The Berkshire Community Planning Association reviewed plans last week for bringing full-time fire departments to the community and how it will gauge the community on the future of Berkshire School District’s soon-to-be abandoned buildings.

The group, made up of citizens and local officials, seeks to promote the economic growth of the communities in the Berkshire School District, which includes Burton Village, and the townships of Burton, Troy, Montville, Thompson and Claridon.

Sean Thompson, association president, said it appears that plans to seek a request for proposal from various fire departments for their services is not possible at this time. He said no all political subdivisions are on board with the idea.

Burton Mayor Joseph Hernandez old the group that the idea of incorporating the Burton Fire Department into the village, making it similar to the arrangement with its police department, also appears to be a non-starter at this time.

He said Village Council has “no interest” in spending the money to study the issue. He said he will continue to search out funding from the federal, state and county governments, but conceded that the village may be too small to support a full-time fire department.

He said something needs to be done because the Burton Fire Department is now located in an outdated facility that may not even be large enough to house the next line of fire trucks.

Troy Township Trustee Kenneth Zwolinski said there does not appear to be much traction at this time for a county-wide EMT service, but he has not given up hope.

“I think it’s dead, but it’s not dead if you keep kicking it,” Mr. Zwolinski said.

He said the Troy Fire Department is considering expanding their fire station to add showers, which could allow for 24-hour coverage, seven days a week. He said he has asked fire officials to consider using existing sources of revenue to build the expansion, but fire officials are siding with a new levy to finance the project.

He said other departments have expressed interest in going to full time, such as Parkman.

While there is little interest now in the countywide EMT service, he said, continuing to educate the public and having it “planted in new ears” could convince people of the advantage of the county-wide EMT service. He said the stations for the service would have to be determined by the geographic populations, so each station would serve relatively the same population numbers.

Switching to a study on the best future uses for Berkshire’s two elementary school buildings, Jay Giles, BCPA vice president, said they are seeking a $25,000 grant through the Cleveland Foundation and another $2,500 from First Energy to finance a study.

He said plans call for a series of meetings with village and township officials, including zoning boards, to gauge their thoughts on the possible future uses of the buildings. He said those meetings will be followed by meetings with the community.

Mr. Giles suggested that two meetings be held with the community. The first meeting, he said, could be a “think about it” meeting where residents hear the various uses that are proposed by consultants. After considering the various uses, a second meeting would be held to whittle down the list to ones that the community will accept.

He said separate meetings would be conducted for Montville and Thompson townships, another for Burton and Troy and a third for Burton Village. He said the meetings would be 10 days to two weeks apart.

Berkshire Board of Education member John Manfredi said the school has yet to decide where it might situate its new athletic fields and field house. He said no decision has been made whether to use the 60-acre parcel, across for board of education offices, or seek different property. “We’re not there yet on the property’s future,” Mr. Manfredi said.

He said a decision may be made in the next two months. He said the decision will be based on infrastructure costs and what works best for the district.

Once future uses have been determined, Mr. Giles said, zoning boards would have to enact the zoning appropriate for the uses.

Mr. Giles said the process could take several months, possibly extending into next March.

Berkshire Superintendent John Stoddard said the district could promote the meetings using social media, its website and the monthly communications with parents. “They’re interested in what’s going into those buildings,” Mr. Stoddard said.

Mr. Stoddard said the district would only sell the buildings to a buyer if that buyer is in line with what the community wants. “The school is not interested in doing something the community is not in favor with,” he said. “Rest assured there will not be a trucking company on Burton Square.”

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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