SILVER LAKE — With a full year of service under his belt, Stow Mayor John Pribonic told chamber of commerce members that he “couldn’t be more proud” to be the city’s leader.
Pribonic highlighted accomplishments and looked ahead to new challenges in his second State of the City address to about 100 people at the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce at Silver Lake Country Club Tuesday afternoon.
He credited his staff with playing a significant role in accomplishing many goals in 2019.
“I couldn’t do it all without my administration [team],” the mayor said.
With the start of a new year, Pribonic noted he is interacting with an almost entirely new group of city council members who care deeply about the city.
“I look forward to working with them over the next two years,” said Pribonic.
He emphasized that the principles of collaboration and communication will guide his administration’s activities. Pribonic said city officials surveyed residents to learn where they could improve in terms of serving the public. A total of 1,058 responses were submitted and that process helped the city develop a brand message and logo.
“We didn’t want to just hear what is good,” said Pribonic. “But also what’s bad, what can be improved upon? I believe we got that.”
One issue that was raised was that the city did not have a clear identity.
“That is a problem, but it isn’t the worst problem you could have,” said Pribonic.
He noted he and his administrative team noted that they had a chance to define themselves and a new logo for the city was created with the tag line “Tradition centered, Future focused.”
“I think that is very important to keep us grounded at all times,” said Pribonic.
The mayor highlighted three new community events that happened in the city in 2019: an Easter Egg Hunt at the high school football stadium; Halloween Hop; and the holiday-themed Glow with Stow.
Pribonic said residents told him Glow with Stow was “Disney-like” and “Hallmark-like.”
He said the city center project is in the “fundraising stage” with plans for both a splash pad and a play trail.
“That is going very, very well,” stated Pribonic.
The city collaborated with the school district to print 10,000 calendars that were handed out in the community. In addition, about 300 new resident welcome bags were personally delivered by Pribonic.
He noted the police department in 2019 had its highest level of participation in its citizen police academy, and also concluded a lengthy process to update its policy and procedure manual. One particular challenge for safety forces was dealing with more calls for service related to mental health issues. Pribonic said there were 220 Crisis Intervention Training calls for service among a total of 23,434 calls to police in 2019.
“[Many] people a year [in Stow] contemplate suicide,” said Pribonic. “That’s a problem … We’re addressing this through a media campaign … suicide is not particular to just one age group…That is our job to go ahead and help our community.”
The fire department has received $1.5 million in federal grants during the past decade. The department also earned an Insurance Services Office Public Protection Classification ranking of 1, which is the highest designation a fire department can receive. Pribonic noted that this top rating helps lower insurance costs for businesses and homeowners.
The fire department responded to 4,691 incidents, a 7.2% increase from the previous year and three-quarters of those calls are for EMS service.
Construction and infrastructure was a focal point in 2019 with $2.1 million being spent on storm water improvement project, $2 million on waterline installation and improvement projects, and $2.8 million on road paving work. Pointing to $429,000 spent on capital investments for parks last year, Pribonic stated “We need to address our parks …people will be proud to use our parks.” The improvements to the parks will be a two-to-three year process, he added.
Some significant economic development work also happened in 2019: Vitalia (Omni Senior Living) opened a $25 million assisted living facility on Allen Road and will be adding 55 villas. Meijer opened a 156,000-square foot store in the Stow Kent Plaza and RMG is renovating the 500,000 square foot industrial site on Commerce Drive that was vacated by MacTac.
The Macy’s store along Kent Road is expected to close soon.
Pribonic said the city is working “very closely” with the owners of the Macy’s building and noted, “they have full plans to make use of that property… they are working diligently on that.”
Looking ahead, Pribonic said he wants to start an e-Newsletter, have city officials journey to neighborhoods to visit with residents, reinvest in the parks, grow the city’s signature events and continue collaborating with community groups and businesses.
“I look forward to working with all of you,” said Pribonic. “The door is always open and the phone is always on.”
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.