Avon Growth News, 7-15-99 to 8-3-99

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7-15-99 People Deflation
7-15-99 Heritage Square at French Creek
7-17-99 North Coast Bearings
7-21-99 Tennis Courts at Schwartz Road Park
7-29-99 Farmers fret over cash drought
8-3-99 Entertainment Taxes, ODOT squeezes Avon

IMPRESSIONS from The PRESS, 7-14-99, By Kim T. Dudek, Editor

"Don't kill the whistleblower; look at the facts

... Does the size of the community and the attitude of the community dictate what is ethically correct? I hope not ...

And if the whistle-blower happens to be fairly new to the community, but sees the injustices, do we point the finger and call him a troublemaker?

Why? Because he's new? Because he doesn't fit into the "set"? Does he live in the wrong subdivision?

I've been there before. I've been the outsider, treated like my ideas meant nothing because I wasn't "from there."

Or maybe there is a fear that he is more representative of all the new people moving to Avon, the "outsiders", building expensive homes, who want more than what the "natives" want, where the general rules of ethics apply to everyone else, but not themselves.

You can't have residential and industrial development and enjoy all the perks without realizing that the people in your community are going to want politicians to be accountable. You can't have it both ways ...

Don't kill the messenger. We won't. Whether or not a person is a part of the old guard, if unethical practices have taken place, they must be addressed. Avon, you are changing. Bigger changes are yet to come.

If you have a person who has the gumption to stand up and say, "hey this is wrong," then look at the situation, and rely less on protecting your image. Who cares if he's annoying?

Avon was probably the only community in the state that tried to remove a councilperson for being annoying. Change is coming. The double standard won't work anymore. The idea of protecting yourselves and having your own set of rules doesn't work anymore. It's time to grow up and be a city ...

The "village" is getting too big for the good-ole-boy attitude, and Lorain County Prosecutor Greg White is watching every move.

It's my commitment to make sure we represent the entire community, not just the "natives" or the people who moved in 10 years ago, but also those newcomers who will be, hopefully, a part of bettering your community and preparing it for what is to come.

And realistically, a community fares very well by the new people who want to be involved, given the opportunity."

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"... According to the July 1, 1998, population estimates recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Cuyahoga County for the first time this century is smaller than the combined population of the six counties that surround it.

The latest figures put Cuyahoga County's population at 1.38 million, down 31,000, or 2.2%, from April 1, 1990. By contrast, the aggregate population of Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit counties rose over that period by 80,000, or 5.9%, to nearly 1.43 million.

...When viewed as a seven-county area, the population of Northeast Ohio as of mid-1998 stood at 2.8 million, up a mere 1.8% from eight years before. Contrast that increase with the rise in Ohio's population over that period of 3.3% and an 8.7% jump in the U.S. population and a sorry tale emerges -- if Northeast Ohio's population were adjusted for ``people inflation,'' it would be declining, not growing.

The economic implications of what is, at best, population stagnation are enormous. Indeed, the effects of a labor pool that isn't as deep as employers would like already are evident on the shop floor as well as in the research lab. No wonder the new Northeast Ohio Regional Business Coalition has set work force development as one of its key pursuits ...

There are some issues, such as creating efficient air and ground transportation systems, that must transcend hometown politics if this region is to see more than a transfer of wealth within its boundaries ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE SUN, 7-15-99, By CHANEL CHAMBERS, Staff Writer

"AVON -- The French Creek Development Association [FCDA] is making progress in raising $30,000 toward the completion of a new city park at the corner of Stoney Ridge and Detroit roads.

Although the park was temporarily dubbed "Avon Town Center," Gerald Gentz, vice president of the FCDA, said the group has recommended the official name of "Heritage Square at French Creek" to City Council for a vote.

Gentz said the Parks Commission has planned a series of parks around the French Creek District that will have "French Creek" in their names.

The FCDA chose "Heritage Square" for this particular park because of its proximity to the heart of Avon's historic district.

Construction has begun on the project.

The park's concrete walkways have already been completed and, two weeks ago, workers placed the huge wooden gazebo that will serve as a bandstand in the center of the park.

When completed, the park will include wooden benches, a red brick walkway, trellises, landscaping, a community billboard, and a state-of-the art electrical system.

The FCDA is building the park in partnership with the Parks Commission.

The city purchased the small plot of land last year, and provided the group with $30,000 in seed money to begin the project.

Gentz said the FCDA has raised about $15,000 in cash so far, in addition to thousands of dollars worth of in-kind donations, such as electrical work, irrigation and landscaping ..."

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"SMILE: A case in Avon shows how tax abatements can be a win-win situation if handled right. North Coast Bearings, located in Westlake for the past 14 years, was granted abatement of property taxes on a 62,000-square-foot building along Jaycox Road in Avon, which will be its new home next year.

As soon as the tax agreement went through, company owner and chief executive officer William 'Bud' Hagy sent a surprise gift of $10,000 to Avon schools.

North Coast Bearings was granted abatement of 55 percent of the taxes on real and personal property over 10 years. That amounts to $30,000 a year. But the company will still pay $90,998 a year, including 100 percent of the tax due on its inventory, and two-thirds of it all goes to the school district.

Also, the company is bringing 46 new jobs to Avon, with a payroll exceeding $1 million a year, and that entitles the schools to share half the city income tax paid by the company's employees.

What's more, the company is of a type that entitles the city (and the schools) to collect income tax on its corporate profits.

Tax abatement does reduce the amount of new taxes that would be due to schools for a new plant, but without it there would be no new plant and no new taxes at all. Avon does it right by sharing the income tax. North Coast Bearings added frosting to the cake with its gift to the schools ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 7-21-99, By JoAnne Easterday

"Play tennis at Schwartz Road Park by spring 2000

Avon residents will be able to play tennis in the city by spring of 2000, said Park Director Jack Zajaros. After having sought several bids, Zajaros will work with Aztec, an asphalt surfacing company, to proceed with the work to construct two courts at Schwartz Road Park.

The site will be 20 feet north of the sports "chalet," will be raised 14 inches higher than surrounding surfaces and will cost approximately $100,000. Lighting the courts may be considered in the future. The iceskating "pond" will be downsized somewhat by the court construction.

The park board met last Thursday to iron out the details of running the growing park system. One of those problems was to smooth the entities composing little league, girls' softball and soccer enthusiasts.

Jack Turza representing girls' softball and Dave Rochelle, representing little league reported various scheduling problems and difficulties with field maintenance. All parties agreed the biggest problem lay with lack of communication.

Now with the full time park director and the soon-to-be-hired recreation director fielding questions, the problems were believed to be surmountable. Two of the groups agreed to have a representative at succeeding park board meetings.

Other details for work at Schwartz Road Park were to paint pedestrian crosswalks on the pavement. Three pedestrian crossing signs have been purchased. They're made of recyclable plastic, as are the signs at city hall and the police department.

A split rail fence from Elyria Fence will be placed along the south side of the entrance driveway and along the east side of the parking lot. The cost will be $43,000.

Because the money is already allocated in the park board budget, the board can decide how the money should be spent rather than going through city council for them to make these kinds of decisions.

Discussion among the little league and softball representatives and the board consisted of the fact that ultimately the bulk of the ball playing fields will be located at the Detroit Road Park.

To that effect, board member David Mast predicted that the five of the fields would be operable by spring of the year 2001.

Engineering will begin in January with construction being on-going during the winter. Each field is likely to cost $50,000. Utility improvements will cost $100,000 ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 7-17-99 By MICHAEL ZAWACKI, Morning Journal Business Writer

"Farmers fret over cash drought

NEW RUSSIA TOWNSHIP -- A storm front thunders over Corwin Burrer's head, but he doesn't mind. Rain is a good sign for his corn and soybean crops, which expand to the horizon in just about every direction ...

The worries that plague the 72-year-old farmer, who has worked this land since he was 12, deal more with economics than with agriculture.

''These crop prices are shaping up to be awful low compared to the last couple of years,'' Burrer said during a break from tending his fields. ''It looks like it'll be worse this year than the last.''

Agricultural analysts are predicting that crop prices, especially for this region's staples of corn and soybeans, will hit a low not seen in at least 20 years.

Last year's disappointing financial return forced Burrer to take out the first loan in 10 years to get his crops planted this year, he said.

Burrer, however, has longevity on his side and, like his crops, he can weather this financial drought. Other smaller farmers may not be so lucky, he said.

''Financially, we'll lose money,'' Burrer said with an air of certainty. ''And it's going to hurt a lot of farmers if (the prices) don't get any better.'' ...

Since April 1, portions of the state, particularly the south central region, are deficient by as much as 7.07 inches of rain, according to figures supplied by the USDA Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service.

In contrast, the Lorain, Huron and Erie county region was short only about 1.12 inches of rain since the beginning of April, according to the state agricultural service.

Instead, global economics play a major factor in crop pricing, as does a basic economic principle -- supply and demand.

The crops are coming in, said Jim Skeeles, an agriculture agent with the OSU Lorain County Extension Office, but they could create a surplus on a world market where there is very little demand for soy and corn crops.

''With the Asian and Pacific rim countries there are no dollars to support the imports that are so important to U.S. farmers and dictates demand,'' he said. ''It's the global situation that we look at, and it's all part of the bigger equation.''

However, Skeeles said he speculates that a good yield may offset the losses local farmers would receive from low crop prices. With a drought impacting the majority of producers in the rest of the country, more demand may exist for local crops, he said. In this scenario, he said, a higher crop yield in this region would be an asset to local farmers ...

But for farmers throughout the tri-county region like Burrer, there's very little to be hopeful about right now.

''There's always next year,'' he said with a hidden optimism. ''But I said that last year, too.'' "

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"Avon golf tax plan on hold, movie tax due

AVON -- City Council in Avon agreed to split its proposed entertainment tax, allowing members to consider a 3 percent tax on movie tickets separately from the highly controversial tax on golf courses and similar entertainment.

'I'm not hearing anything but agreement for a theater tax now, and that's something we want to get on now,' said Mayor Jim Smith, urging the separation.

While council seems in a hurry to adopt the theater tax, hoping to take advantage of the movie theater proposed for the Avon Commons shopping center, the finance committee's recommendation to exempt golf courses from the entertainment tax remains in debate.

The four golf course owners in the city say a tax will put them at a competitive disadvantage with courses in other cities.

In March, the four hired an attorney to represent them in the matter. One owner has allegedly threatened to shut down his course if the tax passes.

The finance committee recommended exempting golf courses, but not miniature golf courses, which met with disagreement.

'You have to have a rational basis to make exceptions,' said Law Director Dan Stringer, suggesting the city might make an exception for entertainment businesses supplying 'quality green space.'

'I can't think of any other rational basis to exempt them,' he said.

Councilman Mike McDonough urged the tax, saying, 'I don't know anyone who plays golf who couldn't afford 50 cents.' But At-large Councilman Shaun Brady disagreed ...

Council agreed to separate the two taxes in order to consider them individually; the movie tax will likely be voted on Monday, while the tee tax was set aside for further discussion.

Council also discussed modifications to its mayor's court during last night's work session [8-2-99].

Urging compliance with the law, Smith told council that Avon will have to hire a magistrate to run its court, even if only temporarily, thanks to a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling.

'We'll have to see where the appeal goes, but for now, putting in a magistrate is not going to break our budget,' Smith said.

Although Avon's mayor's court handles only uncontested misdemeanor cases, Law Director Stringer said that it is probably illegal for Mayor Smith to preside over the court anymore ...

Police Chief John Vilagi said that the mayor could legally no longer issue warrants or hold court.

Just before its summer recess, council had passed an ordinance requiring the mayor to hold court at least once a week, agreeing it was important to keep the money in Avon rather than refer cases to Avon Lake Municipal Court and lose the court fees.

But with the new plan, the city would still get court fees, Smith said, merely subtracting a magistrate's pay.

'We'll still receive most of our money,' Smith said. 'To do our court is just a couple of hours a week.'

Last year, Avon received $143,126 in court fines and forfeitures, as well as $27,005 in court costs, according to Finance Director Bob Hamilton."


"State should pay all for highway repairs

There are good reasons why the last 20 percent of the cost of fixing state highways through cities and villages has been coming from state funds. One is that the number of miles of road inside each town's limits varies widely from place to place. It isn't fair to place a greater burden on the taxpayers of one community than on those of another just because there happens to be more miles in the one with state road signs.

Another is that the gasoline taxes that pay for the work are assessed on motorists regardless of where they live, so it makes sense to put it all into a single pot to be divided according to the need for work to be done.

This approach has been in place for years. Federal and state gas tax funds paid 80 percent of the cost of the road work and the state picked up most of the other 20 percent, too. A city like Norwalk or Avon Lake might get stuck with a little bill, something like 3 percent, and be happy to go along with it.

But the local complacency about this ended abruptly last year when the officials of the Ohio Department of Transportation said they were going to stop doing in-city highway repaving altogether. They weren't required by law to pay for any of it, they said, and policies on how much they did pay varied from district to district across Ohio. The new rule would be that if a city wanted the roads done, the city could pay it all.

This brought a hue and cry from mayors that got the attention early last fall of the governor, George Voinovich, who turned ODOT back to its old policy. But now there is a new governor and a new ODOT budget, and new pressure to make communities responsible for at least 20 percent. The Ohio Department of Transportation is conducting public hearings on the proposal and accepting public comment all this month. We'd like to offer ours:

Local taxpayers have enough to do keeping up local streets, not to mention other infrastructure like sewer and water lines and treatment plant upgrades ordered by the state and federal environmental protection agencies. Building and maintaining inter-city and through-city highways should remain the full responsibility of state government."

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