead, diners will be treated to hors d’oeuvres, a choice of fish or beef, several accompaniments, and a selection of fine desserts. A vegetarian meal will also be available.  Diners are permitted to bring their own alcoholic beverages.

Joe Brown, the owner of Burton Grille said, “I wanted to offer a festive and fine dining option close to home for New Year’s Eve.”  Brown continued, “This menu is a lot of fun for me.  Our regular menu leans toward Italian food, and our usual desserts are centered around our homemade ice cream.  This once-a-year change gives me an opportunity to get creative with a very upscale menu and desserts that we otherwise don’t offer.  For instance, I can get beautiful maple wood from an Amish friend, so we will be serving maple-glazed salmon – each piece baked and served on a slab of maple wood.”

Dinner will be served at only two seatings:  6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.  When you call to reserve, you select your dining time.  All diners are expected to arrive at, or close to, their chosen time.

Because space is limited, it is necessary to reserve and pre-pay in advance for this New Year’s Eve elegant dinner.  The meal pricing is “prix fixe”, which means that the overall price is set in advance, and includes all of the courses of the meal.  The cost is $37.50 per person.  A separate children’s menu will be available at reduced cost.  To reserve your space, call or stop in to the Burton Grille before December 24th.

The Burton Grille and Pizzeria is located in the center of historic Burton Village, across from the Burton Log Cabin.  The address is 14614 East Park Street.  Burton Village is midway between Warren and Cleveland – about 40 minutes east of downtown Cleveland.

For more information, telephone Burton Grille and Pizzeria at 440-834-9050.