Russell Citizens Park District is planning to place a 1-mill levy on the March 2020 ballot.

The paperwork has to be presented to the Geauga County Board of Elections by Dec. 18, park board member Perry Howland said.

The Russell Citizens Park District had planned to place a 1-mill levy on the ballot Nov. 5 but backed away.

During that time, Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder expressed concerns about the district’s budget, Mr. Howland said.

The Russell Citizens Park Board includes Mr. Howland, Roy Podojil and Stephanie Snevel, all appointed by the Russell Township Trustees.

The proposed 1-mill levy would generate $250,000 annually and $1.25 million over the five years of the levy.

The goal, if successful, is to purchase three properties in the township. The park board members will be discussing the possibility of obtaining grants with Joe Leslie of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

The three properties the park district is looking at would cost about $1.25 million, Mr. Podojil said. The board agreed on pursuing the properties and it would be good for the township, he said, adding their locations could did not be revealed at this time.

“We are looking at green space,” Mr. Podojil said. “It’s our goal, and we would open one property immediately to the public when it is transferred to our name,” he said. “The other two would take some time.”

The desired land acquisitions are all about providing open space and land that people can enjoy, he said.

One parcel would open access to 150 acres that Russell Township now holds. There are wetlands and flowers and it is magnificent, Mr. Podojil said. “People would really enjoy it.”

One property has two houses on it that would be razed. It involves 17 acres adjacent to wetlands the township owns. The third parcel is adjacent to Geauga Park District’s West Woods and encompasses 62 acres.

Property prices for the three parcels are estimated at $800,000, $250,000 and $750,000, park officials said. These would be the first purchases for the Russell Citizens Park District, created by a vote of the people in 2016.

One of the properties could be immediately walked on while the other two would take some time to prepare and trail them, he said.

“We’re working slowly,” Mr. Podojil said. “We have to get paperwork done first and go to the Geauga County Auditor’s office. They will be obtaining information on how much revenue will be generated from a 1-mill levy.

The park board members are expected to meet at 11 a.m. Friday (Nov. 22) at the Geauga West Branch of the Geauga County Public Library. That is when they will do the paperwork for the levy, he said, followed by contact with the auditor’s office, the Russell Trustees and the Geauga County Board of Elections.

He said last year when they were considering a levy, they found out they had to clear some matters up in the budget. “We had to be in compliance with the auditor and we are now. We are trying to be as transparent as possible.”

As to the properties, he said, the park board members talked to the land conservancy about what properties are available. “We would like to acquire all three properties which total 83 acres,” he said, noting if purchased, they would belong to the park district.

In other matters, Mr. Podojil said they are working on their UAN accounting program. “We are charged an operating fee based on the revenue we have,” he said.

They have cleared up all issues brought up by Mr. Walder who has given the board the green light to write checks and request a levy, he said.

Maria Livers serves as secretary for the park district board.

For operating expenses, Russell Trustees have given the park district $3,000 for start-up costs. The park board also will be collecting library funds. Mr. Podojil explained that a certain percentage of dollars allocated to the Geauga County Public Library System go to other public bodies including park districts. “We are entitled to some of that funding and we have applied for it,” he said.

The goal is to pay for the secretary’s salary, the park district website, bonds for the park board members and the insurance for the software and hardware. They will also need liability insurance when the property is purchased.

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