Hiram – According to Hiram village custom, Mayor Lou Bertrand presented the 2012 State of the HiramVillage Address during the first regular council meeting in January. During the 106th annual meeting of Hiram Village Council on January 17, Bertrand reported 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.”

The bulk of Bertrand’s report focused on the number of community grant requests that either have benefitted or soon will benefit village infrastructure and facility upkeep. These include the completion of a $50,000 NOPEC (Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council) energy efficiency grant for permanent improvements in the administration building, the service building and old Village Hall building; dedication of the Hinsdale Road extension in December (however, change orders have been made for the retaining wall, hand rails and light poles); approval by the of the Planning and Zoning Commission for the north-south extension of Winrock  Road; and approval of a $273,000 grant from the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) to build Hiram’s sidewalks along the state routes 303, 700 and 82.  The village purchased the 5.1-acre old Hiram School property last October. As a result, the village was awarded $70,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LCWF) and $15,912 under the Ohio Nature Works Grant Program administered through the ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources)  for a total grant of $85,912. “We still are awaiting further instructions from ODNR as the how to proceed,” Bertrand said.

AMATS is providing a grant of more than $800,000 for developing the Hiram Hike and Bike Trail, which will connect the village and Hiram College campus to the college’s Biological Field Station in Garrettsville, and eventually to the county park system’s Headwaters Trail.

In other news, “There can be no doubt that one area of great common concern has been the ever-changing regulations and costs to all of Hiram’s water and sewer systems,” Bertrand said. Consequently, the village is seeking a $280,000 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission for a 12-inch water line from the water treatment plant to the top of east hill along State Route 305.  Bertrand also reported that both the old firehouse and Light Plant buildings are currently being utilized to park village equipment and vehicles. Hiram College President Tom Chema expressed interest in trading college properties with the village. In that light, an appraisal of the two buildings and property are being completed by a state-licensed real property appraiser.

All village employees are receiving three percent raises in 2012.

Now, on to the bigger picture, in light of the continued financial strain local municipalities face due to the lagging economy… Last January, mayors, administrators, and service directors from both Portage and Summit Counties met in Streetsboro to discuss the option of sharing services such as utilities and streets departments with nearby municipalities. Ravenna Service Director Kelly Engelhart is creating an inventory of assets for all participating municipalities, ODOT and the county. The next meeting is scheduled at the Stow City Hall on April 24 at 11:30 a.m. to discuss this option further.