AUBURN — Township trustees approved nine members for a new research advisory committee that would be put up to the task of exploring internet availability in Auburn.

The trustees originally anticipated having a five- to seven-member committee, but ultimately decided to include all nine applicants in the committee during their regular Monday meeting. The township accepted applications through the month of February after kicking off the establishment of the committee in January.

As a rural township, Auburn trustees have regularly expressed frustration with poor internet connection from their providers. The township officials said residents have urged them to do whatever they can to fix the issue, especially in the height of remote learning and working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a committee of residents with various levels of expertise in internet services, the township may have more teeth when coming to state representatives for support.

Committee members are Auburn residents Ted Van Hyning, Craig Sirna, Adam Elsoffer, Tom Manning, Ray Somich II, Martin W. Mensch, Kevin Ortner, Scott Trimmer and Craig Hyps.

Trustee Patrick J. Cavanagh explained that the committee could focus on three separate subcategories, referencing Trustee Chairman Mike Troyan’s suggestion from a prior meeting.

“The folks that I talked to kind of concurred with what you said,” Mr. Cavanagh said of the committee members, explaining that they would first focus on the township’s primary internet provider, SuddenLink, and research into the service it has provided the township over the past three to four years.

The second focus, he said, would be on other internet providers in the township, like Windstream, then the final focus would explore outside providers and “future technologies” that they could bring into the township.

Mr. Cavanagh said this could take the committee three to six months to accomplish, meeting either in the township hall, via Zoom or both.

He said one of the trustees should attend the first meeting to help kickstart the initiative.

“Somebody from this board should be there and just set up a loose format,” Mr. Cavanagh said. “[We could] help facilitate and then we kind of stand back because these are folks that, several of them, asked for us to do something like this, so I think we let them take it in their direction.”

Mr. Troyan suggested the trustees have the committee be part of their March 15 meeting.

“That way we can just lay it on the table, we’ll have the information available for them,” he said, adding that getting the process started in a public meeting to get everyone on the same page “makes the most sense.”

Fiscal Officer Fred May asked whether Ohio Sunshine Law would apply to the advisory committee meetings and if the township should consult their legal counsel.

Mr. Cavanagh and Mr. Troyan said they could consult counsel, but because the committee is just advisory with no decision making authority, the meetings might not fall under Sunshine Law.

“We can consult, sure, but there will be no official action that this committee is going to take. They won’t spend money or establish anything,” Mr. Cavanagh said.

“They’re just going to be advisory, [but] it’s a good question,” Mr. Troyan added.

The next Auburn Trustees meeting is March 15 at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom and in person at the town hall, 11000 E. Washington St.

Sam joined the Times in 2019 and covers several communities and schools in the Chagrin Valley and Geauga County. She also oversees the features/community events and the website. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.

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