10 things that happened in Hudson in 2020

COVID-19 pandemic altered daily life in countless ways

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Residents lined up along Main Street in Hudson for the funeral procession of Vincent Baran on Nov. 14. Many held balloons and some carried signs. This was part of an outpouring of community support that occurred after VIncent, 7, died after he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle in downtown Hudson Nov. 7.

HUDSON — 2020 will always be remembered.

For people who lived through this time in history, it's not likely anyone will ever look back and confuse 2020 with 2019 or 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic altered people's lives in countless ways. The battle for racial justice came to the forefront after the death of George Floyd Jr. in Minneapolis in May and there was a record voter turnout in the presidential election this past fall. Hudson residents were impacted by all three of these national-level stories. 

Here's a look back at some of the biggest headlines in Hudson in 2020:

1. School district, city deals with COVID-19: On March 13, Summit County confirmed its first case of COVID-19. Not long after, Gov. Mike DeWine closed much of the state, including the schools. 

From mid-March through the end of the school year, students in the Hudson City School District took courses through a virtual platform.

High school spring sports seasons were canceled due to COVID. Prom and the traditional commencement ceremony at E.J. Thomas Hall were canceled, but school leaders still found ways to celebrate the Class of 2020. In May, Hudson High School seniors participated in the "Be The Light" graduation parade at the school campus. In June, a drive-in commencement program took place at Midway Drive-In.

When classes resumed for the 2020-21 school year, students started the school year in a hybrid mode. Families were also given the option to have their children take classes exclusively online. In October, the school board voted to have elementary and middle school students start taking classes five days a week, but left the district's ninth through 12th graders in the hybrid mode. In late November, middle school students were switched to the hybrid platform. As the amount of COVID-19 cases rose in late fall, the district switched to all-remote learning for students in grades 6-12 and to the hybrid model for students in K-5  on Dec. 9.

During the week of Jan. 4-8, students in grades 6-12 will remain in remote learning, and grades K-5 will stay in hybrid, according to a notice on the district's website. On the week of Jan. 11, grades 6-12 will transition back to hybrid and grades K-5 will switch back to in-person, five days a week.

Winter sports competitions for Hudson High School has been paused until after the new year.

Hudson city hall is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. If members of the public visit city hall, they need to be buzzed in at the front door by staff. City spokesperson Jody Roberts said residents are encouraged to make an appointment with the city staff member they wish to speak with before they come to the building. 

Both the Barlow Community Center and the community rooms at City Hall have remained closed since the first Stay at Home order was issued by the state in March, said Roberts, who added all city services are still being provided.

2. Tackling racism: George Floyd Jr. died May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police. His death led to vigils and Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country, with some of those types of events occurring locally.

On two consecutive days in June, about 50 people — mostly high school- and college-age students — gathered at the intersection of state Routes 91 and 303 to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. They chanted "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breathe," and held up signs with phrases such as “Root Out Racism” and “Silence is Violence.”

In the same week of those demonstrations, more than 100 people participated in an Interfaith Walk for Peace and Justice in the city's downtown.

Hudson City Council in June unanimously approved a resolution condemning racism. The language of the document noted the measure was prompted “by the tragic events that continue to occur across our country.”

Also in June, school and city leaders dealt with an incident involving racist graffiti. Four teenagers were charged with criminal mischief and criminal trespassing in connection with obscene and racist graffiti that was spray painted at the middle school’s athletic field in late May.

Hudson city officials will continue looking at potential projects for Downtown Phase II in 2021. This photo show Windstream Communications on Owen Brown Street, which is part of the area that the city is hoping to develop. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

3. Starting over on Downtown Phase II: City leaders wiped the slate clean on the Downtown Phase II project and are now proceeding in a new direction.

City officials in March announced they were parting ways with Testa Companies, the developer that had worked with the municipality on the potential project for three-plus years. The plan with Testa had been envisioned to include Class-A (top quality) office space and housing for empty nesters and young professionals. The plan was scaled back after an advisory vote of residents in May 2019 narrowly expressed disapproval of the prior plan.

The city offered a development agreement proposal based on the downsized plan to Testa Companies on Dec. 23, 2019. Testa responded to the proposal and City Manager Jane Howington sent a letter on Feb. 24 to Joel Testa in which she wrote that council “cannot support the provisions you have offered.”

Howington said officials were concerned about proposed financing arrangements.

“City Council does not want to be a mortgage holder especially subordinate to development financing,” wrote Howington. "…Realistically, the proposed project is no longer a viable option for either party.”

Council in September deadlocked on a motion brought by Council member Hal DeSaussure (at-large) to start negotiating the sale of the Phase II property (Owen Brown Street and Morse Road) to the developer (Fairmount Properties) who presented a concept plan to council.

City leaders are now looking at potentially hiring an outside firm to conduct a survey to determine what most residents would like to see on the site. A discussion on this issue is expected to occur at a council workshop in January.

4. Events canceled: The word "canceled" was spoken or written many times throughout 2020, as many events that involved a large gathering of people were canceled.

Events such as the Memorial Day parade, Hudson Home and Garden Tour, Art on the Green, and the annual 4th of July fireworks show were canceled. During the holiday season, the downtown Holiday Walk, Santa on the Green, Christkindlmarkt and the Frosty Five were canceled. The Holiday Walk was replaced with a Live Windows program where elves and other characters appeared in the windows of downtown businesses to entertain passersby. Another new holiday event was a fireworks program from American Fireworks.

An alternative version of Christkindlmarkt known as Christkindl on Main was planned, but also ended up being canceled due to COVID-19.

5. Businesses navigate COVID-19 challenges: Many city businesses, particularly ones in the service industry, had to figure out how to survive after they were shut down for a period of time during the pandemic. When sites such as restaurants and bars reopened, owners and managers were faced with the difficult task of making their facilities as safe as possible for employees and customers. More restaurants began offering carryout meals.

Various assistance programs were available to companies. In the spring, several city businesses received money from Summit County's COVID-19 Small Business Emergency Relief Grant Program. The grant program provided grants of up to $5,000 to small for-profit businesses affected by COVID-19.

The city also took action to help businesses. Council in early June approved legislation allowing downtown restaurants to apply for a license agreement to host outdoor patio dining on public rights of way. City spokesperson Jody Roberts said that measure only dealt with outdoor dining on public property such as the sidewalks along First and Main. So, later in June, council approved a temporary permit program to allow restaurants and retail establishments to conduct business outdoors on their private property. In July, council approved creating a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) where patrons can purchase alcoholic drinks at restaurants and consume the beverages while walking within the boundary. 

The administration will discuss other ways to help businesses during the pandemic at council's workshop Jan. 12.

6. Large party prompts review of short-term rentals: City leaders addressed the potential regulation of short-term residential rental properties such as Airbnbs and VRBOs after a large party at a Windsor Drive home in October generated multiple police reports. The WIndsor Drive home was described as a short-term rental.

The city does not currently regulate short-term rentals. City Solicitor Matt Vazzana on Dec. 8 presented a proposal that would regulate short-term rentals through the city's business regulations. Under the administration's current proposal, a short-term rental operator would have to apply for a permit from the city's community development director, and the public would not have input before the permit was issued. Council members on Dec. 8 generally agreed that the public should have the chance to comment before a short-term rental operation was set up. The administration will address the issue again at a workshop Jan. 12.

Diebold Nixdorf is planning to move from Green to 50 Executive Parkway in Hudson in 2021.

7. More jobs, income tax revenue coming to city: Hudson leaders in late fall were excited to learn that an international corporation was planning to relocate its headquarters to the city.

Diebold Nixdorf is looking to move its headquarters from the city of Green to a 63,000 square-foot building at 50 Executive Parkway in Hudson. The building has been vacant for eight years and was last used by Alltel. Diebold Nixdorf hopes to occupy the building by next summer.

The company would bring 314 jobs to Hudson with a benchmark of $31.4 million in payroll.

'"This is an incredible accomplishment both for our staff and for this council," DeSaussure said during a council meeting Nov. 4.

Meanwhile, Fleet Response is planning to relocate its headquarters from Independence to Hudson in 2021. Fleet Response is planning to bring more than 200 jobs to the municipality during the next few years.

Fleet Response will construct a two-story, 43,000 square-foot office building on a 45-acre parcel at Boston Mills Road and West Executive Parkway. Council in August voted to sell the land for $1.1 million to FleetHQ.

Arlington Valley Farms, a food manufacturing and marketing company, announced in November its plans to invest $4.5 million in capital equipment and create 97 jobs at its production facility on Hudson Drive.

Vincent Baran died after he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle in downtown Hudson Nov. 7. The community showed its support for the Baran family in multiple ways following Vincent's death.

8. Community displays support for family after boy's death: The community in November offered displays of support to the family of a 7-year-boy who died after he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle downtown.

Vincent Baran died in the crash that occurred Nov. 7. 

When the funeral service for Vincent took place Nov. 14, Mayor Craig Shubert estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people holding balloons and signs lined West Prospect and North Main streets from the church to the cemetery to pay their respects.

Various forms of community support occurred during the week following Vincent's death. Throughout the city, residents lit candles and displayed them on their porch for several days in Vincent's memory. Shubert said the street where the Baran family lives was "lined with luminaries," and added Seton Catholic School — where Vincent was a second-grade student — hosted visitation in its chapel on Nov. 13. On the evening of Nov. 14, American Fireworks presented a 15-minute fireworks program for Vincent's second-grade classmates.

Vincent's family has established a charitable fund at the Hudson Community Foundation. Donations to The Vincent William Baran Charitable Fund can be made by visiting MightyVincent.org or MyHCF.org.

9. New council member elected: City Council in March bid farewell to member Dr. J. Daniel Williams (at-large), who resigned after serving for 13 years. Council then was unable to reach an agreement on a replacement for Williams. Per the charter, a special election happened in November to choose a new member who will serve the remaining year on Williams' term.

Nicole Kowalski defeated Sarah Norman and Sherif Mansour in a three-way race for the unexpired term in November. With the presidential election also occurring, the turnout among registered voters in the city was 84.2%.

10. Parent filed lawsuit against school district in connection with COVID-19 plan: Jennifer Grega, who has children in Hudson City Schools, filed suit against the school district in Summit County Common Pleas Court in October, requesting that the court block the district's decision to return students to the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit was among the first over return-to-school decisions in Ohio. 

Before she filed the lawsuit, Grega chose the hybrid option for her two children. After the district revised its plan, Grega's youngest child, who is in middle school, was required to return to classes in person or be marked absent. Truancy laws could eventually force the mother into compliance.

Summit County Common Pleas Magistrate Dawn Humphrys denied Grega's request for the restraining order and ruled the district considered health and safety factors for students in making its decision on how to handle instruction during the ongoing pandemic. Humphrys said Grega “failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that immediate and irreparable harm or injury will result” if the restraining order wasn’t granted.

After Humphrys' decision, Grega dismissed the suit before the case went to Judge Susan Baker Ross for a hearing on Grega's request for an injunction against the district.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.