Portage looks at levy

to expand county jail

Portage County commissioners are to decide this week if they will put a levy on the November ballot to expand the jail to accommodate more female inmates.

Sheriff David Doak has proposed an expansion to house the growing number of women sentenced to serve time there. An expansion would add 32 beds and is estimated to cost about $1 million.

At a discussion last week, Doak said the jail currently has beds for 34 women inmates. "We have had as many as 60 a day," he said, adding the overflow sleep on the floor in plastic beds.

Last week, Doak met with Garry McAnally of Wachtel & McAnally Architects of Newark. The firm is lookiing into increasing the jail capacity.

The favored option would eliminate four single cells, and enclose an open space between two sections of the jail to create space for the additional 32 new beds in a dorm setting. The cost is estimated at $1,158,395.

The county could go for a quarter-percent sales tax still available, or seek approval of a levy. All three commissioners -- Sabrina Christian-Bennett, Kathleen Chandler and Maureen Frederick -- were leaning toward a levy last week.

-- Mike Sever, Record-Courier

Jobless rate is below

5% in Portage County

Portage County's jobless rate has dropped below 5 percent, the first time since November 2007, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Statistics for May released June 24 by ODJFS showed the county jobless rate at 4.8 percent, down two-tenths of a percent from the April rate. It was the fourth straight month of decline since January, when the rate was 7.5 percent. Portage's rate a year ago was 6.9 percent.

In May, Portage's labor force of 90,100 had 4,300 people looking for work, according to ODJFS.

Statewide, rates fell in 55 counties, increased in 13 and were unchanged in 20, ODJFS said. Rates ranged from a low of 3.0 percent in Mercer County to a high of 10.8 percent in Monroe County.

May rates for counties abutting Portage (with their April rates) are: Cuyahoga 7.1 (6.7); Geauga 5.3 (5.5); Mahoning 5.8 (6.0); Stark 5.2 (5.3); Summit 5.0 (5.1) and Trumbull 5.9 (6.0).

-- Mike Sever, Record-Courier

Graffiti vandals target

homes in Streetsboro

Racist symbols and other messages were spray-painted on several residential properties June 21, according to the Streetsboro Police Department.

A swastika, references to the Ku Klux Klan and other messages, including one on a recreational vehicle reading "Cook meth much?" were among 25 incidents of spray-painted graffiti reported. Cars, fences, homes, sidewalks and streets were painted between the hours of 3 and 6 a.m., according to Police Lt. Darin Powers.

All the incidents took place in the neighborhoods south of City Park between Route and Diagonal Road, said Powers.

He said the crime doesn't appear to be a hate crime because there was no discernible rationale connecting the messages and the victims.

Although no total estimate of damage was available, Powers said it will clearly exceed the $1,000 threshold which would make it a felony charge rather than a misdemeanor.

-- Bob Gaetjens, Gateway News

Federal, state money

aid Mantua recovery

A storm in July 2013 flooded much of Mantua, left roads washed out and damaged culverts and catch basins. But with help from federal dollars and state agencies, officials say the village is almost as good as new.

"We probably only have several full days work left," said Mantua Administrative Services Officer Kate Rogers. "I'd say out of 29 projects, we have maybe six left."

Rogers said the six projects include four catch basin repairs and finishing touches on two other projects. She added Mantua Mayor Linda Clark put together a list of 29 projects in the aftermath of the storm, all of which were approved by the state.

Federal Emergency Management Agency funds were distributed to the Ohio Department of Public Safety and dispersed to counties in need.

Rogers said the total damage estimate for village projects was $82,870 and Mantua received 75 percent of that from FEMA and ODPS through Portage County EMA. Mantua paid for the remaining 25 percent.

-- Dan Pompili, Record-Courier

Portage officials see

tight budget in 2015

Portage County has posted the draft version of its annual tax budget for public view. The 2015 budget shows county revenues and spending will be tighter than this year.

Todd Bragg, head of the commissioners' department of budget and fiscal management, said officeholders and department heads toned down the "wish list" aspects of the tax budget.

Estimated revenues and unreserved balance for the general fund budget total $40.54 million, down from $42 million this year. The tax budget shows the general fund starting next year with a cash balance of $4.2 million and a stabilization reserve fund of $750,000.

For comparison, the draft budget lists actual receipts and expenses for county operations for 2012 and 2013 along with actual and estimated receipts and expenses for this year.

General fund spending is estimated to be $41.9 million for an estimated shortfall of $641,479.

-- Mike Sever, Record-Courier

Summer utilities help

available from agency

The Community Action Council of Portage County is sponsoring the HEAP summer crisis program for Portage County families through Aug. 29.

Under this program, CAC may be able to provide limited electric bill assistance, air conditioners, and possibly fans for individuals and families who meet federal eligibility requirements. CAC's total allocation for this summer is $200,000.

Benefits are limited to current electric bill and/or an energy star air conditioner and/or a fan. Total assistance -- including bill assistance, A/Cs and fans -- cannot exceed $3,500.

Residents who are participants in the PIPP Plus program are not eligible for electric bill assistance but may be eligible for an air conditioner and/or box fans, unless they are in default under PIPP Plus.

To be eligible for assistance, families must be below 175 percent of poverty -- about $41,737 per year for a family of four, be over age 60, and/or be able to provide documentation from a physician that electric service is essential for the health of a household member.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 330-297-1456. CAC is at 1036 W. Main St. in Ravenna. Assistance is available 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

Gravestone damaged;

sheriff office eyes info

A cash reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for apparently crashing a vehicle into a carved stone monument in West Lawn Cemetery on Route 82 in Mantua Township.

The monument was carved by Ron Fedor, who owns his own masonry company, to honor his parents, Richard and Roberta Fedor. Sometime late June 21 or early June 22, a dark green truck or jeep with a painted-over chrome bumper apparently rammed into the monument, doing approximately $15,000 worth of damage, the Fedor family said.

The left side of the monument, which honors Richard Fedor, was heavily damaged and the base and pillar will have to be re-carved. The award-winning monument took Ron Fedor seven months to carve and cost $40,000.

The Portage County Sheriff's Office is investigating. Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's office at 330-296-5100 or Ron Fedor at 330-714-8357.

-- Dave O'Brien, Record-Courier