City council discusses sidewalk expansions, plans for old courthouse and cats


Ward 3 councilman Wayne A. Wilson voices his opinion about snow removal on Kent’s sidewalks during the Kent City Council meeting Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015.

J. Tyler Singleton

Kent City Council spent three and a half hours Wednesday night discussing sidewalks, plans for the old courthouse and feral cats in Kent.

Sidewalks on S.R. 43

City engineer Jim Bowling addressed the council regarding plans for the sidewalks along S.R. 43. The city of Kent plans to install fiber optic cables to interconnect street signals on one side of S.R. 43 to S.R. 261. This work gives the opportunity for Kent to improve the sidewalks rather than replacing the sidewalks without improvement.

Bowling said the city of Kent could perform the installation of the fiber optic cable, and replace the sidewalks, without any additional funds.

Bowling however, proposed utilizing a grant from the Association of Mediation and Transport Services (AMATS) to city council. This proposal for grant money would help the city of Kent reach the goals set forth in the bicentennial plan. The language in the plans calls for Kent to “create a walkable community, improve pedestrian orientation and create a great walking environment in Kent.”

In order to receive up to $500,000 from an AMATS grant, the city of Kent would need to increase the size of the sidewalks along S.R. 43 from a three-foot offset and four-foot sidewalk to a five-foot offset and six-foot sidewalk. These requirements from AMATS assume the improved sidewalks will accommodate bicycle pedestrians in ways the current sidewalks do not.

Bowling said an improvement to the sidewalks on the west side of S.R. 43 would require $250,000 in local funds and an improvement to the sidewalks on the east side would require $700,000 in local funds. The cost of both of these proposals would decrease contingent on a grant from AMATS.

Bowling’s presentation covered the consequences of widening the sidewalks along S.R. 43. He said the biggest effect on the cost of the project, comes from the need to adjust retaining walls along residential properties on the east side S.R. 43 from School St. to Summit St. Additionally, Mr. Hero and Burger King would lose a parking spot each.

Ward 5 Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said she would like Bowling to speak to the owners of the businesses and residential properties effected by the sidewalk proposals before any type of motion or vote by city council. Other city council members agreed, and Bowling’s presentation was labeled informational without any type of vote or motion.

Old courthouse

City manager Dave Ruller said two different development groups have provided plans for the old courthouse. Ruller said businesses on Franklin St. have expressed concern as the area around the old courthouse is looking more and more blighted and have pressured the city of Kent to make a decision for the old courthouse building.

Both development groups’ plans include changing the old courthouse to a grocery store, while converting the space above the courthouse to apartments. Ruller said Kent State is in agreement with with this plan.

One of the groups will bring in Lucky Grocery while the other does not have a grocer selected for the space. As a medium-sized store, Lucky Grocery would require additional parking and 20-25,000 square feet of space. The other development group’s proposal would bring in a grocer that requires 8-10,000 square feet of space.

Ruller said both development groups have stopped any type of continued studies or work before city council expresses an interest in one group or the other. Mayor Jerry Fiala said the primary concern for any plans for the old courthouse continue to come back to parking, and how to accommodate for a new business in addition to potential new residents of the apartments.

 Feral cats

Ella Hageman of Kent addressed city council regarding the feral cats in Kent. Hageman asked for support from the city when applying for grants and referral to her website if citizens of Kent call regarding feral cats.

Hageman discussed plans in Kent for feral cats in which the cats will be trapped, neutered or spayed and then returned to the wild. Hageman explained if this occurs, then over time, the feral cat population would steadily decrease, as most feral cats only live up to five years.

The organizations performing the spay or neuter would clip the tip of the cats’ ears so citizens of Kent can easily identify feral cats in their neighborhoods.

The discussion regarding feral cats ended with a motion by Ward 6, Tracy Wallach, to look into adopting stricter animal abuse ordinances than those required by the state of Ohio.

Snow removal

The city council also discussed different methods to enforce the city ordinance that requires citizens of Kent to shovel the snow on their sidewalks. The discussion covered plans for enforcement of the ordinance by notification and imposing fines on the citizens who do not comply.

Additionally, the discussion covered different methods of educating citizens about their civic responsibility in regards to snow removal on residential sidewalks.

The city council passed a motion to look into a challenge grant and working with Kent’s partners, including Kent State and PARTA, and a motion to look into what is required to change the ordinance from a fine to a civil infraction.

Ward 1 councilman, Garret Ferrara, called a motion for executive session regarding property acquisition that failed due to time constraints.

J. Tyler Singleton is a city reporter for the Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]