County objects to tax proposal

The Geauga County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to object to a tax increment financing proposal from the city of Chardon for the Redwood USA LLC project of 91 attached residential single-family units off of Route 44.

According to the TIF proposal, Chardon would receive 100 percent of funding for 30 years for development of the complex.

County Administrator Gerald Morgan said that if a city proposes a TIF, commissioners have to either object or approve it. “This basically brings the city to the table to talk with the commissioners,” Mr. Morgan said. “We have the right to negotiate to see if we can work out a better deal.”

The development is to consist of 20 buildings with two to six units per building on 19.5 acres of land owned by Park Leasing Group LTD.

Chardon City Council earlier this year considered legislation to create the TIF that would redirect real estate taxes for infrastructure improvements at the proposed development.

Former seminarian enters guilty plea

Robert McWilliams, 41, of Strongsville, pleaded guilty in federal court last week to two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count each of transportation of child pornography, receipt and distribution of visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and possession of child pornography, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Brennan.

Mr. McWilliams had served at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Newbury as a seminarian from September 2014 to May 2015 and was actively involved in St. Helen School, according to court documents. Prosecutors said he solicited sexually explicit images of minors online and engaged in sexual acts with minor victims in exchange for alcohol and other things of value beginning in 2017 and continuing to 2019. Mr. McWilliams knew some of the victims through his time in the seminary with the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland at St. Helen’s where the children and their families were affiliated, according to court documents.

On Dec. 5, 2019, Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force officers raided Mr. McWilliams’ living space and office in the rectory at St. Joseph Church, in Strongsville, where he was assigned, on a search warrant out of Geauga County. Officials seized electronic devices, including a cellphone, iPad and laptop associated with the former seminarian, court documents stated.

Officers found additional images of child pornography on the devices that were not connected to the Geauga County investigation, which led to the charges in Cuyahoga County.

Mr. McWilliams used fake identities, including one of a teenage girl, and several social media mobile applications to contact his underage victims, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He posed as a female, enticed three minor victims to send sexually explicit photographs and videos. When some victims refused, officials said, Mr. McWilliams followed through on his threats and sent sexually explicit photographs to the victims’ mothers.

Funds help secure schools, centers

U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge, announced this week that communities and organizations in Ohio received $4.89 million from the Fiscal Year 2021 Nonprofit Security Grant Program. More than $1.3 million of that funding went to entities in Northeast Ohio. This critical program provides at-risk organizations with funding for security enhancements and can help houses of worship, such as synagogues, as well as community centers and schools save lives when dealing with threats to public safety.

 “The hatred and intolerance that breeds anti-Semitism is the antithesis of what America stands for and we cannot allow it to take root in our society,” said Rep. Joyce. “As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am proud to advocate for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program and remain committed to ensuring all Americans have the freedom to practice their religion without fear. I will always stand with Ohio’s Jewish community against all anti-Semitic threats.”

 Last year, Ohio saw its largest increase in anti-Semitic incidents in over 40 years. According to a report released by the Anti-Defamation League, 63 percent of the 43 incidents reported in the Buckeye State in 2020 occurred in Northeast Ohio. Those incidents reflect a 72 percent increase from 2019, he said. Online platforms have also seen an “appalling uptick” in anti-Semitic rhetoric, he added. Between May 7 and May 14 variations of the phrase “Hitler was right” was found in more than 17,000 tweets, Rep. Joyce said.

 Last December, Rep. Joyce voted to provide this program with $180 million. During a House Appropriations Committee markup earlier this week, Rep. Joyce said he voiced concern over the lack of increase in funding for the Non-Profit Security Grant Program amid the recent rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Candidates pull petitions

Chagrin Falls Village Council President Erinn Grube and parking commission chairman Michael Corkran have taken out petitions to run for council on Nov. 2.

Mr. Corkran also has volunteered for a special finance committee project.

All seven council seats are up for election and all are two-year terms. The filing deadline is Aug. 19.

In Chagrin Falls Township, Thomas Florkiewicz has taken out petitions for another four-year term and is alone in the quest so far. The seat currently held by appointed Trustee Jen McKee also is up for election.

In addition, former Chagrin Falls Councilman Robert Schleper, Jr., now of Moreland Hills, has pulled a petition for a seat on the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District Board of Education.

Chardon man dies in crash

A Chardon man died and three others were injured in a traffic accident this past Saturday on Mulberry Road in Munson Township.

Isaac B. Mayo, 19, was pronounced dead at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said in a press release. His passenger, transported to University Hospital Geauga Medical Center, sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries.

Robert G. Bourne, 51, of Chardon, was driving a 2021 Hyundai Palisade westbound on Mulberry Road when he failed to negotiate a curve, went left of center and struck Mr. Mayo’s 2007 Honda Civic head-on, the patrol said.

Mr. Bourne and his son were transported to Hillcrest with non-life threatening injuries.

Munson and Chardon fire departments and the state patrol responded to the call at Mulberry Road, about 0.4 of a mile west of Fowlers Mill Road. The road was closed for about three hours.

The crash is still under investigation. Officials said neither drugs nor alcohol were involved in the accident.

Munson to place road levy on ballot

Munson Township Trustees last week agreed to put a 0.75-mill road levy on the Nov. 2 ballot. The renewal levy would last five years and cost a property owner about $7 per $100,000 of property value annually.

The proposed levy is going towards the general upkeep and maintenance of roads, Trustee Andrew Bushman said. The levy covers the annual expenses of repaving, striping and snow removal, among others.

“The entire cost of the road maintenance per year is around $750,000,” Mr. Bushman said. “We get grants through the Ohio Public Works [Commission] for around $200,000 which leaves around $500,000 per year that has to be paid.”

Trustee Jim McClusky said that the process has been “frugal.”

“Down the road, there might be an increase,” he said. “Right now, the road department is doing such a great job with what they have. They’re making it work.”

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