AUBURN — With Ohio Sunshine Law anticipated to impede progress of the township’s newly appointed internet task force, the trustees decided to dissolve the committee into a resident volunteer group Monday.

As a volunteer group, the trustees explained the nine individuals will have more flexibility in pursuing a solution to the township’s internet access problems with the ability to meet freely.

The trustees accepted applications for the group during the month of February, seeking individuals with experience in the internet or broadband service industry, and accepted all nine applicants during their March 1 trustees meeting.

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

The trustees initially created the task force as a result of years of complaints from residents of the rural township due to poor internet connection from local providers.

Trustee Patrick J. Cavanagh explained Monday that the township had been exploring solutions for more than 15 years, but the pandemic exponentially exacerbated the issue due to the increase in remote learning and working.

By forming a resident group, the trustees explained this may give the township more teeth when coming to representatives or providers. Instead of elected officials talking over residents, this gives the residents the opportunity to speak directly for themselves with the backing of the township.

Trustee Mike Troyan, however, explained that per the recommendation of the county Prosecutor’s Office, that the township had to dissolve the appointed committee, turning it into a group of resident volunteers. He said as an appointed trustees committee, the residents would be required to keep minutes and conduct meetings open to the public with proper notice provided for every meeting.

“You are all independent citizens, you are no longer a committee,” Mr. Troyan said. “You’re just citizens and we’re working together.”

Resident member Kevin Ortner asked the trustees after they disbanded the committee if the group could become a trustees committee again if they were willing to conduct the public meetings per sunshine law, noting he would prefer conducting in a matter accessible to the public.

The trustees said they could do so if the group could commit to the process but advised meeting as a resident group and conducting initial research first.

As a private organization, the resident group will be able to conduct meetings independently, but determined they will provide updates to the trustees, per the trustees’ recommendation, to ensure their progress is still accessible to all residents. Any reports or presentations before the trustees will be included in public record, the trustees explained.

“I appreciate you guys jumping in here, and hopefully we can come up with something,” Mr. Troyan said. “We’d like to have every household in the township have reasonably priced, reliable and fast enough service to do what they need to do.”

Resident Craig Sirna offered to be the point person for the volunteer group to get the ball rolling on the initiative and Trustee John Eberly agreed to be an unofficial liaison between the trustees and the volunteers.

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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