Garrettsville – First on the night’s agenda was Mayor Rick Patrick presenting former Councilwoman Christina Anderson with a commendation in recognition of her service to the village.  Anderson was appointed to council in August 2012 to fill then council President Rick Patrick’s seat after he took over as Mayor following Mayor Craig Moser’s passing.  Anderson lost her re-election bid last November to newcomer Debbie Glass Wordell.  In addition to her duties as councilmember, Anderson also served on the Utilities and Audit Committees and as the Fire District Representative.

To kick-off the evening’s main discussion, Garrettsville’s  Police Chief, Tony Milica, informed council on the progress of a plan that he has been working on with Mantua Police Chief Buchert to move Garrettsville’s police dispatch to the Village of Mantua.

But more importantly, the intent is to form a “Council of Government” and regionalize dispatch services for Northeast Portage County.  These 10 villages and townships (Shalersville, Twp, Freedom Twp, Nelson Twp, Mantua Twp., Hiram Twp., Windham Twp., Garrettsville Village, Hiram Village, Mantua Village, Windham Village.) once on board, would be able to cost share the increase in costs for dispatching because of the new legislation and continue to communicate easily with each other, which is vital since they all work together, oftentimes on the same calls, and through mutual aid.

Milicia said that his department has conducted some testing  using Mantua’s  frequency, which has a 100 watt repeater. “It  is blowing us out  into  Nelson township, even by the ledges.”

Milicia was considering using the Portage County Sheriff for dispatch, and that option is still on the table, but with the sheriff, Garrettsville would have to upgrade their radio system, costing about $89,000 over the next four years, and would also have an unknown cost variable in the five-year contract because of union negotiations for pay and benefits for the dispatchers that is due to come up for 2018.  Militia said that he has applied for a capital improvement grant through the state of Ohio, for this radio upgrade and should find out May 19th if the department receives it, “but every police, fire and EMS agency in the state is applying, so I am not counting on it.”

Milicia pointed out that if the deal with Mantua can become a reality, the department wouldn’t need new radios and the necessary improvements on their current VH system radios will cost much less, approximately $25-30,000 which includes in-car repeaters to boost the ‘walkies’ (patrolmen’s’ body radios) to hit Garrettsville’s tower and bounce the signal to Mantua.

Garrettsville-Freedom-Nelson Fire Chief Friess was at the council meeting as well.  He stated that the department is also “on board” with using Mantua’s dispatch services.

Chief Buchert stated that there is a lot to accomplish in a short time if they are to get this idea off the ground and have a fully established and operational regional dispatch by July 15, 2016.  Meetings have been going on with leaders from all ten communities.  Mantua, at their last council meeting, put the proposal on first read and is waiting on confirmation from everyone else that they are committed to the venture.

The commitment will require a five-year contract, so that the costs are covered for installation of the dedicated line and hiring and training of additional personnel that is required by the legislated upgrades.  The ‘catch-22’ part is that currently nothing is in place awaiting firm commitments from each community.   According to Buchert, “the staffing, line and ‘everything else’ are contingent on getting everyone in agreement”.

In other business, was the second reading of Proposed Ordinance 2016-08.  This proposed ordinance would waive Board of Zoning Appeals fees for certain substandard lots in the R2 Zoning District.  When minimum buildable lot size was changed to a half acre in 1996 several existing lots were technically rendered “unbuildable”.  The Board of Zoning Appeals and the Planning Commission recommended to council that the $250 fee usually required for a variance hearing on buildable lot size be waived for all such lots.  Council President Tom Hardesty stated that owners of lots needing this variance should contact the Planning Commission so the properties are identified and recorded to fall under this waiver.  Hardesty said they are trying to identify them all, but they do not want to miss any.

Council passed and enacted proposed Ordinance 2016-09, approving the recodification editing of parts of existing ordinances, and Ordinance 2016-010 renewing Michelle Stuck as Village Solicitor though April 30, 2018.  Council also placed on first read Resolution 2016-11 authorizing the adoption of the Portage County Multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan.

James A. Garfield Schools Superintendent Ted Lysiak addressed council with praise for the Garrettsville Police Department.  Lysiak felt it important to let council know that the school is very appreciative of the support and cooperation they receive from the department from traffic control and assisting with events to building searches for contraband and teaching students about issues that may have long-lasting effects on their lives.

Some of the highlights during round table discussion: Moving to electronic copies of correspondence, reports and updates to save resources, the upcoming James A. Garfield Hall of Fame Dinner on April 30 (contact Sheri Johnson for information), the village garage sale weekend on May 20 & 21 and the village clean-up scheduled for the Thursday after – May 25, 2016, the completion of the clock tower repairs, and the dumping of dog excrement at the back of the Arts N Flowers building near the public parking lot off Center Street.

If you’d like to know more of what is happening in your community, attend a meeting.  The next regular Village Council meeting is scheduled for May 11, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall.