The Russell Citizen Park District board is moving ahead with plans to place a levy on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.
Township trustees on July 3 approved a request from park board member Roy Podojil to place a 1-mill levy to support the park district on the fall ballot.
“It’s my hope our residents will continue to support the growth of the 511 park board,” township Trustee Justin Madden said of the district created under Ohio Revised Code section 511. Township trustees appoint the three members of the park district board.
Members of the park district are Mr. Podojil, Perry Howland and Stephanie Snevel. Maria Livers serves as secretary. Residents Betsy Rader and Shelley Chernin will head the levy committee, Mr. Podojil said.
“We couldn’t have better support than from Shelley and Betsy,” he said. “They are very understanding of what has to be done.”
The levy if approved would generate about $267,000 annually for the park district. It would cost about $30 annually for a house valued at $200,000, Mr. Podojil noted.
The majority of the money would go for land acquisition and there are parcels of interest now, he said. The district does not maintain any property at this time, Mr. Podojil said, adding that the goal of the park board is to preserve green space in the township.
A smaller amount of the levy revenue would go toward maintenance and eventually toward trail improvements. “The second-most important goal would be improvements and opening existing trails to the public,” Mr. Podojil said.
Levy money would also be used to maintain the park district’s website, pay a secretary and cover insurance, he said. The district now is using start-up money from the township to support these basic needs.
At the July 3 meeting, Mr. Podojil said the park district will be investing in a tree at the planned veterans’ memorial in the north section of the Briar Hill Cemetery. The park district also plans to pay for a plaque at the tree. Township trustees said they would share that cost.
In the township, there is also the Russell Park District, established in 1984 under ORC 1545 with board members appointed by the Geauga County Probate Court Judge. The 1545 park district owns 400 acres of parkland in the township and Russell Township owns just over 200 acres of parkland.
“The land we will buy will belong to the 511 park district,” Mr. Podojil said.
Russell Trustee Jim Mueller said in looking back, the township had a park levy for about 25 years for land acquisition and it was renewed several times by voters. One of the properties bought with those funds was the Russell Uplands Preserve off Russell Road.
“People in Russell have supported acquisition of open space,” Mr. Mueller said. “In five or six years, it would be nice to acquire land,” he said of the use of the proposed 1.0 mill levy.
“We have a new board that is responsive and will do good work in acquiring more open space,” Mr. Mueller said of the Russell Citizens Park District created in 2017.
In 2018, the Russell Citizens Park District had placed a 0.25 mill levy on the November ballot. In addition, the Russell Township Park District placed a 0.5-mill levy on the ballot as well. The two levies were voted down by residents and the defeat was attributed to confusion over the two different park levies. Many called for more education of residents on the two park boards.
In the meantime, the ORC 1545 park board leased its parklands to the Geauga Park District for overall management which drew much opposition by some residents.