The year 2020 started off on a positive note for Chester Township and for one of its residents, Elliott B. Weiss, who was a judge at the 144th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last February. Mr. Weiss moved to Chester about four years ago and was a judge for the 12th time in his career for the prestigious dog show.
The Chester Police Department was able to purchase two Ford Explorers from Lebanon Ford in May after approval by trustees who also OK’d an additional $14,199 to outfit the new squad cars with center consoles, light bars, cage and other law enforcement equipment.
Independence Day is normally celebrated in Chester Township with a parade, but last summer the event was canceled due to concerns in June over the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the township held a freedom walk for the Fourth of July. The event took place after Geauga Public Health Commissioner Tom Quade’s June 23 press release that discouraged large public gatherings and events. Township Trustee Walter “Skip” Claypool said it was ironic that veterans were being discouraged from holding a traditional parade on Independence Day.
Trustees approved a $6.8 million spending plan for 2021 with a focus on road repairs in July. Trustee Joseph C. Mazzurco summarized a five-year plan to repair three key roads set to begin in 2021. The plan consists of repairing Reserve Lane, Woodcrest Lane and Cedar Crest for a total of $882,000, with $135,000 allocated for three culverts and $50,000 for full-depth repairs.
This past summer, the fire department was able to purchase new handheld and mobile radios for the fire trucks through a pooled grant that township Fire Chief John Wargelin organized replacing radios that were purchased more than 10 years ago. The $890,774 grant was divided between the departments in Munson, Hambden, Kirtland, Willoughby Hills and Chester which received $194,716.
The township received $104,016 from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act for costs incurred as a result of COVID-19. Chester Fiscal Officer Patricia Jarrett said the funds were used to recoup both past and future expenditures related to the virus, but the money had to be spent by Oct. 15, 2020.
Chester Township Police Chief Mark Purchase promoted Sgt. Craig Young to the rank of captain and executive officer at an outdoor ceremony on Aug. 27 at Parkside Park. Captain Young has been a member of the police department since 1999 and was last promoted to sergeant in 2018.
Trustees hired a new road department superintendent, John Onyshko, who started on Aug. 29 with an annual salary of $80,000, replacing Joe Fornaro who stepped down in May. Mr. Onyshko has a bachelor’s degree in finance and advanced degrees in construction and project management.
The resignations of more fire department employees this past year had township trustees questioning how to retain firefighters. Fortunately, six full-time firefighters were hired by the township after a fire levy was passed in May of 2019 which allocated an additional 2.75 mills to the fire department for five years. The funding allowed for a total of six full-time hires with three positions still open.
Trustees approved $2,500 for five full-time fire department personnel to attend firefighter training and education classes at Cuyahoga Community College which taught officers about leadership, tactical skills and management of people.
Planning Committee member Anthony Natasi was instrumental in developing a community questionnaire, along with the Center for Community Planning and Development at Cleveland State University, which was sent out to Chester residents for the purpose of understanding residents’ perspectives on the township. Several messages came through clearly from the survey results including that respondents strongly prefer Chester Township’s small-town atmosphere and would like that rural feeling to remain and felt that the commercial district could use some attention. The planning committee continues to meet to prioritize and develop the future next steps necessary to tackle some of the issues brought forward by residents.