As Geauga County moves into 2020, officials around the county are expressing their hopes for the coming year for their communities.

Geauga County Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri said the county should be in a great position in the new year.

The county is preparing for one of its biggest changes for residents as the county is now poised to possibly break ground this year for new offices on Merritt Road. Mr. Spidalieri said those new offices will include all the services now found at 470 Center St. (Route 44) in the city of Chardon.

Bolstering the county plans are sales of two county facilities, Mr. Spidalieri said. The Job and Family Services building is being sold to University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center, and the Department on Aging building is being sold to Ravenwood. The estimated $2.2 million from the sale of those properties will provide a boost to the plans for the new offices, he said.

He said the centralized location will provide easier access for all county residents to the offices they regularly use. He said one additional benefit will be for agencies such as department on aging, veteran services, health district and jobs and family services that will now be in close proximity to hospital services that are routinely used by residents receiving services from those agencies.

“It will make our ability to serve our residents more effective and efficiently and there is a good possibility we will break ground in 2020,” Mr. Spidalieri said.

Mr. Spidalieri added that the move will not include any offices on Chardon Square, including the historic courthouse and associated offices.

He also hoped for continued good relationships with township, village and city officials. “I hope to strengthen those relationships that much more,” Mr. Spidalieri said.

Maintaining those good relationships is also on the mind of Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand. “I want to continue to work with everybody in moving the county forward,” Sheriff Hildenbrand said.

For Chardon City Manager Randal Sharpe, there is only one thing on his mind this year. He wants to see the final leg of the Maple Highlands Trail built in 2020. The city was thwarted in its attempt to begin construction last year after there was a delay in getting ownership of a former rail line. The title to the property came after legislators intervened, but it was too late in the year to break ground.

Chardon Mayor Jeffrey Smock also had a simple wish for the city – to continue to be one of the most desirable communities in the area. “I would like to see the city of Chardon continue to thrive and do well,” he said.

Ruth Spanos, the new mayor of Burton Village, said officials need to look at the big picture when considering the future of the village. There must be a balance, she said, between growth and maintaining the village’s historic charm, maintaining its motto that Burton is “where history lives.”

“I want it to continue to be a great place to raise a family or set up a business,” she said.

Another wish for Mrs. Spanos is to continue the cooperation with surrounding communities so all may make decisions that benefit all.

In Chardon Township, the thoughts are to continue to serve residents at the same level of services that residents are accustomed to. Chardon Township Trustee Timothy McKenna knows that will be a challenge for trustees.

“The township hasn’t seen an increase in general fund monies for 15 years,” Mr. McKenna said. With the cost of everything rising, he said, trustees have their work cut out for them.

He said the state has placed many townships in a difficult position after eliminating local government funds and inheritance taxes, which many had come to rely on. He said that meant $160,000 less to work with.

“Something needs to be done to continue to meet our bills,” he said.

He said the township is looking at ways to reduce costs, such as reducing energy costs at the town hall when no one is there and using energy saving appliances.

But, he said, it may come down to asking voters to approve an operating levy to keep the township’s head above water. “I think it’s reasonable to ask residents to do that,” he said.

For Newbury Township, there is a call to end hostilities that have divided the community.

“I wish that we would all come together as one again,” Township Trustee Glen Quigley said. He hopes that the differences that divide the community can be put aside and residents can once again work together on goals they share.

One of the issues the community needs to come together on is the creation of a new recreation board to serve the community’s children. He said trustees are working toward that goal and hope community leaders will join them in bringing about a new program to serve the children and parents.

Looming large also, he said, is what will become the soon-to-be former Newbury school buildings. He said there is “tremendous opportunity” with the property that is centrally located in the township.

For those who have called Geauga County home for more years than most, Jessica Boalt, director for Geauga County’s Department on Aging, hopes to provide more options and programs for independent living, allowing them to age in place in the homes they have known for so long.

She said too often seniors are unaware of the programs that are already in place to help them and call only after they are in crisis. She said she hopes more seniors become aware of the services available before a crisis arises.

She also hopes for more convenient services, particularly for the county’s veterans, who often now have to travel to Painesville or downtown Cleveland for care.

A final wish, Mrs. Boalt said, is to educate seniors on technology and those who would use that technology to scam seniors. “I hope they will become educated and not become victims,” she said.

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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