The Russell Citizens Park District commissioners are looking to the future and possibly at accumulating a “small nest egg,” for land acquisition, board member Roy Podojil said. The board is reviewing some land possibilities in conjunction with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.
“The land conservancy came to us with the properties, and they look like decent properties,” Mr. Podojil said. First, however, the park district will need a levy.
The Russell Citizens Park District board members are Mr. Podojil, Perry Howland and Stephanie Snevel. Maria Livers serves as board secretary.
At the park board’s meeting on Aug. 21, members went into executive session to discuss the possibilities of purchase of properties.
Mr. Podojil said they will need a levy and they will have to justify that need the Geauga County Budget Commission through the Geauga County Auditor’s office.
The park commissioners are looking at two desirable properties in the township to preserve as parklands, Mr. Podojil said. The locations cannot be made public at this time, he said.
The next general election is in March for the primary, and the park district wants to be ready for placing a levy on that ballot, Mr. Podojil said. “We are looking at the millage,” he said. “It depends on the property we eventually settle on.”
A 1-mill levy would raise $1.2 million over five years, Mr. Podojil noted. “It would help us considerably.”
He said it is important to preserve land in the township. “The general purpose of the 511 park board is to save green space,” he explained. The Russell Citizens Park District was established by a vote of Russell residents under Ohio Revised Code Section 511. Park commissioners are appointed by Russell Township Trustees.
If land is not preserved in the township, it will be bought up for development and the township is going to become another suburb lacking the green space, Mr. Podojil said. If open land disappears through development it won’t be available as green space.
“I don’t think people want to see land totally developed,” Mr. Podojil said. “People moved out here for the open space we have. We would like to keep it that way and to ensure we have it for the future.
“Land should be put aside for people to enjoy nature. My desire is to leave a legacy of open space,” he said.
The park district would be more focused on buying larger pieces of property rather than small 5-acre plots, he said.
“We have to look down the road in 10 years,” Mr. Podojil said. “There is going to be less and less land to purchase, so now is the time for us to strike and buy it.”
The Russell Citizens Park District had planned on a levy earlier this year, he said, “but we weren’t in compliance with our budget with the auditor, so we decided to wait.
“We are at the point of making headway, now. The budget commission approved the district’s budget for 2019 and they approved the library funding for us. Now we have to come up with a budget for 2020. The election is in March, so we have to have the budget approved and in to the (Geauga County) Board of Elections by this November,” Mr. Podojil said.
He noted the park district is in good shape as far as garnering funds that are not part of the levy. “We’re still collecting the funding, primarily to pay for administrative costs, including paying the secretary and for bonding. We’ll need insurance money for the properties we do buy.”
Mr. Howland said it is estimated the park district will be receiving a little less than $2,500 a year starting in 2020 from the local government fund that comes from the state. The Geauga County Auditor’s Office has approved $3,804 from the library fund for the park district starting next year, he added. “We will get about $6,304 yearly for our budget.”
The library fund is appropriated through the state. It goes to the libraries and a certain percentage can be passed on to other entities such as the park district.
Mr. Howland noted the Russell Citizen’s Park District’s 2019 beginning balance was approved earlier this month by the budget commission.
Mr. Howland added that the deadline for placing a levy on the ballot is Dec. 18, 2019 for March of 2020. “We will have to decide,” Mr. Howland said. The next meeting of the park district is Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Geauga West Library. The board plans to review a resolution of need for the auditor’s office to review at that meeting.