Avon Growth News, 10-18-01 to 12-12-01

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10-18-01: Re-elect Jim Smith Avon mayor
11-7-01: Veteran's monument possible in Avon
11-16-01: New fire station
12-05-01: Watching you
12-12-01: Section 8 Housing on Chester Rd.

NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 10-3-01, By Mike Ferrari

``City preserves French Creek District

AVON -- British Petroleum (BP) has lost its final court appeal and ... the company will not be able to build a gas station in Avon [near the south-west corner of SR-83 and SR-254 (Detroit Rd.)] ...

According to Avon Mayor Jim Smith ... "This shows that the city has the right to create our own zoning standards and have them stand up in court against a large company." ... ''

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EDITORIAL from The Morning Journal, 10-18-01

``Re-elect Jim Smith Avon mayor

For eight years, James A. Smith has been mayor of Avon, guiding the city through a period of tremendous growth, and doing it well.

Now he is seeking a fourth term as mayor, hoping to continue that guidance and to carry out his solid plan to establish a full-time fire department and paramedics as part of the city's orderly growth.

We heartily encourage voters to support Smith on Nov. 6. It's the smart thing to do for the city and for themselves.

Smith can work with people, and the people's elected representatives on City Council. He and his administration also have amply demonstrated their ability to work effectively and firmly with developers and new businesses seeking a site in Avon.

James A. Smith
Mayor Jim Smith

The city has aggressively sought new industry. Since Smith became mayor in 1994, a total of 34 new industries have located in Avon. Commercial and industrial growth have created about 3,000 jobs, not counting the impressive, new Avon Commons shopping center.

That growth has brought a steady rise in tax revenues to support and maintain services to the growing number of residents. The new jobs generate more than $2 million a year for the city. In short, Smith's administration has put the city in good financial shape.

The city's bond rating now is the highest for communities of its size, which attests to the city's money management and ability to manage its rapid growth under Smith's administration.

The city has added park land and attracted grants to fund park improvements, acquired a more spacious building to serve as city hall and renovated the old building as the police station. The road improvement budget has grown from $100,000 a year to more than $1 million during Smith's tenure.

Smith, 53, also has served 12 years on the school board and two years on City Council before becoming mayor. He knows his community and has served it with distinction and competence.

With Avon's growth expected to continue, Smith has proven he is the one to handle it best, and he deserves to be re-elected on Nov. 6.''

EDITORIAL from The Plain Dealer, 10-21-01

``Avon mayor

Avon is one of Greater Cleveland's fastest- growing and most attractive cities. And at least so far, it is managing to grow without taking on the characteristics of urban sprawl.

There are a number reasons for this: easy access to highways and to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, plenty of undeveloped land, good schools, an intelligent land-use master-plan and solid political leadership.

At the city's helm since 1994 has been James A. Smith, a fixture in Avon politics for the past quarter-century. During his two terms as mayor, Smith, 53, has helped recruit nearly three-dozen new businesses to the city, watched the construction of hundreds of new homes and doubled the amount of the city's park land ...

If re-elected, Smith pledges to address the challenges that come with controlled, but rapid growth. Most important, this includes continued road and sewer expansions and improvements and elevating the city's Fire Department to full-time status. The department's growth is especially critical, given the number of homes and businesses it now must serve ...

Avon voters should return Smith to office on Nov. 6.

Click here for more information.

EDITORIAL from The Morning Journal, 10-24-01

``City needs full-time fire department now

It's time for a full-time fire department and paramedics in fast-growing Avon, and Issue 4, a city income tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot, will get the job done.

If voters approve Issue 4, as they should, the current 1 percent income tax will rise to 1.5 percent for people who live and work in Avon. People who live in Avon but work elsewhere would pay an income tax of .25 percent because they would get a 1.25 percent tax credit, up from their current 1 percent tax credit.

The income tax increase would generate about $1.8 million a year, which would be enough to operate the full-time fire department. Full-time operation would start around July 1, 2002. The additional income tax money would go entirely for the fire department for the first six years, and for all safety forces after that ...

Suggestions that impact fees on new development be used for the full-time fire department won't work because impact fees cannot be used for operations, and no community in Ohio is using them for facilities yet either ...

The new full-time department initially would have a chief, assistant chief-fire marshal, three lieutenants as shift supervisors and 12 firefighter-paramedics who could be supplemented by part-time personnel on an as-need basis. Three additional full-time firefighter-paramedics would be hired around July 1, 2003.

The city's current 19-person part-time fire department has only two firefighters on duty weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the rest on call.

The mayor says that the part-time department is capable and has good response times but adds, ''We're wearing these guys out'' with the increasing demands placed on them as the city grows.

In 1992, the part-time fire department went on 381 medical and fire calls. By 2000, that number nearly doubled, to 747 ...

Now is the time, and here is the plan to give Avon the full-time fire protection it needs. We strongly urge voters to approve Issue 4, the city income tax increase, on the Nov. 6 ballot. ''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 11-7-01, By CRAIG RIMLINGER, Morning Journal Writer

``Avon voters OK income tax raise [for full-time fire protection]

AVON -- For years, city officials have said it would be inevitable that Avon would eventually need a full-time fire department to keep up with its staggering growth.

That time came last night when voters approved Issue 4, a 0.5 percent income tax increase to pay for a full-time department.

The vote was 2,772 to 1,542, according to complete unofficial results.

The approval means residents who live and work in the city will pay a 1.5 percent income tax, up from 1 percent. Residents who live in the city but work outside Avon are already forgiven the 1 percent income tax rate and will be excluded from paying half of the 0.5 percent increase.

''I'm actually ecstatic,'' said Mayor Jim Smith who pushed the tax increase as part of his successful campaign for re-election.

In June, Smith proposed the tax increase to generate approximately $1.6 million in funds to help implement a full-time fire department. The city already spends $448,000 out of its general fund for the fire department.

Funds from the first six years of the income tax increase will go directly toward the fire department. After that, money will go to all safety forces.

Included in the proposal are plans for a new station at one of two sites.

One site being considered for the new station is on the existing site along Detroit Road next to the police department. They include a two story, 13,900-square-foot building to cost a little more than $2 million.

Daily operations would be based on the first floor with sleeping quarters, locker rooms, shower rooms, a fitness area, a day room with kitchen access and a storage area on the second floor.

Another site being considered is on land near the Curiosity Shop, 36145 Detroit Road ... [near SR83]. Those plans call for a one-story, 12,046-square-foot building costing a little less than $1.9 million with the same amenities.

The buildings have a minimum life span of 50 years and could accommodate staffing that included two and possibly three female firefighters should the need arise.

During a presentation Sept. 4 [2001], architects said they prefer the building ... [near SR83] because there is more space and room is available should the city choose to relocate City Hall and the Police Department to the area.

Avon's population surge, up 44 percent during the 1990s to nearly 12,000 residents, caused a significant increase in the workload for the fire department.

In 1992, the department responded to 296 medical calls and 85 fire calls for a total of 381. Three years later, the total had jumped approximately 19 percent to 462 calls, 329 of which were medical needs.

In 1999, the number of medical calls alone was 463 with an additional 191 fire calls, bringing the year's total to 654. Last year, the number of calls soared to 747, almost double the 1992 total.

As of October, the department had responded to 506 medical calls and 222 fire calls, 728 combined.

To respond to the calls, the squad presently has two firefighters on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The squad carries pagers on nights and weekends in case of an emergency.

The makeup of the full-time department will consist of one fire chief, an assistant fire chief/fire marshal, three lieutenants and 12 firefighters/paramedics, all employed full-time. Part-time personnel would assist on an as-needed basis. ''


Click here for Avon 2001 General Election results.

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NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 11-7-01, By Mike Ferrari

`` Veteran's monument possible

AVON -- ... an even greater, heightened importance will be placed on Veteran's Day this November in light of the Sept. 11 [2001] tragedies.

... [and] a local group is trying to make sure that past veterans of the Vietnam War are still being remembered and honored.

Josephine Jo (Scarpitti) Hamilton, public relations director for Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Committee of Lorain County Inc., is currently in the process of selecting a location in Lorain County where a monument will be built to remember all of the fallen men who died in the Vietnam War.

Hamilton has already contacted Avon Mayor Jim Smith about the potential of building the structure in Avon but a definitive location will not be established until sometime next year.

According to Smith, he and Hamilton have discussed the donation and use of land at SR 83 and SR 254 and possibly locating the monument at Veteran's Memorial Park on Detroit Road.

Hamilton said the group is trying to obtain land where people all over Lorain County can visit to observe Veteran's Day with a special ceremony.

Hamilton and Smith both acknowledged the need for freeway accessibility and parking to hold the large number of people that would join together at the service.

Avon City Council members along with Smith toured both locations and Hamilton did not want to release information about whether Avon was going to be in the running for the monument.

Hamilton said the structure would list the names of 98 different young men that either lost their lives in battle in Vietnam or are still considered to be prisoners of war (POWs) or missing in action (MIAs).

Hamilton said her reasons for being involved with the county-wide group are very personal. When she first started researching the different families and men that never returned home from the war, her mission was clear.

"My husband is a Vietnam Veteran and I just feel that it was difficult time in the country and county," Hamilton said as she became emotional. "These 98 young men need to always be remembered and I lost a friend there (Vietnam)."

"These boys became my boys (after researching for the project) and I want to make sure that people always remember them."

Smith said he would be honored if the group decided to locate in Avon and hopes that he and city council can assist in the process regardless of where they decide to build the monument in the county.

"If we can accommodate them it would be a real nice thing for the city of Avon," Smith said.

"Everyone in Lorain County that lost a loved one in Vietnam will be able to join the city in observing Memorial Day and Veteran's Day."

"It is a worthwhile cause regardless of where they decide to put it. I'm just pleased that we will have something in Lorain County."

The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Committee of Lorain County was established over a year ago and currently has 12 different members assisting their efforts in building the monument in the county.

"Our main goal is to get a monument built in the community for the boys that did not come home from Vietnam," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said she could not release details about how the monument will look, instead noted that a public unveiling ceremony will take place at Lorain Party Center on Nov. 11 [2001] from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Hamilton said the public is welcome to attend the dinner and reservations and information about the project can be obtained by calling her or her husband Dusty at 988-7522 or by contacting Don Attie at 288-7030.

Donations to help the fund and project can also be mailed to the Vietnam Veteran Mem. Com. Lo. Co., PO Box, 258, Lorain, 44052.

Additionally, people that wish to learn more about the group's efforts and how they can help can e-mail the Hamiltons at dustyandjo@mediaone.net

The more the word gets out to the communities the more support we are receiving, Hamilton said. "When people see the design they are just going to fall in love with it and I hope that this will be very well received." ''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 11-16-01, By Catherine Gilfether, Plain Dealer Reporter

``AVON -- ... voters approved financing for a full-time Fire Department, and now city officials are eager to select a site for a $2.1 million fire station.

The site will be chosen early next month, and construction could start on the 12,000-square-foot building by spring, said Mayor James Smith.

By summer, a full-time force could begin working. And by this time next year, the building may almost be completed, Smith said.

He also wants to hire a part-time safety director to oversee fire and police operations. He has done that job for six years.

A full-time department is long overdue, said Fire Chief Frank Root Jr., who has been with the department for 30 years. "I was stunned how much workload went on last year," he said. "With the amount of calls, we definitely need it."

The department responded to 747 calls last year, up from 381 in 1992. This year, the calls have reached 800 already.

The city has grown from 7,337 residents to 11,446 in the past decade, according to the 2000 census. Nearly 34 industries have moved to the city since Smith took office in 1994.

Voters approved a 0.5 percentage-point increase in the income tax last week that will generate $1.7 million annually, nearly enough to pay for Fire Department operations. Smith said $1.8 million is required to operate the department annually.

For the first six years, the tax will be devoted to the Fire Department, and later, it will be shared with other safety forces, the mayor said.

The $448,000 for the current part-time department may be used toward paying off the new fire station, Smith said.

Next week, the city Planning Commission will review the two site locations and make a recommendation to City Council.

The preferred site is five acres in the center of town off Detroit Rd. near Ohio 83.

The other site is behind the existing fire station, also on Detroit Rd., but farther toward the city's western edge. That 14 acres would be cramped because it would share parking with the city's ballfields, Smith said.

The full-time force would consist of a fire chief, an assistant fire chief-fire marshal, three full-time lieutenants and 12 firefighters and paramedics.

The staff would work in shifts at the current station until the new building is completed, Smith said.

Sleep trailers may serve as temporary headquarters behind the existing station, he said. ''

Contact Catherine Gilfether at cgilfether@plaind.com

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NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 12-5-01, By Lori E. Switaj

[Watching you]

``Responding to citizen complaints that pictures of their homes along with personal information has been posted on the Lorain County Auditor's website, Mark Stewart, Lorain County Auditor, announced last week that homeowners may have pictures of their home removed from the website upon request.

Pictures of the homes will still remain on file and available for public access at the auditor's office ...

There should be no mystery about what this program is about, Stewart said while speaking in front of the Lorain County Commissioner's Meeting Nov. 29. It should not cause much alarm.

Residents at the meeting expressed concerns on a number of topics, including the potential for criminals and whether the project's contractors were taking pictures of the backs of residents homes without receiving permission to access private property ...

Stewart later denied the contractors photographing homes have been taking pictures of the backs of homes. Addresses that include photos of the back of a home were taken when the homes were sold (after 1994), as part of a separate sales review and appraisal program, Stewart said. If a home has not been sold since 1994, photos of the back of the home will not be online. [But are they available at the Auditor's office?] ...

The clarification came following the meeting, after Sheffield Village Mayor Darlene Ondercin disclosed her irritation over the situation.

"You misrepresented this program," Ondercin said. "We were told pictures would only be taken from public access. Are they getting out of that van and stepping on my property?" ...

Stewart said that his office has only received about 50 complaints in writing from concerned citizens, but the site has received over 180,000 hits since May 1999. Users can access the site for free for 14 days by proving a valid e-mail address. After 14 days, users are required to pay a $10 fee to continue the service. The auditor's office has maintained a database of all users who have accessed the website ...

"If someone wants their photo stricken from the Internet, I will do that, but in writing only," Stewart said.

Residents can make a request, which must include the homeowner's name(s) and address. If the parcel number is known it should be included, as well as a telephone number, for questions the office may have. Correspondence should be mailed to: Lorain County Auditor, Lorain County Admn. Building, 226 Middle Ave., 2nd Floor, Elyria, 44035 ... ''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 12-12-01, By Mike Ferrari

[Gerald Phillips is circulating a petition against car dealers on Chester Rd. across from A. J. Rose.

Does he want more Section 8 housing on Chester Rd.?]

``AVON -- The Timberlake Apartment complex in Avon along Chester Road that is being developed by Brisben Co., a Cincinnati firm, is still not out of the woods yet despite their progress.

Several months ago in an article that ran in The PRESS, different union and city officials voiced their concerns over the developer's business actions.

Citing numerous legal infractions with immigrant workers and prevailing wage issues, city and union spokespeople have yet to get the answers they desired from Brisben.

"Nobody has taken responsibility for the prevailing wages and this is their project, Avon Mayor Jim Smith said.

"Nobody is taking responsibility in paying the city their due payroll taxes. It appears to me that they (Brisben) have not been forthright in the dealings with the city as far as I m concerned."

Smith said he assumed the various issues facing the project would have been cured since the concerns were first aired publicly and is surprised and disgusted they have not been addressed.

"I was hoping that we would have this all cleared up by now," Smith said. "As of a week ago we were not receiving the taxes that we are entitled to. You would think that people working in the city would be more responsible, but they have not been."

"We want what is rightfully coming to us," Smith said. "Every developer that enters this city abides by all of our rules and guidelines. Brisben is not exempt from these rules and regulations regardless of what they think."

Brisben officials did not return calls for comment.

The apartment project is being partially funded through state bonds. As a result of the government assistance on the project, there are strict rules and regulations that must be adhered to by the developer.

One of the largest issues facing Brisben is the prevailing wage topic. Because the complex is receiving government support, all workers must receive comparable wages regardless of their skill level.

Furthermore, all of the wages that are being received at the site must be posted in the work trailer to allow all of the workers to see the dollar amounts of their co-workers.

According to three different union sources, the wages were never posted. However, Brisben officials stated in the past that prevailing wages were in effect for the project and that all of the wages were in fact posted in the work trailer.

Brisben received the bulk of the government subsidizing from the Ohio Department of Land and Development's Tax Exempt Bond program. By doing this, Brisben receives discounted construction costs, because they are trying to build affordable housing for middle to low income families.

The price of rental for the housing is based on the median income of the entire county and cannot be raised or lowered unless the county figures support the action.

In a Sept. 24 article in The PRESS, Mike Farmer, a business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW Local 129-Lorain) said there were numerous problems with the Timberlake site.

"I filed a complaint with the state because when a prevailing wage job is in effect for a project, all of the wages have to be posted in the work trailer," Farmer said in late September. "They are not posted. I don't know if they thought no one would check it out, but that is my job."

Also part of the problem for Brisben was that union officials that visited the site voiced concerns over illegal immigrants working at the location.

"Work on this project is well underway...the majority of workers on this project are Hispanic and from out of state," Farmer wrote in a formal complaint to the state.

"I was told they had green cards, but most of them don't speak English. I have seen them at McDonald's in Avon and only one person orders food for the group. They cannot even distinguish between the men's and women s bathrooms."

Councilman Jack Kilroy also noted that because prevailing wages were allegedly not in effect for all of the workers at Timberlake, the city of Avon could be being cheated out of payroll taxes.

"It cheats the city out of payroll taxes, cheats potential owners of the apartments from having quality work and workers out of fair wages," Kilroy said in September. "I think if it's true, Brisben should pay heavy fines so they don't profit off of their misdeeds."

Brisben emphatically denied and continues to deny all of the allegations that were raised by both union and city officials ...

Timberlake officials stated that different subcontractors are completing the majority of the work being done at the Avon location. In a faxed contractor list that was obtained from Farmer, eight companies from outside of Ohio are currently involved with the project.

"We have been receiving phone calls over the past few months from Mike Farmer, a local union official, requesting propriety subcontractor information which we have refused to provide," Don Paxton, executive vice president of Brisben Development said.

"We are under no obligation to provide any information to disinterested private parties. We are reporting and continue to report all information required by law. All of our subcontractors are registered with the city, as required. Pursuant to their contract with our firm, the subcontractors are required to comply with all federal, state and local laws." ...

Avon City Council approved of the project on Feb. 16, 2000 and work officially started on the Timberlake apartments in the spring of 2001.

As a result of the formal complaints being filed, Brisben and the Timberlake project is currently under investigation. The process could take up to two years to complete and if found guilty of any legal infractions, Brisben could be subjected to paying hefty fines and could be barred from working in the state.

Mike Sherman, a representative from the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry said he has been requesting documentation about whom the prevailing wage coordinator was on the job site and asked for the certified payroll reports and has not received anything from Brisben to date.

As a result, Sherman said the case has been turned over to the Lorain County Prosecutor's Office.''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 1-29-02, By Brad Dicken

``AVON -- Rooftop workers pounded nails Monday at Timber Lake apartments, days after the city of Avon threatened to shut down the job site citing safety and building code concerns.

Avon's chief building inspector, Jim Smith, said the developer addressed the city's immediate concerns over the weekend, averting the shut-down threat issued by the city Friday ...

The 256-unit apartment complex on Chester Road, east of Moore Road, is also the subject of an investigation by the Ohio Department of Commerce, which is looking into allegations that workers at the site are not being paid the prevailing wage.

Brisben Development, the Cincinnati-based contractor building the complex, using more than $15 million in low-interest loans from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, is suing the state and several unions in federal court, alleging the prevailing wage requirement is unconstitutional.

The company is arguing that contractors, rather than the state, should set the prevailing wage ...

The city gave the developer until Feb. 25 to address other job site deficiencies, masonry installation, improper masonry supports and improperly installed exit doors.

"Avon's building inspectors are scheduled to conduct a thorough inspection of the site today [1-29-02]," Smith said ...

Smith cited concern over how the base layer of bricks was being laid on the buildings, which could cause problems in the future. And that, he said, is the sort of thing the inspectors will be telling the contractor to fix ...''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 12-14-01, By Brad Dicken

[Phillips stops car dealership on Chester Road. Why?

What does he really want?]

``AVON -- A proposed car dealership at the southeast corner of Chester and Moore roads in Avon will be delayed a year because of a petition filed Wednesday [12-12-01] with the city asking for a referendum on the rezoning of the property.

[This rezoning was not a change to the Master Plan.

There are two separate documents in question, the Zoning Map and the Master Land Use Plan. The Master Plan clearly calls for either Multi-Family or Commercial on this parcel.

The Zoning Map identifies this property as only Multi-Family. Thus the need for a zoning change.]

Avon attorney Gerald Phillips, who filed 37 pages of petitions with 1,067 signatures, said residents who live near the 25-acre property hired him to represent them. He said he could not disclose their names ...

City Council approved rezoning the land from residential apartments to commercial last month at the request of A.J. Rose Manufacturing, which is across the street from the property.

Planning Commission Chairman Jim Piazza said. A.J. Rose and some of its partners own the land. Piazza said the Planning Commission approved the change in September and had hoped to see the project go forward.

The land abuts Interstate 90 on the south side. Two other corners of the intersection are zoned commercial. Piazza said a low-income apartment complex is being built nearby.

Phillips filed the petition, which he circulated along with his wife, former mayoral candidate Ted Graczyk, and eight other people who live outside the city [hired by whom?], 30 days after council passed it.

Clerk of Council Ellen Young said ... Phillips had more than the required 10 percent of registered Avon voters who were required to sign the petition.

Effectively, it stops the process for a year, Young said.

Council must now vote to repeal the zoning change or put it on the ballot in November [2002]. Young said the deadline for council action is Jan. 11, with its last scheduled meeting before that being a work session Jan. 7 [2002].

The petitions have been turned over to the Lorain County Board of Elections for verification.

Piazza said he thought the dealership, which was apparently going to be a General Motors franchise, would fit in well at the intersection.

"It's a loss to the city from my standpoint," he said ...

Mayor James Smith said he was satisfied the Council and Planning Commission had made an informed decision ...''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com

NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 12-19-01, By Mike Ferrari

``Phillips gets signatures

...In a questionable move, Phillips could have used an outside company to obtain the signatures from local residents under the premise that the petition they were signing was not [against] the dealership; instead it was for the right to vote only ...''

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 12-21-01, By Brad Dicken

``AVON -- Six attorneys want Avon Law Director Daniel Stringer's job.

Stringer is retiring at year's end, and among the applicants who have submitted resumes to replace him are a city councilman, a former law director, Avon Lake's retiring fire chief and ... Gerald Phillips ...

A public records request accompanied Phillips resume. He requested to see copies of all other resumes submitted for the job. Phillips said he wanted the copies to see who his competition was.

"Based on the resumes, (there are) only two candidates who are qualified and that's myself and [Jacobs' attorney] Thomas Smith," he said ... ''

NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 2-13-02, By Mike Ferrari

``Timberlake given extended probation, under watchful eye

AVON -- Several weeks ago, Avon city building inspectors were draining the ink out of their pens finding code and ordinance violations at the Timberlake Apartment Complex along Chester Road.

Following an unpleasant meeting that took place at city hall with Avon Mayor Jim Smith, Council President Tom Wearsch and law director Dan Stringer along with Brisben (Cincinnati developer of the project) representatives, an ultimatum was issued for the apartment complex.

They had to clean things up and make everything up to code or they would be shut down. Brisben had 72 hours to clean up the debris and address the punch list of problems that were highlighted by J.P. Smith of the Avon Building Department, or the project would be at a standstill.

It took some overtime and extra detail, but Brisben addressed the safety and building concerns and the project is back on-line.

Mayor Smith said he was pleased to see the developer clean up the construction site, but noted the building department will be keeping them under a watchful eye for the duration of the venture...''

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