Akron City Council and the Akron Public Schools board did something they haven't done in some time on Monday night - hold a joint meeting.
With a sometimes contentious relationship between the city and the school district, Akron City Council president Gary Moneypenny says a peaceful meeting was long overdue.
"In fact, I had people warn me that this wasn't going to work, (saying) 'don't put both those entities in the same room'," Moneypenny tells AkronNewsNow.com. "But you know, you trust your people, I trust members of the school board, and I said, 'you know, we can hold a meeting and we can openly discuss these things.'"
Much of the discussion centered over community access to the district's Community Learning Centers, built with help from the city, with an income tax passed by voters.
School board vice president Lisa Mansfield says the CLCs have been popular, with over 13,000 event requests district-wide so far this year.
"The buildings are busy, so the management of those are handled so well between the city, and...our department at the schools," Mansfield says. "It's good that the council and the school board members are aware of how that works."
Councilmember at large Mike Williams says he'd like to see neighborhood groups be able to use the nearest CLC more easily.
"So certainly, we want to make sure that groups that are centered in that neighborhood around that school are not being excluded, or having any difficulty," Williams tells AkronNewsNow. "So, we'll have some conversations about that."
Moneypenny says he'd like to see a technology solution to make determining availabilty at the CLCs easier and faster.
Moneypenny and other council members say they'd like to get together quarterly with APS board members.
Highland Square residents are weighing in on a proposed retail-apartment development at the table of Akron City Council, and city officials are welcoming the input.
Appearing on the 1590 WAKR Ray Horner Morning Show, At-large councilman Jeff Fusco says there's a lot of passion amongst the residents of the eclectic Akron neighborhood.
"We've moved slowly and cautiously to make sure that we get every concern is listened to and discussed fully so that they understand what the proposal is all about," Fusco explained.
"They will get a complete understanding of what the development will look like if it goes through."
Fusco says additional time was taken on the vote during their meeting Monday night to allow both residents and council members an opportunity to get all of their questions answered.
Councilman Fusco says the city and the developers listened to the concerns of the residents and have agreed to make several changes to the plans for the project.
Those changes include the drainage, landscaping, the construction of a lighted sidewalk between the proposed development and the library, and the parking behind the building.
The development will be a 12,300 square foot two-story building with five apartments and four retail units.
Council is expected to vote on the 795 W. Market Street development next Monday.
The mother of a young Akron woman last seen May 3 made her plea to Akron City Council Monday night.
Carmilla Robinson spoke of the pain of spending Mothers Day without Taylor.
"She's 19, this is my first Mother's Day I ever spent without her," Carmillla told council members and those attending council's Monday meeting. "She's my first kid, so this is...she's the reason I was a Mom."
Carmilla says she doesn't want to be like Gina DeJesus' mother had to be
"I don't want to be like Gina's mom and the only one still hoping and believing for 10 years that my baby's still alive," Carmilla Robinson said to Akron City Council. "I just don't want people to forget that I'm still looking for her."
In a story that captured worldwide attention, Gina, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight were found in a Cleveland home after being missing for 10 years.
Carmilla says she wants to ensure Taylor Robinson is not just a name.
"I don't want people to just let Taylor be a name in a newspaper or a face on a telephone pole," Carmilla said. "She's not just that."
Council president Gary Moneypenny said the body has the Robinson family in their hearts and prayers.
Earlier, Carmilla Robinson had expressed frustration over the slow pace of the police investigation into her daughter's disappearance.
Moneypenny said he talked to police over the weekend, including Akron Police Chief James Nice, and was assured they had the case at the top of their agenda.
"(Chief Nice) says it's their top priority," Moneypenny responded to Carmilla Robinson, "and informs me that even the FBI is greatly assisting in this investigation."
Carmilla Robinson says forgetting her missing daughter isn't possible for those who love her.
On a very light agenda Monday for Akron City Council was one major piece of business.
Council voted to sell a building at 1240 Triplett Boulevard that has been used by the city's communications department to local company J.W. DiDado Electric.
The electrical contractor is paying $845,000 for the building, near Kelly Avenue and I-76.
Councilman at large Jeff Fusco says the communications operations will move to an existing city building, and that the Triplett Boulevard location is convenient for its new owners.
Numerous University of Akron students spoke to city leaders to express their concerns about the closing of the Office of Multicultural Development.
Senior English major Michael Davis says he and some of his fellow students are fighting to keep the office open because it will help future UA students sustain success in college.
"The Office of Multicultural Development will assist them in utilizing their potential," he said.
"The sharp focus of the organization on helping the retention of under-represented students."
The University plans on closing the office next year in favor of a Student Success Center for all students as well as a Multicultural Center for programming needs. University officials sent out an email to students to ensure that all services and programs will continue with the two new centers.
Over 20 students spoke during the public comment portion of the Akron City Council meeting Monday night. Last week, over 100 students peacefully protested the closing of the office on the UA campus.
Student Bianca Gomez tells AkronNewsNow.com how the OMD (Office of Multicultural Development) gave her the skills she needs to excel in the workforce once she graduates.
"OMD helped me develop leadership skills they don't teach in class or give in a handout, " she said.
Gomez served as a peer mentor for the Office of Multicultural Development in her time at UA, and said that for some of her peers, the services and support that they received made the difference between earning a degree and possibly dropping out.
Mark Smith says the Office of Multicultural Development really helped him in his college career.
"The office has directed me to navigating the campus way more efficiently than I was before," he explained.
Smith says the services offered at the Office of Multicultural Development should be their for current and future students in hopes of bolstering retention rates for minorities.
City leaders such as Ophelia Averitt, President of the Akron Chapter of the NAACP said that by closing the office, it would create a ripple effect in the community.
"I think we should do something about this," she said.
"These young people are our future."
City officials say they plan on meeting with university officials in the near future to discuss the future of the Office of Multicultural Development.
City Council President Garry Moneypenny tells AkronNewsNow.com said he was impressed with the group of empassioned young adults he saw Monday night.
"They asked us to try and reach out to the President of the University, Dr. Luis Proenza, and also to make contact with the Board of Trustees, and the least we can do is try to do that for them."
Akron City Council is taking the next step with its plans to purchase and renovate the aging Mayflower Manor downtown.
At-large Councilman Jeff Fusco explains to AkronNewsNow.com that the city took their time to come up with a decision about the downtown landmark.
"We are applying for a loan to HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) for approximately $14 million for renovations and the updating of the Mayflower," Fusco said.
Council passed the ordinance 11-1 during their meeting Monday night. Ward 5 Councilman Ken Jones was the lone "no" vote. At-large council representative Linda Omobien was not present due to illness.
Jones, whose ward includes the Mayflower, says he voted against the measure because of concerns regarding the residents' options for safe and convenient housing if the loan request is approved.
"We just don't have the clarity that we need to have right now," Jones said.
"The residents are against it , so my vote needed to be against it as well."
Jones says that fear of the unknown is what has the residents of the Mayflower uncertain about their collective futures.
"Not knowing where you're going to go is worse than anything else," Jones said.
The Mayflower, which houses 250-plus residents, many of them elderly and disabled, expressed their concerns when the ordinance was first introduced at a public hearing about a month ago.
Marilyn Bobo, the Council President for the Mayflower tenants said that she and the rest of the residents will still have their say in the matter.
"We still feel like we have an opportunity to present facts ourselves and we'd like to present our facts just like they present their facts," she said.
"At this point we will discuss our situation with the Mayflower family and then address City Council again."
Other residents like Angella Fawn say some questions went unanswered when it came to the Mayflower.
"One of the questions I have is that if you can rehabilitate a building with tenants still living there, why can't you rehabilitate our building with residents still there? "
Councilman Fusco says the city's primary goal will be to find the residents of the Mayflower adequate housing if the loan request goes through.
"We're going to bring in a consultant who will be working with each and every resident to make sure that they and their family are happy in their new homes."
Once the city files its loan application, the decision regarding its approval could take 6 to 9 months.
The City of Akron will be adding its own public natural gas station in the near future.
Akron City Council approved plans during their meeting Monday evening for regional trucking company J Rayl Transport to add a compressed natural gas filling station and truck terminal to its property at the corner of South Arlington Street and Palmetto Avenue.
City Council President Garry Moneypenny says not only will this provide a quality service, but help improve the environment as well.
"Obviously, Akron's real big in going green and this helps us in our goal of helping the environment," Moneypenny explained.
"There's not a whole lot of places that sell the natural gas and this provides a much-needed location on the southeast side of Akron."
J Rayl Transport currently employs more than 200 people.
Moneypenny says he's pleased to see the company expanding its footprint in Akron after they bought the old Rex's Salvage building, which has been abandoned for some time.
"This will help get rid of an eyesore as well as provide a much needed service to the Akron area," Moneypenny said.
The company plans on converting its fleet ot trucks from diesel fuel to either natural gas or a combination of diesel and natural gas.
Moneypenny says the plans to add the natural gas station are a win-win for both the city and J Rayl Transport.
"This is a very positive thing for Akron and we're thankful that J.Rayl stepped up to provide this for us."
The station is expected to open in the next three to six months.
Akron City Council is placing a 120-day hold on new student housing developments for the University of Akron while research on off-campus housing is being conducted.
At-large Councilman Jeff Fusco says developers and council members have expressed some concerns about an overabundance of new housing.
"We're concerned about the kind of impact it will have on the downtown neighborhood near the University of Akron," he says.
Fusco says 1,975 new student beds have been added within the last two years.
Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday that prevents the city from offering any incentives for development or construction of any student housing facility.
Fusco explains how the city and the University Park Alliance will collaborate over the next couple of months.
"We're asking the Planning Department to move forward with the University of Akron and the University Park Alliance to study this student housing phenomenon," he said.
Councilman Fusco tells AkronNewsNow.com that while the 120-day moratorium is in place, developers can still develop property, but the city will not provide any incentives.
He says the primary goal for the city is to make sound decisions regarding downtown development.
The City of Akron is taking some extra time to look at its plan to purchase and renovate the Mayflower Manor downtown, which has the 200-plus residents of the former hotel concerned about their collective future.
At-large Councilman Jeff Fusco said the primary goal was to assure the residents of the Mayflower that they would find adequate housing if the city's plan to buy the building goes through.
"We will be looking to hire consultants to assist with the relocation of the residents so that they are all taken care of," Fusco said.
"The city will be looking to make sure that the housing they are relocated to is safe and better than their current living situation if this moves forward."
The city's plans on developing the aging building are dependent on approval of a HUD 108 loan request that was brought up in Council chambers Monday evening. Akron's legislative body took time on a resolution to approve the loan during their meeting.
Sandra Sherman, a Mayflower resident says she does not want to be uprooted from her home, because of the convenient amenities located within minutes of the downtown landmark.
"The bus stops right there in front of my house to pick me up, and it drops me right off in my back yard near the Polsky Building," she says.
Sherman says that by living at the Mayflower, she and others can remain independent.
She doesn't seem to believe that a possible purchase of the Mayflower Manor by the city will do anything to revamp Downtown Akron.
"There is no downtown Akron, there's nothing to shop for down here,all the stores are gone," she explained.
"The only thing you can do down here is go to a bar."
Other residents like Angela Fawn say the Mayflower has social and cultural significance as well as provide housing for the elderly and disabled.
"The Mayflower has a prominent role in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous, and people come from all over the country and parts of the world during Founder's Day to see the historical site," Fawn explained.
"I object to the city seeking the loan because this building is such a big part of the city's history and if it is purchased and redeveloped, that history might not be known."
Marilyn Bobo, the Council President for the Mayflower tenants says she wants her fellow residents to be seen not just as low-income individuals, but citizens with a voice in the say of the building they call home.
"We need justice," Bobo said. "If you show us an inspector's report, and it says the building is in a state of disrepair, then we'll give up the building, but until then, we're going to to stay."
Councilman Fusco says the city has some safety concerns in regards to the building and its viability moving forward.
"I spoke to a tenant who had some problems with the HVAC, so that's one of the issues we're looking at before we make a decision."
City Planning Director Marco Sommerville said that the city is working to make sure the 250 people who currently reside in the Mayflower will get the housing they need so they can remain independent if the plan moves forward.
"We understand that you 're people and we have your best interest at heart," he said.
"The facility hasn't been invested in in quite some time and we will make sure that moving forward the property is invested in so that it can remain useful."
Local governments are telling Columbus - hands off or income tax collection.
Akron City Council has become the latest lawmaking body to come out against House Bill 5.
Proponents of the plan say it'll streamline Ohio's municipal income tax system and make the state more business friendly.
At-large Akron city council member Jeff Fusco says that the tax plan will take money from the state's cities.
"It will reduce the amount of revenue to to all cities in Ohio," Fusco tells AkronNewsNow.com, "increasing the administrative burden for all municipalities."
Fusco says that House Bill 5, in the wake of other cuts to tax revenue from Columbus, is like running up the score when it comes to cities' losses.
"Again, this is in essence 'piling on' by the state of Ohio," Fusco explains. "Now they're trying to get basically into our back pockets. Yes, our income tax collection."
Fusco says that if House Bill 5 goes into law, it will add a level of state bureaucracy.
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