Portage mulls buying
new voting machines
Like other counties across Ohio, Portage is looking to replacing its touch screen voting machines in the not too distant future. And the potential cost is frightening.
While elections officials haven’t estimated the cost of replacement, Bradley Cromes, deputy director of the Portage County Board of Elections, said the cost will be “in the millions, probably less than $10 million.”
Faith Lyon, director of the board of elections, said the county’s 771 touch screen machines were acquired in 2005. “We are experiencing more repairs,” she said, leading the board to plan for replacement in the next three to five years.
But it probably won’t be another touch screen system, Lyon said. No new touch screen systems have been certified by federal elections officials, so the county board is looking at systems that use paper ballots read by an optical character reader, or scanner.
Voters would cast their vote by coloring in a “bubble” next to a candidate or issue on the ballot and feeding the ballot into the scanner.
— Mike Sever, Record-Courier

Public works funding
headed to Ohio ballot
A state panel has OK’d ballot language for a $1.9 billion plan to pay for road, bridge and other public works projects.
The approval by the Ohio Ballot Board headed by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted solidifies Issue 1 on the May 6 primary ballot. The proposed constitutional amendment seeks “to fund public infrastructure capital improvements by permitting the issuance of general obligation bonds.”
Lawmakers gave their OK last month to seek a renewal of Ohio’s State Capital Improvement Program for another decade. The issue was originally OK’d in 1987 and renewed in 1995 and 2005.
The amendment seeks up to $175 million in state borrowing annually for five years — up from $150 million currently — followed by up to $200 million annually for the remaining five years.
The proceeds would be used for grants for local roads, bridges, water supply, wastewater treatment, storm water collection and solid waste disposal.
— Marc Kovac, RPC state bureau

Mantua man indicted
for alleged molesting
A Mantua man accused of molesting a 12-year-old girl is free on bond after being arrested by Hiram police and indicted by a Portage County grand jury on two felony charges.
Jeffrey A. Blunk, 57, was indicted by a Portage County grand jury on two counts of gross sexual imposition, both third-degree felonies, on Feb. 13. The indictment alleges that in Hiram between Dec. 1, 2013, and Feb. 4 of this year, Blunk illegally had sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl at least twice.
Blunk pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment in Portage County Common Pleas Judge Laurie Pittman’s courtroom on Feb. 18, and posted $3,000 bond, according to court records.
A Hiram Police Department investigation revealed that Blunk allegedly touched the juvenile victim’s breasts “on numerous occasions” over the span of a month, according to a criminal complaint filed in Portage County Municipal Court.
A trial is set April 22.
— Dave O’Brien, Record-Courier

Coleman plans facility
catering to youngsters
Coleman Professional Services has plans to build a $1.7 million facility in Kent this year designed specifically with its child services in mind.
Coleman will break ground on the two-story, 10,000-square-foot Center of Excellence for Children neighboring its 5982 Rhodes Road building this spring. It hopes to have the facility up and running by the end of the year, said Kathy Myers, director of public relations and marketing at Coleman.
Coleman currently treats about 1,200 children with mental health needs in three different buildings in Portage County, the majority of which are in Ravenna.
Nelson Burns, chief executive officer of Coleman, said the Center of Excellence for Children will be a creative environment to stimulate the children it serves.
The facility will also give Coleman the ability to aid kids’ overall health in combination with mental health.
— Kyle McDonald, Record-Courier

Robbery in Brimfield
nets 3 years in prison
A Streetsboro man who held up a Brimfield convenience store at knifepoint in November 2013 has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to a felony robbery charge. The incident netted him $100 in cash and two cartons of cigarettes.
Kevin M. Kowalski, 22, of Evergreen Drive, was sentenced recently by Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow. He pleaded guilty to robbery, a second-degree felony, in January and faced up to eight years behind bars.
Enlow gave Kowalski credit for 103 days already served in the Portage County Jail awaiting trial, and ordered him to pay $214 in court costs, according to his sentencing order.
Brimfield police arrested Kowalski five minutes after the Nov. 7, 2013, robbery at the Circle K convenience store on Tallmadge Road.
— Dave O’Brien, Record-Courier
Driver given 3 years
for sixth OVI offense
A Charlestown Township man has been sentenced to serve the maximum prison sentence available for his crime and lose his driver’s license for 10 years after being convicted of driving drunk for a sixth time.
Jessie R. Hayes, 60, pleaded guilty to his sixth offense of operating a vehicle under the influence, a third-degree felony, in Portage County Common Pleas Court in December 2013.
Judge Laurie Pittman recently sentenced him to three years in prison, suspended his driver’s license for 10 years and fined him more than $1,500, according to her sentencing order. He received credit for five days served in jail awaiting trial.
Hayes was arrested June 2, 2013, after a Portage County sheriff’s deputy stopped his vehicle on Route 44 in Randolph township. He was found to be intoxicated and driving on a suspended license, according to the Portage County Sheriff’s Department.
Hayes had four prior arrests for drunken driving in Portage County since 1999.
— Dave O’Brien, Record-Courier