Moving forward: Tallmadge looks to 2021

Krista S. Kano
Kent Weeklies

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to be flexible and modify their plans at a moment's notice, making planning for the future a challenging, but not impossible, task. Here's a look at things to come in Tallmadge in 2021. 

1. School resumes: Tallmadge City Schools transitioned to a fully remote learning environment in early December in response to rising COVID-19 cases and quarantines and staffing shortages.

Students and staff's first day back from winter break is Jan. 6, and the district is currently planning to keep all students in remote learning for the first week. On Jan. 11, the district plans to resume its Level 2 plan with students in grades 6-12 in a hybrid model and preschoolers through fifth-graders attending school every day. 

2. District leadership changes: Superintendent Jeff Ferguson, who has held his position for 15 years, will retire at the end of business on Jan. 31 and will pass the torch to current Chief Operations Officer Steve Wood. Ferguson will stay on the payroll as Wood's special adviser through July 31. 

3. New campus celebration: Tallmadge City Schools had planned a community celebration of its new K-8 campus, which was then canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ferguson said that celebration will occur when it is safe to do so, hopefully at some point in 2021.

"Even if I'm on a bike in the middle of nowhere, I'll make it back to Tallmadge for that celebration," he said.

4. Construction and projects: A number of projects have been in the works for the pat year and many of them will begin in 2021.

Pulte Home Builders will begin constructing homes in the Tallmadge Reserve in 2021, and those homeowners will help pay for East Avenue improvements and installation of a traffic light at Washburn Road and East Avenue. Road work will begin in mid-summer, but will not cut off traffic, Mayor David Kline said.

Construction begins on the Tallmadge Reserve development on East Avenue on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020 in Tallmadge, Ohio. [Phil Masturzo/ Beacon Journal]

The city will also begin working on Fire Station 2 in the new year. Architects are already on board. 

5. City to determine future plans for the Weaver School: Tallmadge recently purchased the former Weaver School in an agreement that has been approved by City Council, Summit County Council and Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board, and a team of local and regional business, education, finance and government leaders will meet throughout 2021 to determine its best use. The group, currently being developed by Kline and Economic Development Director Matthew Springer, will also establish a redevelopment plan if the building needs to be torn down. The city expects to take ownership of the building at the beginning of 2022. 

6. Regional Dispatch discussions continue: Summit County now owns the former Weaver Workshop that will soon be home to a regional dispatch center. Kline said he expects interested communities -- including Tallmadge, Stow, Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn, Mogadore, Boston Heights, Summit County and Munroe Falls -- to continue meeting about joining the Howe Road facility. 

The Summit DD site on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020 in Tallmadge, Ohio. [Phil Masturzo/ Beacon Journal]

On Tallmadge's end, the property needs to be rezoned for governmental operations, and it is on the Planning and Zoning Commission's Jan. 7 agenda. 

7. Addressing Midway Plaza: The city sent a list of code violations to the owners of the Midway Plaza in December, and will be following up with them the first week of January. Kline said that some of the exteriors have been cleaned, but that he is unaware of any major improvements. 

"We're constantly working with that owner to fix the place up or tear it down," Kline said. 

The mostly empty parking lot at Midway Plaza Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 in Akron, Ohio.

8. Delaying, modifying and resuming community events: Though it's still too early to say for certain, Kline hopes to resume the city's community events like Circle Fest, which was canceled in August 2020. 

"That's always the third week in August, so hopefully we can continue with that, or maybe have a modified version of it," Kline said. 

Events held earlier in the year, such as the Community Expo that is due in April 2021, are less likely to happen, Kline said. 

9. Up for re-election: A number of local seats will be expiring at the end of 2021, and will be on the Nov. 2 ballot. Expiring seats include Tallmadge City Council At-Large seats held by James Donovan, Dennis Loughry and Christopher Grimm (who was appointed to replace Michael Carano), and Tallmadge Board of Education seats held by Mark Fairhurst, Richard Kellar and Chris Tywon. 

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.