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The City of Akron will be increasing its monthly trash rates.
Public Service Director Rick Merolla tells AkronNewsNow.com the breakdown of how this will work.
"The average rate payer's bill will go up $1.50 per month, and for those who do not recycle it will go up $2.00 a month, and for those who are qualified for the Homestead Exemption, the rate will go up .50 per month."
The Homestead Exemption Program is for seniors over the age of 65.
Akron City Council voted 12-1 to increase the rates, which would take effect in July. Ward 2's Bruce Kilby was the lone "no" vote.
Ward 2 Councilman Bruce Kilby by Akron NewsNow
Kilby said during Monday night's meeting not only the senior citizens but the "working poor" of Akron who simply cannot afford the rate hike
"I'm really concerned about the working poor of this community," Kilby said. "This is going to hit them pretty hard."
"I was glad to see that they lowered the first proposal and only raised it 50 cents for those on Homestead Exemption, but there are thousands who are of the working poor in the city and this really hurts them."
Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville by Akron NewsNow
City Council President Marco Sommerville says that even though no one likes to vote for increases, it was necessary for the city to provide the same quality service for residents.
"We have a service that's very helpful to senior citizens, those who are unable to take their trash out to the curb every week, we have a crew that can do that for them and then take their cart to the back of their yard," Sommerville said.
"No one likes these kind of things, but these things are necessary."
Merolla tells AkronNewsNow.com that the move will generate money for the city that will help in many areas including replacing outdated equipment.
Public Service Director Rick Merolla by Akron NewsNow
"This increase will help us purchase some new equipment, because the current equipment we have on the streets is approximately eight years old and was expected to last about five years, so this increase will help us do that."
The last time Council approved a rate increase for trash pickup was 2008 when a 50-cent increase was implemented.
One of the concerns about raising the monthly trash pickup rate was the impact it would have on the elderly. Merolla said that they looked into making the increase as flexible as possible.
"When we first brought it ( the proposed rate increase) in we asked for a $1.50 increase for everyone including Homestead Exemption qualifiers," Merolla said.
"City Council asked us to take another look at it, and by doing that we will adjust our lease program on the equipment in order to allow the rate to be reduced for the seniors."
Akron's looking to increase trash rates by up to ten percent.
The city wants the rate hike to help pay for landfill closing costs and new equipment.
Public Service Director Rick Merolla tells AkronNewsNow the decision to propose the trash rates increases came after the state auditor ordered the city to eliminate fund deficits after the city's audit in 2010.
"We've committed to having that deficit removed by the end of next year." Merolla said.
Merolla said the city is also in need of replacing old trash collection equipment.
The Beacon Journal reports the plan would increase bills to $19 a month for those who recycle and $21.50 for those who don't.
Council still has to approve the legislation which may increase trash fees by up to 10 percent, depending on whether or not residents recycle.
On the Web: www.ohio.com
City Hall now says Summit Lake Community Center will reopen tomorrow -- well ahead of what they thought would take months to repair.
The repairs were needed on power transformers wiped out when a hit-skip car wreck creamed the pole holding the equipment that brought electricity to the center.
The City feared it would take up to eight weeks to fix but now says FirstEnergy found replacements faster than hoped and crews worked quickly to get it online.
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(City of Akron) Summit Lake Community Center will open tomorrow, Tuesday, January 17, a full six to eight weeks ahead of previous estimates.
Summit Lake Community Center has been closed for almost two weeks due to a one car hit-skip accident that caused the City of Akron’s transformers to fail, leaving the Community Center with no heat or electricity.
Since the accident occurred, First Energy employees and City of Akron employees have been working diligently to find a replacement transformer to serve the Community Center. The usual lead time for purchasing a large transformer such as the one at serving the Community Center is eight to ten weeks.
First Energy was able to find a similar sized transformer in their inventory in Cleveland. They quickly mobilized a team to deliver the unit to our Community Center. City crews and contractors arrived on-site and began the installation once the unit arrived.
“Our City workers along with our contractors and workers from First Energy pulled this off faster than expected,” said Rick Merolla, Akron’s Service Director. “We really wanted the Community Center up and running as quickly as possible, but this worked out even better than we dared to hope. I am grateful to First Energy for their help in this emergency.”
Akron city officials will find out later if their revised financial plan meets the approval of State Auditor David Yost, who ordered more details last month.
Yost told the city last month he needed more details to explain a $104 million deficit. He also wanted Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson to pare down the number of accounts from 740. She now determines where money comes and goes from 121 accounts.
Do the revisions pass the test?
It's hard to say. The city sent everything to Yost's office Monday and he has the option to get back to them ... well, when he gets back to them.
Miller-Dawson says her office hasn't been working with the state auditor's office on the modifications because it would have made the task too confusing.
Akron Finances by Akron NewsNow
"What the auditor wants to see continues to change," said Miller-Dawson. "In September, initially, there were two things, then there were six things, then there were nine things, so we haven't gone back, exactly, to ask him if he was happy along the way because the fear was that he would only add more stuff."
AkronNewsNow asked Law Director Cheri Cunningham if she planned to press the state for answers, based on claims that other cities use similar accounting practices. Cunningham says she has no intention of doing anything that could force other cities to develop accounting procedures that Akron officials believe aren't necessary.
"This is a petty bookkeeping dispute that the auditor came up with," said Service Director Rick Merolla. "I think it was a solution looking for a problem."
Merolla says it's ironic that the state blasts Akron for showing deficit balances in some accounts, when he claims some of those deficits are caused by the state not taking action on reimbursement requests by the city - some filed several years ago.
As for the remaining $12 million deficit, Miller-Dawson reiterates that reimbursements have a big impact. She says the city did not budget and spend itself into red ink.
There is some snow activity in Akron this morning and even though it's not expected to cause any major problems in the greater Akron area, the city of Akron is ready.
City Service Director Rick Merolla says the city always prepares at least for an average winter.
Merolla says there's one key priority for city road crews during the winter, even if the budget is tight overall...
"We have to make sure that streets are plowed so people can get to work, and schools, and the hospitals and doctor's appointments," Merolla tells AkronNewsNow. "And so, that's a priority for us, and we'll have to find some areas in the budget that we can do without later in the year."
Merolla says keeping the roads clear is a public safety issue.
He says his department's equipment is in very good shape.
Not only are the snow clearing efforts benefiting from the purchase of two new trucks a few years ago, other divisions with newer equipment help when needed as well.
Reaction now to the Akron audit "fiscal caution" finding from Akron Republican mayoral nominee Jennifer Hensal.
On 1590 WAKR's Ray Horner Morning Program, Hensal says the state's been advising the City since 2008 to revise it's bookeeping practices but those warnings were ignored. Hensal says that's what she finds most disturbing aspect about the report. Hensal says the city faces major problems in the years to come with huge payments looming to overhaul the combined sanitary and stormwater sewer system.
Also this morning a trio of high-ranking officials with the Plusquellic Administration took to the airwaves. Law Director Cheri Cunningham, Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson and Public Service Deputy Mayor Rick Merolla pitched the City's response to the audit report.
Dawson told WAKR's Ray Horner this was really nothing new and the City had been notified of these issues as far back as 1979. Merolla, a former Finance Director, noted there was misunderstanding over the accounting language used regarding the story while Cunningham notes there was never any suggestion of wrongdoing.
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