Russell voters could be deciding on two different levies for two different park boards in November.
Both the Russell Township Park Board established in 1984 through the Geauga probate court under Ohio Revised Code 1545 and the second Russell park board created by voters last year are each considering a 1-mill levy on the general election ballot.
Resident Shelley Chernin told Russell Trustees during a June 20 meeting that if two issues appear on the next ballot, voters likely won’t approve either.
As rivals it could mean big trouble, she said.
The board established under ORC 511, with members appointed by township trustees, was a reaction by residents unhappy with decision by the ORC 1545 park district, whose members are appointed by county Probate Judge Timothy Grendell.
Ms. Chernin said the park districts need funds to run operations and purchase land for more parks.
The older 1545 park district has money, including $130,000 in its general fund and $240,000 for land, she said, from past levies. That park board is also considering pursuing inside millage from the township.
After speaking with Scott Wayt, chairman of the 1545 park district, Ms. Chernin said they are focused on preserving green space and crafting a simple plan for the Modroo farm, land that was purchased last year.
Since the two park boards appear to have similar goals, Ms. Chernin said, it would make sense for them to work together.
“I would love to see them cooperating and preserving green space in Russell Township,” Ms. Chernin said. Maybe one park district could put on a levy, and they could meet and cooperate on the matter, she said.
Mr. Wayt, chairman of the 1545 board, said, “I am completely open to working out ways that we can work together.”
The 1545 park board has taken the first steps to place a levy on the November ballot. The park district had a 1-mill levy for decades, but it was not renewed by a previous board, he said.
Tax revenues are needed to maintain the 400 acres of existing parklands, purchase new land when it becomes available, work on the Modroo park and take care of the Russell Uplands, he said.
There has been talk of purchasing the Modroo farm house, but that is not going to happen, he noted. The board doesn’t want to see it developed with homes so if the Western Reserve Land Conservancy sells the house with three acres and the park board bought about 10 acres around it, a developer couldn’t come in and build, Mr. Wayt said.
Russell Trustee Justin Madden said, “I am extremely confident the 511, with Roy Podojil’s unrivaled experience in park matters and because the park board is locally governed it will have the overwhelming support of Russell residents this fall.”
Trustee Gary Gabram said the 511 park board is under the control of the township trustees.
It is important to understand the difference between the two, he said, “And residents will make the decision on where the money will go. It’s whether it is locally controlled or county controlled.
Mr. Podojil said the new 511 park needs the levy, and the two park districts have their own plans. The new park board is looking at some properties people want to sell to the district. The board is also working on the veterans’ memorial for which they have a $12,000 grant.
“We are putting a 1-mill levy on in November,” Mr. Podojil said. It would be used for land as well as a certain percentage for capital improvements and maintenance. They will need insurance and they hope to get a secretary for the board and they will have to pay that person. A 1-mill levy would raise about $250,000 per year.
Mr. Podojil said Western Reserve Land Conservancy representative Joe Leslie has indicated the conservancy will help with discerning the value of land being considered for purchase.
“They know the ecological value of a property,” he said. “They walk the property with us and see if we can get grants.”
Mr. Podojil said the 511 board under township trustees have no choice but to put a levy on the next ballot.
“If residents want us to survive, we have to have money to work with. They brought us into existence and they have to make a choice at the voting booth,” Mr. Podojil said.