Kent City Council looks at city hall relocation, purchases College Avenue homes for police station

Julia Adkins

With the sale of Kent City Hall, the need to look for a temporary location was a main topic of the night at the Kent City Council meeting on March 4.

After the approval of a $2.4 million sale of Kent City Hall to Cleveland real estate developer NewBrook Partners at the city council meeting on February 18, members of the Finance Committee created a list of 60 different variables used to rate sites to find the best fit for a temporary two-year location of City Hall.

The list of variables included: cost, location, parking, timing, storage space and special considerations. One of the main issues within each category was the residents of Kent.  

City Manager Dave Ruller said they have narrowed it down to a top four sites: 

  1. Family & Community Services, Inc. 143 Gougler Ave., Kent, OH 44240

  2. Franklin Elementary School, 6662 State Route 43, Kent, OH 44240

  3. the former Kent Municipal Court, 214 S. Water St., Kent, OH 44240

  4. Public Service Department Building, 930 Overholt Drive, Kent, OH 44240

However, Ruller admitted that these sites were not perfect, as each of them have a set of pros and set of cons.

Ruller also said that they were only introducing the 60 variables and not asking for any decisions to be made on them yet, but that this was going to be a fast paced project.  

“The clock is ticking, and we knew when we started this process that it was going to require some fast feet,” Ruller said.

The one variable that was a repeated concern was the level of accessibility for Kent residents, as they are the ones with main interaction with some of the different departments of the city.

Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said that by having a temporary office for two years, it will be a good way to find out which departments and offices have the most interaction with the people of Kent and then determine a permanent location for specific offices and departments based on that.

Council-at-large member Roger Sidoti said he agreed with Shaffer and that there was a specific group of people they needed to think about when making this decision on a new site.  

“We need to be sensitive to the needs of the community, but we also have to be sensitive to how many people are we actually talking about because we have 100 percent of our employees that we are going to have to try to support but we have a very small percentage possibly of our community on any given day actually using the facilities,” he said.

The next issue at hand was the approval, in emergency, of four purchases of land on College Avenue by the city in order to build the new police station building.  Before any decision was made during the special council meeting, there was an executive session requested to discuss the land acquisition.  

The purchase of all four properties was approved by all members of council in attendance. The property at 223 College Ave. was sold for $193,300. The property at 225 College Ave. was sold for $393,040. The property at 227 College Ave. was sold for $341,500. The property at 233 College Ave was sold for $438,160. Each of the four properties will be leased back to the owner (S.M. Poulton, LTD for properties at 223, 225 and 227 College Ave. and S.M. Templeton, LTD for 233 College Ave.) for $1 each until August 15, 2015. 

The council also looked at the city’s contract commitments with the Portage County Solid Waste Management. The contract was first started after the creation of the Portage County Solid Waste Management in 1989, in compliance with a then-new Ohio law, House Bill 592 passed in 1988, that required all counties in Ohio to form a district and take on the responsibility for providing capacity and recycling opportunities for their waste stream. The goal of this bill was to reduce the reliance on landfills for managing solid waste by increasing efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, according to the Environmental Protection Agency of Ohio.

Council-at-large member Melissa Long said keeping this contract within the county promotes jobs for Portage County residents, including the people of Kent.  

“As the city manager made it in his statement, these are employees running the county recycling that are employees and residents of the county of Portage and could even be residents of our city,” Long said. “And if we choose to go to an outside company, then we would be depriving them of their livelihood and their job.”

Kent resident Ann Ward said she liked the contract that was already in place for recycling because it’s very important to her.  

“I’ve been involved in recycling in this town since I got here in 1979, so I really applaud that the city recognizes the value of a long-term relationship with county solid waste management,” Ward said.

All city council members passed the contract commitment.

The current Joint Economic Development District between the City of Kent and Brimfield Township was in need to be re-amended. A JEDD is “the result of an arrangement between a township and a city (or a village) that allows them to share the benefits and responsibilities of commercial and industrial development in Ohio,” according to the Ohio Bar Association.

The most recent JEDD amendment with Brimfield has been in place since 2010, after “the members of the Brimfield-Kent Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) Board of Directors approved a motion to amend the Brimfield-Kent JEDD agreement in order to allow for a slightly more accelerated income tax collection schedule than was included in the original agreement,” according to Community Developer Bridget Susel in a letter to Ruller.

However, after the transition from former Kent Economic Development Director Dan Smith to the now Economic Development Director Tom Wilke, the signed documentation of the approved JEDD amendment could not be found, which created the need to have new documentation on file for housekeeping procedural purposes, Susel said.

The council members passed legislation to reaffirm approval of the text amendment.

The Division of Engineering from the City of Kent Department of Public Service then asked to “obtain signatory authority to enter into an agreement for the renewal of existing waterline easements on State of Ohio and KSU property,” according to Senior Engineer Rhonda Boyd in a letter to Ruller.  

The easement would cover 10 different areas that have been previously acquired, plus an addition for an access easement for the Booster Station. This new agreement will be for a period of 25 years and will be at no cost to the City of Kent. All of the 10 existing easements were acquired in 1973, with a 40-year term. City council members all agreed to renew the existing easements and the new additional easement.

The Kent City Fire Chief John Tosko presented council with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by and between the Portage County Board of Commissioners and Municipal Corporations and Townships of Portage County. The main reason for this agreement is to create and maintain a form of funding for the Portage County Hazardous Materials Response Team and the Portage County Urban Search and Rescue Team.  

The MOU states that each jurisdiction agrees to pay 21 cents per resident per calendar year for the operation and maintenance of the Portage County Hazardous Materials Response Team, and that each jurisdiction agrees to pay two cents per this year for the operation and maintenance of the Portage County Urban Search and Rescue Team. The funding for the search and rescue team will be reevaluated at the end of the year to determine if it will continue. All members of city council passed this MOU.

The Community Development Committee introduced recommendations for the new fiscal year 2015 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Five-Year Plan on funding objectives.

Out of the nine CDBG funding requests, all but two were recommended some funding. The two that did not receive funding were from Parks and Recreation Department and Habitat for Humanity. Parks and Recreation had asked for funding to install a recreational center message sign. Habitat for Humanity had asked for funding to pay for a homeowner improvement program. Both projects that did not receive funding were denied recommendation because they did not directly benefit just low-to-moderate income households, as funding from the CDBG requires.

Councilman Wayne Wilson said he was concerned about the funding of a recreation center message sign by the Parks and Recreation department.

“My problem with that is they have a lot of good programs for kids that have nothing to do particularly in the evenings,” he said. “And it’s very difficult to get the information out to them.”

Yet because the CDBG requires the money to directly benefit just low-to-moderate income households, the city would have to monitor everything that was promoted on the sign to make sure that happened, which Susel said isn’t possible. Susel instead suggested a different grant, the Neighborhood Grant Program, which might be able to fund this sign.

After Wilson’s concern was addressed, city council approved the recommendations from the Community Development Committee.

Contact Julia Adkins at [email protected].