NEWTON FALLS Council OKs start of project

Council did not set a date to fill the vacancy.
NEWTON FALLS -- City council voted 3-1 to set in motion the beginnings of a "streetscape" project, despite some opposition from a councilman.
The Broad Street redevelopment project has been in council negotiations and public hearings for three years. The project includes sidewalks, streetlighting, utility improvements, street resurfacing, trees, landscaping and crosswalks.
It's a project of about $2.5 million funded by state and local dollars, including property-owner assessments. There are 48 properties affected. The municipal building also is in the project area.
The only council member opposed to the emergency passage was Steve Stephens. He asked Joseph Mazzola, of E.G. & amp;G Inc. of Akron, project engineers, where he was getting facts as to how many jobs would be lost if the project doesn't go forward. Mazzola has previously said that private investment is attracted to perceived areas of opportunity -- and that perception is heavily influenced by real estate image.
"No one in the community is being told the truth" about the project, Stephens maintained. City residents, he maintained, "now have to suffer the 20-year consequences of higher bills to help pay for the project."
Council's lawyer Richard F. Schwartz presented a $47,000 bill to council for his services involving the project. Some council members said Mayor Patrick D. Layshock should foot the bill.
"That's practically my whole one-year salary, fellas." Layshock told council.
Schwartz stated he is "resenting being out in the middle" when council asks his opinion regarding legal issues with the redevelopment project.
"I am here to provide legal consultation for council, and though it is hard, I am not here to give my personal view on the matter." Schwartz said.
Council post
Earlier in the meeting, Councilman Tom McKees and Stephens had differences over the availability of council members to decide filling the seat left vacant from the resignation of Councilman Harry Benetis. No meeting date was set on Monday.
McKees argued with Stephens to cancel his plans to go out of town. Stephens told McKees he should cancel his plans in retrospect, but McKees said his plans were medical in nature and Stephens' were of a business nature.
"You have done a disservice to the community by not arranging schedules to meet with applicants to fill a vacancy on city council," resident Tom Banyas Jr. stated to council.
Schwartz was asked if there is a deadline for filling the post. Schwartz said that he would have to check.
In another matter, Stephens said bids should be in from numerous companies anxious to build the newly named Harry Richter skate park. Stephens and local skaters are now going to look into the pricing of different material and types of ramps.

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