Communities on the western edge of Geauga County were busy last year considering everything from the need for a U.S. Post Office branch for Auburn and Bainbridge to the fate of the more than 600 acres of land that once was home to Geauga Lake Amusement Park.
In Russell, residents voted to establish a new park district even though the Russell Township Park District has been in operation since 1984. The issue was control, with the new district under the management of township trustees and the old district under control of the sitting Geauga County Probate Court judge.
Bainbridge trustees tried to work out an agreement with the city of Aurora on a joint economic development district, called a JEDD, and development for the Geauga Lake park property owned by Cedar Fair of Sandusky. But those efforts, started early in the year, went nowhere as 2017 ended.
Everyone continues to wait for progress on a Meijer superstore proposed for 41 acres along Aurora Road (Route 43) in Bainbridge. Some of the delay could be attributed to the stall in talks between the township and the city of Aurora relating to a tax collection agreement and the city providing water and sewer services. Townships by law cannot collect income taxes from employees without a JEDD in which the income is somehow shared with the city.
Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin initially said she was confident in a JEDD agreement, but talks hit a wall later in the year.
Bainbridge Trustee Jeff Markley maintained that based on talks with the previous administration, the city and Bainbridge were to share revenue from the entire 600 acres of Cedar Fair land which spans both Bainbridge and Aurora. City officials, however, said they do not want to share income with the township from the Aurora side. And indications are that the city will not provide utilities to Bainbridge without a JEDD in place.
In a related matter, trustees asked residents their ideas for the Cedar Fair land. They suggested walking paths and a senior citizen development and even apartments along with nice restaurants. Small retail and professional offices are needed for a “live, work and play” community. The lake is considered a valuable natural resource to the community.
Residents were upset after logging was done on Cedar Fair property that was to serve as a buffer for adjacent homeowners. Cedar Fair representatives said it was a mistake.
Elsewhere in Bainbridge, the Ohio Department of Transportation began a study of the need for a traffic light at the intersection of Taylor May and Chillicothe (Route 306) roads. Traffic has increased dramatically over the years on Taylor May Road, as well as Chillicothe Road. Melody Coniglio, director of transportation for Kenston School District, said a light is needed at the intersection, especially for school buses.
After studies, ODOT approved the new signal in August. It is long overdue, according to Bainbridge Police Chief Jon Bokovitz. Work on the light is expected to begin in 2018.
Geauga Park District announced it would be working its newest park on the Ellerin property consisting of 129 acres off Country Lane. It was once the home of a church camp and later a dude ranch. Plans call for an entrance drive, shelter, restrooms and parking along with hiking trails. The goal is to link trails to the bridle trails of the Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation, according to Geauga Park District Executive Director John Oros.
Bainbridge and Auburn townships united to celebrate their bicentennial years in 2017 by blending some activities.
The joint re-enactment of the founding of Auburn and Bainbridge townships was a rousing success on the stage of the Kenston High School auditorium. The pioneer residents in 1817 met with Geauga County commissioners with their request to become townships, which was approved by the commissioners on March 13, 2017. Actors dressed in period clothing brought the event to life.
For the Independence Day celebration at the Kenston High School grounds, the two townships celebrated together as well this past summer.
Bainbridge Historical Society also coordinated a time capsule event in which items have been collected to place in the time capsule which is intended to be opened 50 years from now. The time capsule will be stored in a special enclosure at Town Hall.
Talks about a post office branch to serve Bainbridge and Auburn began early last year after residents complained about problems with daily mail delivery to their homes and a long drive as well as slow service at the Chagrin Falls Post Office.
The two townships formerly were serviced by a substation on East Washington Street in Bainbridge. Post office officials have said the Chagrin Falls branch is equipped to serve the two townships.
On a positive note, trustees honored resident Michael Lamanna for his 25 years on the township Board of Zoning Appeals.
Auburn ushered in the year with plans to renovate Adam Hall on East Washington Street. The work included stripping off the old tile flooring, preparing and leveling the floor and installing quarry tile. The building was constructed in the 1940s as an auction barn. It has been used by the township for rentals for weddings and many other events, as well as a polling place during elections.
Larsen Architects designed the project, and Jim Dixon was the construction manager. Hummel Construction Co. did the building work. An addition was constructed to the west side of the building for storage. Lighting at the hall and water service to the building was upgraded.
Township trustees and Auburn Road Superintendent Emerick Gordon reviewed the five-year road plans for upgrading and maintaining the roads. It is expected to cost about $2.9 million. The township crews maintain about 54 miles of road with 79 cul-de-sacs. The “night at the movies” event was accompanied by the township’s historic popcorn machine which later gave out at the township picnic. It has now been replaced.
Noise complaints from commercial, industrial and residential sources were reviewed by township officials. After much discussion, trustees decided to try using a monitoring system to measure the level of noise when complaints were lodged.
An expanded playground at Auburn Community Park was approved, and the second phase provided additional equipment for the younger children as well as equipment for children ages 5 to 12. The expansion added about 2,800 square feet to the existing 5,000 square feet. Upgrades were ready for the township’s bicentennial picnic.
During the yearlong bicentennial celebration, an image of Auburn’s first settler, Bildad Bradley, “roamed” the township and residents who spotted him and reported the sighting were entered into a monthly drawing for a bicentennial plate. Resident Matt Blowers posed as Bildad for the life-size likeness.
Auburn residents also “baked” a birthday cake for the bicentennial, which became one of the floats in the township’s annual Independence Day parade.
After a deadly crash at Munn and Bartholomew roads on Sept. 3, 2017, some residents called for changes to the intersection in the township. Deborah Dreslinski, 63, of Streetsboro was a passenger in the car that stopped at the stop sign on Bartholomew Road and then proceeded into the intersection, where it was hit by a pickup truck on Munn Road, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.
A joint effort by the Bainbridge police and Geauga County Sheriff deputies and other agencies resulted in the arrest last January of a man and a woman believed to be involved in more than 25 home invasions in Auburn and Bainbridge. They searched a swamp at LaDue Reservoir, following a break-in at a home on Thorpe Road in Auburn.
Raymond Miller, 46, of Lakewood and his wife Donna, 48, were arrested and charged with burglary. They were stealing to sell items to buy heroin, officers said. Incidents began occurring in 2016.
Flooding caused by storm water in South Russell was addressed by the village officials. Areas of concern included Chillicothe Road across from Manor Brook Drive, according to Mayor Bill Koons, as well as the east side of Chillicothe Road where high water was seen in the Chagrin Lakes area. A representative of the Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District toured the area with village representatives to discuss possible solutions.
Steps are also being taken to alleviate flooding around the village hall and west to Chillicothe Road (Route 306) with plans for the restoration of a stream behind Village Hall.
South Russell Village Council members approved an emergency resolution last March opposing a state budget proposal centralizing collection of net profit tax returns by the state rather than by villages and cities. Such provisions will cause a substantial loss of revenue for municipalities, officials explained.
More than 150 people turned out for the annual Cops and Kids Fishing event, held at Lake Louise. It was the largest group since the event started in 2013.
Some South Russell residents urged Village Council to preserve a wooded 2.5-acre lot owned by the village on Bell Road at Laurelbrook Drive. A stream and large ravine are on the property and residents want to keep it undeveloped, but council moved forward with plans to sell the land.
In another area, there are notable changes at the Chillicothe (Route 306) and Bell intersection where a new convenience store with gas pumps as well as dental and insurance offices can be seen.
The Bell Market Xpress replaced the former Bell Station at the site. Owner Ken Ashba removed and replaced aging underground fuel storage tanks. The facility will offer some sit-down eating space along with pizza and other food items. The building features white trim and “mellow yellow” color for the walls.
Dr. Brian M. Hivick of Chagrin Family Dental Care will occupy the new dentist office. DRY Insurance Group will occupy the century house next door.
Issues over the 34-year-old Russell Township Park District were in the forefront of concerns during 2017. The park district was formed in 1984 under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1545, which calls for the sitting Geauga County Probate Court judge to appoint board members. Timothy Grendell currently holds that seat. Under Judge Grendell, there was a constant turnover of board members last year.
In one issue, an appraisal in preparation to sell 22 acres of land on Dines and County Line roads drew strong opposition from residents and township trustee. Later, the park district decided not to sell the land.
Last April, Judge Grendell appointed Georg Abakumov and Greg Studen to the park board. The positions were open after former commissioners Charlie Butters and David Genske stepped down.
Then in November, Mr. Studen said he was asked by Judge Grendell to step down. The judge then appointed Scott Wayt and Dennis Suhay to fill two park board seats. A third seat will be up for a new appointment in 2018 to replace Mr. Abakumov, who resigned at the end of 2017.
Meanwhile, residents unhappy with the existing park district put an issue on the Nov. 7, 2017, ballot to form a new park district under ORC Chapter 511 that calls for township trustees to appoint board members. Residents said they wanted more local control and hope to combine the boards. But, the probate judge must sign off on this.
Residents’ concern began when the park board formed under ORC 1545 was questioning a proposal by former board members to purchase 50 acres of Modroo Farm property and turn it to parkland. The board ultimately went through with the purchase funded by levy money approved by voters in years past for acquiring and preserving open land.
Modroo Farm again was the center of discussions when park officials met with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy to discuss preserving the historic brick farmhouse, barn and farm market building adjacent to the 50 acres already purchased by the conservancy. A winery and bed and breakfast were two ideas for the farmhouse and barn.
The land conservancy did take ownership of the farmhouse and buildings, but later announced that the property is for sale.
In other happenings last year, Russell Township Trustees were presented with a plan for a park honoring veterans on property the township owns, adjacent to the Russell Police Department. Resident Robert Morgan designed the plan that would include walking paths on the two-acre site. Trustees are seeking grants to fund the project.
A plan for a cell tower on Dines road hit a jam when several residents who live near the site voiced concerns for a 190-foot tower. It was proposed in a residential area. Township trustees objected because it was not proposed for an area designated for such towers in the township. Tower owners must seek a change in zoning to move on with the project.
KENSTON LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Students in the Kenston Middle School this week are returning to the school building that was closed to classes after toxic fumes filled the school on Oct. 3. Officials determined the noxious odors came from adhesives being used to repair the roof. Sixteen students and staff members required medical treatment for dizziness and other symptoms. Residents packed a school board meeting after the incident demanding answers to why this happened.
Students were moved to other locations in the district for the rest of 2017 while the roofing project was completed. Parents were to tour the building this past Tuesday and students returned to the middle school on Wednesday.
Kenston Superintendent Nancy Santilli said the building was tested by the Geauga County Health Department, as well as other groups for fumes, airborne fungi and airborne fibers, among other things.
On the academic side, the Kenston Local School District was in the top 15 percent on the Performance Index of the 2017 Ohio School Report Cards released last September by the Ohio Department of Education. Mrs. Santilli said the district has dedicated teachers providing quality education and Kenston has made improvements in several areas over the years.