Russell Citizens Park District commissioners met Jan. 16 at the Geauga West Library to discuss a mailing to residents about a proposed levy on the November ballot. The district, created by a vote of the people in 2017, has no funding.

One of the goals is to use levy funds to buy a piece of property that park commissioners believe is important for residents. Commissioners appointed by Russell Township Trustees include Roy Podojil, Perry Holland and Ron Skrbin.

Mr. Podojil said the failure of the 0.25- mill levy in November of 2018 was a disappointment.

The Russell Township Park District, established 30 years ago under ORC 1545, placed a 0.5-mill levy on the ballot as well, which also failed.

“We have changed our ideas and plan to run in November and not in May,” Mr. Podojil said, noting the district would pay too much to get on the spring primary ballot. There will be more issues on the November ballot and the cost will be less, he said, with others sharing the expense.

Mr. Podojil said the issue will be between 0.75 mills and 1 mill.

“We want to educate people about the Russell Citizens Park District. And we have so much to get done,” he said. There is property available that the park district would like to purchase if the levy passes.

Park commissioners want residents to know upfront that the proposed general levy proceeds would be used to hire a secretary, set up a website and cover general maintenance and to purchase property for parks, Mr. Podojil said.

“Some property is available,” Mr. Podojil said, adding that it is valuable and it would open the Upper Chagrin Preserve area to the public. Specifically, he explained, this land would enable the park district to provide access to about 150 acres of existing parkland owned by the township that is landlocked now.

“It is not only green space but it can be opened for hiking, jogging and nature observation,” he said. “And we can’t do it if our hands are tied by not getting the levy passed.”

Park district commissioners plan to have a proposed budget ready and mailed to residents prior to November so they know how the money is going to be spent, Mr. Podojil said.

During the last election, there was false information that went out that was not from the Russell Citizens Park District commissioners, he said. “It was not truthful, and we want to get out the correct information now. “

Tax proceeds from a general levy can be used “anyway we want,” he said. It will not be put on the ballot as a land acquisition levy. It will be under a general levy.

Park commissioners are starting the planning now so they have enough lead time to explain to residents why they should vote for the levy, Mr. Podojil said. “We think we have enough time and we want to make it as clear as possible.” The park district commissioners will be meeting with the levy committee, which is being formed by about seven people.

The district wants residents to know the difference between the newer citizens park district known as ORC 511 and the older Russell Township Park District established under ORC 1545. The older ORC 1545 district in Russell recently leased most of its land to the Geauga Park District to manage for 15 years.

Mr. Podojil noted that when the two park districts placed levies on the ballot in November of 2018, residents apparently were confused by two levies from two different districts. “We anticipate the (ORC 511) number won’t appear in November as well. Hopefully, we can straighten it out with the time we have,” he said of educating voters.

They are also preparing signs to be placed around the township and they will use similar wording on the signs that were used in the last election. “We want to keep the signs simple so people can read them, and in the same colors of red and white,” he said.

He noted that a resident has already expressed interest in serving as secretary for the park district commissioners.

Mailing information to each household probably would be more effective before the general election this year instead of putting fliers in mailboxes, which was done for the 2018 ballot, he said.

The Russell Citizens Park District will meet again at 2 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Geauga West Library.

“All are welcome,” Mr. Podojil said. “And we do take comments,” he said of input from those attending the meeting. “We are counting on this levy passing and anyone with questions is invited to attend the meetings,” he said.

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