Russell Township Park District Board Chairman Dennis Suhay said that the Geauga County Budget Commission’s decision to not approve the district’s budget on Aug. 31 was based on a frivolous reason to not give them money to spend in 2021.

This came after commission member and Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz told the board that the district provides no service to the residents of Russell Township.

“We hold the titles to all the park properties in Russell Township and have leased properties to the Geauga Park District and we’re worthy stewards of the land,” Mr. Suhay said. “Ninety percent of our 400-plus acres is under conservation easement with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. They do a walkthrough every year, but [without us] I’m not really sure who would be keeping an eye on anything.”

He also said the commission turned its first budget down due to an error in the 2018-19 carryovers that the accountant quickly corrected and resubmitted, only for them to deny it again.

“We waste money on legal fees every year, dealing with nonsense from people that just want to cause problems, and there’s no other way to put it,” Mr. Suhay said after Monday night’s meeting, where they discussed the commission’s decision.

“Having two park boards in Russell has become more of a political football for people than actually caring about the parks. It’s land that’s under conservation easement and they’re trying to make it a big political issue because certain people don’t like [Geauga Probate]Judge [Timothy] Grendell.” The judge appoints park district board members.

The second district is the Russell Township Citizens’ Park District formed in 2017 after receiving approval by township voters.

At the top of the meeting, Mr. Suhay told board members that a new parking lot has been installed at the former site of the Modroo Farm and that work was supposed to begin on Monday to build a wooden archway and benches near the trailhead at Modroo.

“It was a $50,000 donation from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and they are handling all the construction,” he explained. “They’re footing the bill for the whole project. And that was part of the arrangement from years ago, they had this $50,000 set aside” for Modroo.

Towards the end of the short meeting, Mr. Suhay and the others approved four check signatures, one for a $900 payment to the Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan law firm in Cleveland to account for legal fees. The board also agreed to pay $1,085 to the state auditors, $567 for the Geauga County auditors to cover an election fee from a few years ago and $920 to Karen Alger, their accountant.

The next Russell Township Park District meeting is on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the West Woods Nature Center.

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