Stow -- Mayor Sara Drew re-emphasized how collaboration, economic development and school safety top the city's priorities in the coming year during her 2013 State of the City address Jan. 10 in Council Chambers, which featured dozens of residents in attendance.

"One of the things I hope to do tonight," Drew said, "is clearly outline the vision of what ... with Council's support, we're looking to accomplish this year and in the coming years."

She said 2012 was a "certainly notable" year with several significant accomplishments.

Drew pointed out how the city's workforce has been cut 20 percent since 2008 through the Space Allocation Project and how the former parks and recreation building was divested -- creating a minimum savings of $50,000 -- and sold to EnviroScience Inc.

"We were able to not only keep one of our firms here in Stow ... we saved those jobs, saved that payroll, we turned that building into private use, which will generate approximately $40,000 a year in property taxes primarily benefitting the school system and repurposed a building that otherwise might have gone vacant," she said. "I think that was a very successful accomplishment."

Collaboration with other municipalities, an increase in building department duties realized without hiring additional staff, road program investments and improvements to recreational programming also topped the mayor's list of 2012 achievements.

In 2013, school safety and security throughout the city will be a top priority, Drew said.

"We realize some watershed events have happened ... it really has focused us on the fact that we need to be proactive and preventive so that we can address concerns and prevent things from happening," she said.

Drew emphasized security is a "local issue that requires a local solution," and noted that a task force, which will be headed by At-Large Councilman Brian D'Antonio, is being created to evaluate safety needs and solutions not just in the schools, but throughout Stow as a whole.

"This is not intended to be a long-term project," she said, emphasizing that it's her intent to have a "permanent" and "sustainable" solution in place by March 31 that will be presented to the public.

Besides safety, community and economic development remain the city's other top priority.

"If we do not have a stable and diverse tax base, we simply don't have the funding to provide city services," she said.

The most high-profile project, Drew said, is the redevelopment of the Stow-Kent Shopping Center. In an even larger picture, she added, it's the city's goal to work cooperatively with Kent to develop a "Route 59 corridor" between the cities that capitalizes on Kent's downtown redevelopment through public and private partnerships.

Drew noted how the city has improved commercial and industrial occupancies over time as well, and that the northwest quadrant of Stow has acres of "shovel-ready" land currently being eyed by developers that "we need to leverage to our benefit."

She also emphasized the bolstering of the local workforce in the Stow's diverse and "vibrant business community" is another top initiative, adding that Stow features an unemployment rate lower than the both the state and county averages.

"As the unemployment rate falls in Summit County, the unemployment rate in Stow continues to fall, but its always been lower and continues to stay lower, and that's a great asset to the city," she said.

"I think 2013 will really lay the framework for a lot of things that we'll continue to do throughout my administration," Drew concluded. "I'm very optimistic. I think that we have a lot of positive indicators, a lot of things in the city that point to a bright future. We really need to continue good public policy that enhances what we already have, and I think we're all dedicated to doing that."


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