STOW — Council members have decided to cancel a contract with the Impact Group, a social media development company, in a 4 to 3 vote.

The city pays $4,500 per month for the Impact Group’s services which rebranded the city with a new logo and coordinated the city’s website in the past year. Their contract ends March 31.

Council members said the company was hired for more economic development and new businesses but they did surveys.

"They didn’t do what we asked them to do," said council member and finance committee chair Jeremy McIntire.

Mayor John Pribonic said the Impact Group reached out to businesses and promoted the city on its website. The Impact Group meets once a month but is in communication with the city at least once a day, he added. 

"They made the site more user friendly," Pribonic said. "They are working with larger businesses and working on how we communicate with residents about water main breaks, traffic and notifying residents."

Pribonic said the city doesn’t have an internal communication person and postings on the website were done by city staff in the past with every department looking different. The five pages included fire, police, the city of Stow, Fox Den and Fun in Stow.

"We want to look more consistent," Pribonic said. "It’s more expensive to hire a city employee than pay $4,500 per month. They give feedback and hints. The administration feels we are getting our money’s worth."

The four members of council who voted against renewing the contract were president Sindi Harrison, McIntire, Dennis Altieri and Mario Fiocca. 

Other council action

Several property owners asked council for variances to build additions to existing buildings or to change the use of a building.

The first property was at 4637 Allen Road, Tyres International. The property owner asked for a variance to build a 33,600 square foot addition on the back of the existing building which is 65,000 square feet in space, and make improvements to the southern drive where a curb already exists. He needed a variance for the buffer of 50 feet to a wetland behind the property. The planning commission approved the site plan and  stormwater retention was added. The warehouse will store tires and has a fire suppression system that is considered the best for tire storage. Council members unanimously approved the variance.

The second property was for GVI LLC at 752 McCauley Road which also needed a wetlands variance. The addition of 10,848 square foot of space was approved in 2019, but afterward the wetlands on the adjoining property were recognized and a variance was required for the property for two small triangles of buffer space. Council members unanimously approved the legislation.

The final variance was for rezoning property at 2948 Graham Road from C6 office to R3 residential. The property was previously used as a training center for Stow Glen and was rezoned in 2003 for a 16-unit retirement building. Planning and zoning approved and recommended the R3 residential zoning Jan. 28. The owner, P. Zuravel of CZC, plans to use the building for a multi-family development. The legislation was given a first reading and a public hearing is scheduled for March 26.

Council members approved paying up to $75,000 to Macedonia for housing prisoners and video arraignment expenses. Police Chief Jeff Film said it would cost the city $400,000 annually for personnel to use the existing jail at the Stow police department.

Items discussed in committee but not placed on the agenda included school buses, live streaming council meetings and a comprehensive connectivity plan.

A proposal for increasing fines for illegally passing school buses was tabled until the next meeting when legislation would be proposed. McIntire said the state is moving forward with harsher punishment regarding school bus violations called the Safety Act and if they pass legislation, they could help schools obtain money through grants for cameras.

Fiocca said he talked to Rob Gress, the director of operations for Stow-Munroe Falls schools and said they had no plans to purchase cameras. The total cost would be $250,000 to outfit the fleet of 50 buses. Violations currently are forwarded to the police with 21 on the books.

Stow Police Chief Jeff Film said out of the 21 violations, there were three citations and one warning.

"The problem is identifying the driver of the car," Film said. "We have to create a photo array, and the bus driver has to pick the driver out of it. It’s a difficult process."

The city doesn’t have the personnel to ride or follow buses but could hit problem areas near Call and Fishcreek roads, he said.

"South Carolina did a program with 400 deputies who rode school buses or followed them," Film said. "We have three to four officers on a shift and it would be difficult to follow buses with our personnel."

Another concern was the 2017 red light camera law, and Council members asked the law director to look at whether the city would have to pass any ordinances to enforce violations caught by a camera. Legislation was tabled. 

Council member Christina Shaw proposed live streaming the council meetings to improve transparency in government and allow those who can’t attend the meetings to view the meetings through youtube.

"We can stream it and upload it," Shaw said.

Shaw volunteered to live stream on her social page or have someone from Kent State University or the Stow-Munroe Falls High School stream it.

Harrison said council needed more information on how to do it.

Council members had questions about storage, such as how long records needed to be retained or who was responsible for the records.

Nicholas Wren, director of public service, said council and the city would have to talk about the equipment needed. The city is looking at upgrading the speakers in the council meeting room and could look at incorporating the two. 

Rob Kurtz, director of planning and development, said the city wanted approval for a grant application for an AMATS study to identify existing pedestrian, bicycle and public transportation systems for $29,000 from AMATS and $20,000 from the city. The study would take a comprehensive look at the entire city and recommend projects and priorities for city. The application is due Feb. 29 and approval is May 14. The city would send out an RPI in June or July for a consultant. Kurtz said the city is always studying projects but not in a comprehensive way like this.

At the Feb. 27 council meeting Director of Budget and Management John Earle will present the budget. Pribonic will have names for the charter review committee and a list of projects for the parks. The city also needs to appoint a Ward 4 resident to the park board. 

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or lfreeman@recordpub.com