Garrettsville – In their first council meeting since the fire on March 22 that destroyed a significant portion of downtown businesses, council was proactive in taking steps toward a rebuilding effort.  Upon the recommendation of the planning commission, council approved Ordinance 2014-18, which waives zoning fees that would be charged in the rebuilding process for properties impacted by the fire.  Council also approved Ordinance 2014-16, a tax abatement program focused toward community reinvestment.  

The new program applies to remodeling and/or new construction in target areas, which includes the historic Main Street district.  Up to 100 percent of additional value assessed to a property based on the new construction would be eligible for the abatement.  The abatement would be awarded on a case-by-case basis and would also have to be approved by the school board and the state.

Village solicitor Stuck said that this plan had been in the works for the past year.  The fire and the need to rebuild as soon as possible made getting this legislation approved a priority.  She went on to say that the legislation had to be in place before any construction begins for property owners to be eligible to apply for the abatement.

The next step that council took toward the rebuilding effort was to approve Resolution 2014-20 authorizing the preparation and submission of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application for streetscape improvements.  If awarded by the Portage County Commissioners, the grant would provide funding for streetscape improvements on Main Street — all of Main Street, not just the area affect by the fire.

Former Portage County commissioner and Garrettsville resident Tommie Jo Marsilio presented the idea to council and offered her services free of charge in assisting in the application process.  The CDBG grant requires no local match.  The project budget is $78,250.   $76,675 would come from CDBG money for new 14-foot wide sidewalks and new lighting and the village would commit $1,575 for trees.

Randy and Kim Weingart, owners of the Shaker Tree (one of the businesses destroyed by the fire) addressed council with questions and concerns about policy and procedures in regard to emergency personnel involved with the fire.  Weingart stated he needed answers to help in understanding what happened and hoped it would give them (he and his wife) closure.  Council woman Christine Anderson, village council’s representative to the joint fire district board urged the Weingarts to talk with the fire chief and invited them to attend the next fire board meeting (May 13, at 7 pm at the fire station).  Mayor Patrick also encouraged the Weingarts to contact the police chief with any procedural questions regarding that department.

In other business proposed Ordinance 2014-13 authorizing rate increases for the water utility in the village was up for second reading.  A resident asked a question, about the open-ended annual increase in rates provided by the Ordinance.  Council assured the resident that council’s intent is to re-evaluate in 5 years to assess the need for annual increases.  Council has the authority to suspend an increase and said they will if sufficient funds are in reserve for capital improvements and repairs.

Another resident asked council about the status of the old feed mill at the east end of downtown.  Mayor Patrick said that he has been in touch with the county building department.  The owner of the property is in violation of the agreement he made to have the structure demolished by December 2013, therefore legal proceedings would commence within the next few weeks to force demolition.

It was reported that Mayor Patrick and councilmen Klamer and Hardesty met with representatives from ODOT about the impending SR 82 repaving project.  They were told work is scheduled to begin April 30th.  Work will start at SR 534 and proceed west to the Cuyahoga River.

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 14, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall.