CUYAHOGA FALLS — The Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board will, during the next 18 to 20 months, relocate about 200 of its employees from Tallmadge to Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton.

Summit DD currently has six buildings: three on Howe Road in Tallmadge, a 15,800-square-foot building at 2355 Second St. in Cuyahoga Falls, a 15,200-square-foot building in Barberton and a 28,600-square-foot structure in Bath that was closed in 2010-11. The employees who had worked in Bath were moved to the Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton buildings.

From the early 1970s until the end of last year, Summit DD used three county-owned buildings in Tallmadge at Howe Road near state Route 91. Today, according to Summit DD Superintendent John Trunk, the organization only uses one structure at the site — a 129,300-square-foot building that houses about 260 Summit DD employees. This building was once a school, but was transitioned into an office space.

Of these 260 employees, about 100 will relocate to Cuyahoga Falls, another 100 or so will move to Barberton and the remaining workers are mobile and will be able to perform office work in either Cuyahoga Falls or Barberton, according to Trunk. He said the goal is for the employees to be moved into the Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton buildings by mid-2021. With this change, Summit DD will completely vacate the building in Tallmadge, according to Trunk.

“We’re excited about being, and potentially playing, a greater part of this vibrant community,” said Trunk.

Through the relocation, Trunk said he believes his organization will get to enhance “an already strong partnership” that Summit DD has with the city.

Summit DD’s plan to bring 100 jobs and an estimated $6.35 million in new payroll money to Cuyahoga Falls was announced during City Council’s Finance Committee meeting Monday night. With a 2 percent income tax rate in Cuyahoga Falls, the $6.35 million in annual payroll is expected to generate $127,032 in income tax money in the first year that the jobs move to Cuyahoga Falls. 

Cuyahoga Falls will have a five-year income tax revenue sharing agreement with the city of Tallmadge. In the first year the jobs move to Cuyahoga Falls, Cuyahoga Falls and Tallmadge will split the income tax money 50-50. The percentage received by Tallmadge will then decline by 10 percent each year after that.

“We’re very excited about it,” said Diana Colavecchio, community development director for the city of Cuyahoga Falls. She added that the annual economic impact of bringing in Summit DD’s 100 jobs is estimated at $15 million.

Rita Weinberg, planning director/economic developer for the city of Tallmadge, said the county has the second highest level of annual payroll dollars of any employer in Tallmadge. She emphasized this would include both the Summit DD site and other county offices in Tallmadge.

“[This relocation] is going to be a significant hit to us, just in the payroll loss,” said Weinberg.

In connection with this plan, Cuyahoga Falls’ Finance Committee reviewed a plan for the city to spend $1.675 million to purchase 11 parcels containing six structures that are next to the Summit DD site in Cuyahoga Falls to provide more parking spaces for the 100 employees. The city would spend about $800,000 to demolish the buildings and construct a parking lot with about 150 spaces.

During the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Summit DD employees will have “exclusive use” of the parking lot, according to a proposed agreement between the city of Cuyahoga Falls and Summit DD. Outside of that time frame, parking would be available for public use, the agreement said.

Council is scheduled to vote on the land purchase and an economic development and lease agreement with Summit DD on Sept. 23. The city would lease the parcels to Summit DD, but would not charge rent.

Trunk said his organization will renovate the Cuyahoga Falls building to accommodate the 100 administrative, professional, skilled and support staff workers that would move in sometime in the middle of 2021. Though there are no immediate plans, Trunk said it is possible that Summit DD may expand the Cuyahoga Falls site by 5,000 to 7,000 square feet in the future.

Currently there are about 10 early intervention and case management employees and 26 parking spaces at the Second Street site in Cuyahoga Falls, which first opened in 2010.

A look at the Tallmadge site

While noting Tallmadge has been a “great partner,” Trunk said the building on Howe Road in Tallmadge — built in the early 1970s — is “rapidly aging,” and has roof, HVAC and other infrastructure issues that are “becoming cost prohibitive.”

Weinberg noted that since the building is “antiquated,” it makes sense for Summit DD to relocate its operations.

At the moment, Weinberg said, “it’s only speculation” on what will be put in at the site.

“It would be a marketable site if we had access to all that land and it was an empty parcel,” said Weinberg. “That’s the best way to create some kind of new development. If you’re working around other buildings that they wish to maintain, and only sell that one in the middle of all that, I have no idea. We don’t where we’re going with all that yet.”

Summit DD once had a 36,500-square-foot adult day center at the corner of Howe Road and Route 91 in Tallmadge, but the site has been vacant since the start of the year, according to Trunk. The third building was an 11,600-square-foot transportation center that was once used by Summit DD and is now being used by the county’s Department of Environmental Services.

Discussions about the future use of the Tallmadge site have been in general in nature so far, said Trunk. Ideas such as using the site for a housing or retail development or green space have been discussed, but no formal proposals have been offered, according to Trunk.

Trunk said the county will facilitate conversations between Summit DD and Tallmadge to determine if the entities could work toward a “two-way win.”

Change in federal law led to facility evaluation

A change in federal law led to Summit DD re-evaluating the use of its facilities.

Trunk said DD boards used to accept Medicaid funds to reimburse them for some of the adult services they provided.

“In 2014, the federal government ... determined that it was a conflict of interest for county boards ... to authorize all these Medicaid services and then also be a provider of [adult] services,” said Trunk. “... They mandated that counties establish a plan for [phasing] out of that direct service role and instead building up the network of providers.”

He noted agencies such as Hattie Larlham and United Disability Services now provide day programming, employment and transportation services. Summit DD phased out its adult services over the last few years and were completely phased out by the end of last year, said Trunk.

The Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton buildings were set up to have about 50-60 people enter the site to receive services. Today, each building has about 10 early intervention and case management employees.

As a result, he said officials discussed how they could “best use” the Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton buildings.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.