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Firefighters Jeff Barker and Chris Mullins, with a panoramic view of the new MSFD tanker truck.

Firefighters Jeff Barker and Chris Mullins, with a panoramic view of the new MSFD tanker truck.

Mantua – We reported in May that the Mantua-Shalerville Fire Department received an upgrade to its Insurance Services rating, or ISO rating, which could result in discounted insurance rates for residents in communities served by the department. Based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best ranking, as of May 1st, 2014, the MSFD now ranks at a 4/4y. The last score received by the MSFD was a ranking of 6/9 in 1994.This phenomenal improvement in ISO rating is due, in large part, to the purchase of newer, more efficient vehicles now in service at the department.

The new tanker truck holds an impressive 4,000 gallons of water — 500 gallons more than its predecessor. In addition, the truck also features ground ladders and will also allow firefighters to draft water from nearby pools, ponds, or other bodies of water, while continuing to pump. The flat roof of the truck allows for a hose bed, something not possible with the 1988 MAC it replaced. This increase in capacity directly contributed to the improved ISO rating. The new tanker has been in service for several weeks, but firefighters Chris Mullins and Jeff Barker worked together for months to specify the particular features and capabilities the MSFD would need.

In addition, the department has just received a new, improved rescue squad, giving them better, more efficient tools to serve the community. To that end, they have planned to provide vehicles and crew at both the MSFD and at a temporary home at F & S Automotive during the planned demolition and construction project of the bridge on State Route 44. The project is slated to begin in mid-July, and will be completed in October.

These expenditures were made possible, in part, by the tax levy that was renewed in May by Mantua and Shalersville residents the department serves.


Shalersville - Free well water monitoring will be conducted  at 3:15 P.M.,  Sunday, June 1, 2014, at Sand Hill Stable on State Route 303, just west of the 303/44  intersection. Participants are asked to arrive as close to 3:15 as possible.

Trained water monitors from Concerned Citizens Ohio will test for chemicals and salts that can show possible contamination from nearby drilling, injection wells, or pipeline leaks.

These water evaluations are not EPA certified, but they do provide a baseline in the event of contamination. CCO recommends that private water wells should be tested by an EPA certified lab, such as the Portage County Health Department, especially now that new pipeline construction threatens to pass  close to individual water wells.

How and where a water sample is taken is important. If possible, run cold water for a full ten minutes before the water reaches hot water heaters,  softeners, or other treatment. Collect the sample in a clean, large mouth glass jar (such as a mason jar)— at least two cups’ worth.  Names should be on jars.

Since  Sand Hill Stable, our new location, is a private barn, we ask participants  not to disturb any of the animals.  The barn is one of northeastern Ohio’s first examples of 100% use of renewable solar energy, and it is a privilege to be there.

While awaiting test results, Concerned Citizens Ohio coordinator Mary Greer will present an update on county efforts to improve road quality near injection wells, which receive heavy truck traffic, and an update on the monitoring water well program now being designed to alert residents who live near the injection well on Allyn Road in Hiram. the monitoring well program will be similar to the Garrettsville  program, though not as in-depth.

For further information, call Mary Greer, 330-472-8086



Shalersville – Free well water monitoring will be conducted  the first Sunday in December, Dec. 1, 2013, at Sand Hill Stable 4311 State Route 303, just west of the 303/44  intersection. This is the first testing since the start of the new quarterly testing schedule.

Trained water monitors from Concerned Citizens Ohio will test for chemicals and salts that can show possible contamination from nearby drilling, injection wells, or pipeline leaks. 

Shalersville - The Mantua-Shalersville Area Chamber met for their monthly meeting at the Shalersville Town Hall last Wednesday November 20, 2013. President Christine Pittsinger called the meeting to order.  After brief introductions were made, the guest speaker, Peter Young from Benefits 1 was introduced. Mr. Young talked about the up and coming changes to workers compensation and other insurance benefits available to the business community. He discussed discounts that will begin next year for those businesses that use random drug testing as a preventative measure along with other insurance changes.

On June 24, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. (fourth Monday of every month) Concerned Citizens Ohio/Hiram will offer free monthly private water well monitoring using Sierra Club meters to test for “indicators” of water quality in the Community Room (downstairs) of the Hiram Christian Church, 6868 Wakefield Road, Hiram, OH 44234 (corner of State Routes 700, 82, 305). For accurate readings a water sample should be as directly from the well as possible (not the water sitting in the pipes) – before any treatment. To flush the pipes completely, collect your sample after running household cold water for about 10 minutes. (To save water, you can wash several loads of laundry in cold water before sampling.) Use a clean, wide-mouthed, covered glass container that holds about 8 oz. For more information contact Gwen Fischer at 330-569-7863 or concernedcitizensohio@gmail.com.

The Shalersville branch of Concerned Citizens Ohio continues to offer free water monitoring in their Streetsboro location (King of Glory Church in Streetsboro Plaza) at 3:15 on the first Sunday of every month.  For more information contact Mary Greer 330-472-8086.


Shalersville – When Bill Baker learned that injection wells – those wells built for long-term storage of the waste products of the hydraulic injection process, were to be drilled in targeted areas of Mansfield, Baker’s passion for citizens’ rights was ignited. For those unfamiliar with the process, an injection well is a vertical pipe in the ground into which water, other liquids, or gases are pumped or allowed to flow. These liquids — waste products of hydrofacturing wells — contain a slew of chemical compounds that result from gas and oil exploration in shale formations. Critics of waste water injection wells, including Baker, voice concerns regarding those potentially harmful compounds seeping from the injection wells and polluting local groundwater reserves. 

Our little corner of Northeast Ohio is experiencing a new wave of oil and gas exploration, as new drilling and production technologies make extraction of oil and gas from the shale deposits deep beneath the land more accessible. Over the past 18 – 24 months, energy company “landmen” and leasing agents have been talking to area residents, offering landowners leases for what seems like good money, when compared to the twenty-dollar-an-acre leases of several decades ago. But the reality is that your mineral rights can be worth much more than what many of these leases will offer. And the environmental concerns resulting from potential drilling is often not addressed. To further complicate the issue, some of the companies that approach you may actually be contracted by a large energy company. Others may hope to shop your lease to the highest bidder at a later date, and at a much higher price than what was paid to you. So where can a homeowner turn for help?

Homeowners with wells in Shalersville, Mantua, Hiram, Nelson, and surrounding areas are invited to bring their water to be tested for free. Concerned Citizens Ohio/Shalersville will test well water at no charge on Sunday, Dec. 2, starting at 3:15 P.M., at the King of Glory Church in the Streetsboro Plaza, located just off State Route 303 in Streetsboro. This free water test is not EPA certified. (Portage County Health Department water well sampling fees range from $170 – over $300.) The purpose of this free test is to give residents baseline test results so a spike due to contamination from drilling for natural gas can be detected before health impacts occur.

The Mantua-Shalersville Area Chamber of Commerce met on September 19.  After introductions, member groups and organizations made general announcements. Edie Benner, President of the Downtown Mantua Revitalization Corporation (DMRC), announced that the DMRC has received a grant for streetscape improvements to the south end of the Village. The DMRC will be working with Crestwood students and community members on October 5 starting at 7:30 am for a “spruce up” day in Mantua. The group will meet at Jake’s restaurant downtown.


Shalersville – Sunlight has not edged over the horizon yet when Virginia Goodell pulls into the parking lot of the Shalersville Townhall. The parking lot soon will be filled and the air will soon smell like maple syrup, but not yet. Right now, the only sounds are the hiss of pancakes frying on the griddle and the pop of percolating coffee. Every year for the last 30 years, the Goodell family and friends host pancake breakfasts in the hall. They regularly serve more than 500 people in less than six hours. “It’s a lot of work,” Virginia Goodell says while directing servers to their tables. “We’ve served 800 people in one day. That’s just way too much. It’s a mob.” There were people waiting for their pancakes and maple syrup even before the doors opened March 11. Jean Call, who has been to the breakfasts since they first started in 1982, was one of the first to arrive. “The food’s good,” Call said, adding the family-like atmosphere of the annual breakfasts has not changed in the last three decades. “It’s a nice place to come and eat because it’s like home.” Sally Ruggless, another long-time attendee, agreed. “It’s been our ritual for 25 years,” she said. “It’s the perfect way to get spring started.” The tradition has spanned generations. While Virginia Goodell oversees the servers, her grandson Nathan keeps the breakfast humming along. “When we average 500 people a Sunday, it gets pretty tight in the hall,” Nathan Goodell said. “We’ve had our regulars bring in friends from out of state to experience it.” The Goodells also sell their maple syrup products, ranging from candy to the more traditional gallon jugs, at the breakfast. Each item was made by syrup tapped from trees on their Mantua farm and, Nathan added, is quite famous. “Whenever we go overseas, we bring our syrup with us,” Nathan said. “Maple syrup is certainly unique to this area and ours has made it around the world.” The syrup served at the breakfasts was made in the last month, he added. “We started producing maple syrup in February and will continue as long as we can,” Nathan said. “The syrup we serve is brand new.” That syrup is one reason why area residents Joe and Diane Phillips have been to the breakfasts every year for more than a decade. “The great sausage, great pancakes and great syrup,” Joe said, explaining why the family keeps coming back, and friendly faces are another plus. “We’ve seen a lot of the servers grow up and go to college. It’s like family.” Those servers are a crew of more than 20 family and friends who keep the plates full of all-you-can-eat sausage and pancakes while refilling mugs of coffee, tea or orange juice. This was the first year serving for Crestwood High School student Alaina Nuti, 15. “I was a little nervous the first Sunday,” Nuti said, adding, “but this is so much fun. It’s like family here and it smells so good.” That smell would be the thousands of plain and buckwheat pancakes being made and the more than 13 gallons of maple syrup that would be used to top them. Adults pay $7.50 for a plate while children four-years-old and up pay $4. Children three-years-old and younger eat free. March 18 will be the last Sunday this year to enjoy the breakfasts. “Get here early,” Diane Phillips said. “The line gets long.” For more information, visit the Goodell’s family farm website at goodellfamilyfarm.com.


Shalersville – A meeting to address residents’  concerns about fracking and land leases will be held in Shalersville, at the Shalersville Townhall, 9090 State Route 44, Ravenna,  on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011, at 7 P.M. SHARP.
Presenters will discuss the impacts of leasing and also address the leases currently circulating in the Mantua, Streetsboro, Shalersville, Freedom, Windham, and Ravenna area.  Time for Q & A from the public is planned.
Conflicting information from landsmen representing Chesapeake and other big corporations, landowner “association” representatives, and property owners worried about water and property values is growing in the area. The meeting will present impacts, risks, scope, and leasing facts in an accountable and researched manner.


Shalersville – A ribbon- cutting and open house was held for the new Portage County Water Resources Operations and Maintenance Equipment Garage  on Tuesday, May 24th. The facility is on Infirmary Road in Shalersville at the Water Resources lab location. The building will extend the life of vehicles that had always been parked outside year-round and save on repair costs that can now be done in-house, Water Resources Interim Director Jeff Lonzrick said. Inside storage also provides for regular maintenance of the equipment and vehicles. Large trucks and equipment  in surrounding counties as well as Ravenna and Kent are kept and maintained in-doors.  The county had received a $288,000 federal stimulus fund (American Recovery Reinvestment Act) grant for the construction of the new building, with construction cost to the department of $1.4 million.   No property tax or income tax dollars and no transfers of funds from general government are made into the Water Resources Department. The Water Resources department is not funded by county general fund monies, but by water and sewer user fees for the services it provides, tap fees from new water and sewer connectors and project-specific grants. One of the issues with the diesel engines on the equipment is that they start based upon heat and compression, not plugs, as an ignition source. Therefore when the vehicles were parked outside, the colder it was, the harder starting became which took much longer to get out to work on a problem,  Lonzrick said. The block heaters that diesels are equipped with, in an attempt to keep the block properly warmed and provide a heat source for starting, are not very effective in extreme cold or wind chill situations, he said.  This is eliminated by internal storage at temperatures greater than 58 degrees. Also, diesel fuel is not as refined as gasoline and has tendencies to thicken and gel in cold weather, making starting very difficult until it is warmed up and thinned out.  The valves, hydraulic booms and cylinders, cranes, pumps and electronic controls and air brakes freeze up when left outside. Corrosion and overall deterioration are also due to the freeze and thaw caused by extreme hot operational temperatures and the severe cold external temperatures when cooling, he said. The facility will also have a shop for electrical assembly so more work can be done in-house at a cost savings. It  has 6 truck bays, which are large and high enough to allow for double stacking of vehicles and equipment, making 12 bay areas, and also allowing  room for maintenanceThe department currently maintains 11 wastewater treatment plants in the county, over 100 pump stations, 3 water plants and 2 water booster stations.  Water Resources has a staff of 49 professionals including, biologists, engineers, plant operators, equipment operators, engineering technicians, and administrative staff.

Could Airport Expansion Generate More Jobs?

Shalersville Twp. – Portage County Regional Airport’s seven-member board of directors dreams about extending the runway to 5,000 feet so that it can accommodate bigger corporate jets. This, in turn, would attract substantial industries to the nearby light industrial park along State Route 44. And this equation adds up to more jobs and economic development for one of Ohio’s least prosperous counties.

This argument was proposed before a crowd of nearly 70 township residents, county commissioners and business leaders who gathered for an informational meeting November 17 at Shalersville Town Hall. The new board wanted to gain a sense of public sentiment about their 10-year plan before making incremental steps in that direction with a $150,000 capital improvement plan due to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) on December 18. Such steps would include building more hangars and acquiring more land around the airport to secure more buffer zone around its perimeter to protect it from residential encroachment and to allow for future growth.

“However, the local economy and its citizens must agree before we expand the runway,” said board president John Trew. “The FAA won’t release federal grant funds for the expansion unless and until we can prove the need for it.”

Currently, the airport’s runway measures 3,500-by-75 feet. Its asphalt surface and markings on the runway are “in poor and weathered condition,” according to AirNav.com, the official website of FAA information for general aviation pilots. In addition, “all areas off runway surface are soft when wet or thawing.”

Since it was established by the state in the 1960s as a tool for economic stimulus, the Portage County airport has struggled to generate enough income to be self-sustaining, despite its sales of avgas, its rental hangar space and privately-operated FBO and flight center. Most recently, the airport has failed to collect 50 percent of the user fees owed by private pilots in 2010. It has survived with government grants (95 percent from the FAA and five percent from the county’s general fund).The 76-acre, publicly-owned airport is managed by John Siman. In 2011, the board must begin paying back to local taxpayers a $400,000 loan taken out by a previous board of directors. The board must pay $41,000 per year plus interest over the next 10 years.

Posted airport operational statistics indicate that the airport supports an average of 26 takeoffs/landings per day, or about 9,600 flights annually. Half of the traffic is from transient general aviation, 35 percent from local pilots, 14 percent from air taxi services, and two percent from National Guard military exercises. Most of the traffic comes from single-engine planes, with a handful of multi-engine airplanes, ultralights and a medical LifeFlight helicopter rounding out the types of aircraft flying in and out of the local airport.

While all airport board members voiced support of the proposed expansion — if and when a proven need could justify the investment — nearly 75 percent of the community members at the meeting opposed it. Despite proponents’ talk of the economic benefit the airport expansion could bring, residents declared they preferred to retain the township’s quiet rural character instead. Citing the fast-paced build-up then recent decline of Streetsboro’s business district, residents raised concerns that a busier airport would mean less green space, more traffic and more noise, but not necessarily a better way of life in Shalersville Township.

“People like Shalersville as it is and we’re trying to keep it that way,” said one resident. Another said, “This runway expansion plan is just a hobby for rich people and their planes. We don’t have any planes, so why should we support the expansion?”

Attorney and meeting moderator Steve Wilson replied, “If this is just a rich people’s hobbyist project, I say let’s close down the airport altogether. But that’s not what this is about. It’s a tool for economic growth.”

County commissioners voiced tentative support (outgoing commissioner Charles Keiper was not present). Chris Smeiles was generally in favor, saying “An expanded airport would be good for the entire county. However, the airport first needs a solid revenue source and a viable business plan.” Maureen Frederick voiced doubts about it, warning against the temptation to take on a “build it and they will come” attitude. Commissioner-elect Tommie Jo Marsilio said the board had gotten ahead of itself, comparing their proposal to that of a home-owner struggling to make his mortgage payment, yet considering it was a good time to build an addition to the house. “It just doesn’t make sense to add on without making the mortgage first.”

Dick Bonner, owner of the airport FBO, argued in favor of the expansion, saying, “When a corporation looks to locate here, they’re looking for an airport that can support their corporate jets. Streetsboro is done. They’re out of industrial land. The next wave of expansion will be here, and we need to get ready for it.”

Businessman and former airport board member Mike Price agreed, saying,” Don’t minimize ‘if they build it, they will come.’ It’s actually true. Portage County needs jobs. This is a worthwhile project to consider. Planes are noisy, but so is progress.”