STOW – Voters will have three charter amendments on the ballot Nov. 5 that will affect term limits, decisions of control and pay raises for elected officials.
All of these proposals, Issue 40, Issue 41 and Issue 42, were put on the ballot by city council.
Issue 40, if passed, would impose term limits on planning commission members. If this amendment is passed by voters, a member would not be allowed to serve more than two consecutive four-year terms on the commission.
City council July 25 voted 6 to 1 for the proposal to be placed on the ballot.
Council member Mike Rasor (At-Large) said Stow has term limits on every policy-making position, and planning commission sets policy.
"It makes sense to have fresh faces and fresh perspectives every eight years," Rasor said. "The other commissions don't have the authority planning [commission] does. Any proposal we make must go through planning commission first. The other commissions are mostly advisory."
Council member Jim Costello (At-Large) was the one member who voted against putting this amendment on the ballot.
"Planning commission is a volunteer position, and it's very difficult to get volunteers," Costello said.
A person on planning commission must have knowledge in the area, such as understanding building codes, being able to read and understand the different plans and whether they conform to what the city allows, he said.
"Once you get someone doing the job and understanding what needs to be done, they gain experience," Costello said. "And to say [after eight years] you've gained all this experience, thank you, but we don't want you to serve anymore."
Issue 41, if passed, would amend the charter to state that municipal leaders must obtain voters’ approval before the city enters an agreement to "transfer control" of its dispatch center from the city to "a regional or multi-agency control."
Council members July 11 voted 5 to 2 for the proposal to be placed on the ballot.
Council member Brian Lowdermilk (Ward 3) said he supported Issue 41 because if the administration would ever move the city's dispatch center, the people of Stow would be made aware of it and have an opportunity to vote on it.
"Transfer control is about creating a Council of Governments (COG) where we would no longer have sole control of safety forces and become one vote among five or more," said Lowdermilk, who also noted dispatch is one of the few services in the city that makes life and death decisions.
He added that no regional dispatch plans up to now have shown any benefit for the city of Stow and no cost savings.
"The city of Stow has upgraded our equipment," Lowdermilk said. "We've spent the money that other communities haven't."
Costello is against Issue 41 because the voters elect their representatives to make those type of decisions.
"The regional dispatch center is a massive project and the average citizen would not be exposed to all the information," Costello said. "In addition, we currently dispatch for other municipalities who would also go with the regional dispatch center."
Stow also dispatches for Tallmadge, Mogadore and Randolph Township.
Last year, Stow joined with the county and Akron, Fairlawn, Green and Cuyahoga Falls in spending $3.95 million on a computer system that will be used in their separate dispatch operations for the next 10 years. Summit County, Akron, Green and the University of Akron Police Department officially launched the new computer-aided dispatch system Oct. 8. The dispatch operations of Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn and Stow are expected to go live on the consolidated system in 2020.
Leaders of these municipalities — excluding Akron — are discussing possibly setting up a COG in conjunction with having a consolidated dispatch operation. Those discussions are ongoing, according to Brian Nelsen, chief of staff for Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro.
Issue 42, if passed, would require voters to approve all pay raises for elected officials. It would also include a provision preventing council from passing a pay cut for elected officials in the 75-day period following each municipal election in November.
Elected officials in the city are mayor, finance director, law director and council members.
Council members Aug. 8 voted 5 to 1 for the proposal to be placed on the ballot.
Rasor, who supports the issue, said the purpose of the proposal is to avoid conflicts of interest and take politics out of pay raises or decreases.
"Take those politics out of it and give it to the voters," Rasor said. "Do a study and then ask voters to decide if a pay raise is appropriate."
He said Council members are paid $16,600 per year.
"There hasn't been a pay raise in the last 10 or 12 years," Rasor said. "There hasn't been a discussion for pay increases in quite some time."
Council member Brian D'Antonio (At-Large) said in August he opposed Issue 42 because a charter review commission will convene in 2020 to review potential ways to change the charter.
"I think that the current charter is correct in the way it dictates that Council would have to approve salaries," D’Antonio said. "I don’t know of an increase in the past 20 years. I only know of decreases by Council."
Issue 42 asks voters to do what Council was elected to do, D’Antonio said. They elected Council to make financial decisions. A raise in pay would be for future elected officials not current ones.
"If we’re going to ask voters to vote on everything, why have a Council?" D’Antonio said.
Two liquor sale options on ballot
Voters also will decide on the sale of wine and mixed beverages. Issue 43 is for Stow Precinct 3-C and would determine whether Northeast Siam LLC DBA Bangkok Thai Restaurant, 3767 Darrow Road, should be given a liquor permit to sell wine and mixed beverages. Issue 44 is also for Stow Precinct 3-C and would determine if Northeast Siam LLC DBA Bangkok Thai Restaurant should get a liquor permit to sell wine and mixed beverages on Sunday between 10 a.m. and midnight.
Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 5.
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or email@example.com