Officials face challenges, new projects in 2021

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Northfield Center Township is considering building a new fire station to replace its current facility, shown her, on Route 82.

As everyone waves goodbye to 2020 and welcomes 2021, the community leaders share the challenges and upcoming projects anticipated in the new year.

A common challenge many brought up is the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the United States early last year. The virus shuttered school and government buildings, canceled events and caused many businesses to go under.

The new year will mean recovering from the aftermath as well as preparing for the future.

“The No.1 thing we are going to be working on is the administrative building,” said Rich Reville, the chair of the Northfield Center Township trustees.

In November, the trustees approved seeking qualifications after preliminary drawings were proposed by criteria architect the Thrasher Group. These plans were preliminary drawings for a proposed 10,053-square-foot building to be erected at the service department’s current garage and cold storage facility on Olde Eight Road.

Josh Lyons of the Thrasher Group, which has its nearest offices in Canton, outlined the preliminary plans for the estimated $1.25 million building. Lyons said initial plans call for a building with 7,590 square feet devoted to the fire department, 1,611 square feet for township administrative offices and 900 square feet for Summit County Sheriff’s Department operations.

The township is looking to replace the current 100-plus-year-old Township Hall on Brandywine Road and adjacent fire station at 60 W. Aurora Road, the latter of which has fallen into disrepair. The proposed new site encompasses 4.26 acres.

More:Design/build contractor sought for Northfield Center Township safety facility

Another challenge in the new year, Reville said, will be upgrading the township’s computer software, which he described as “a big undertaking.”

The township will also work on several road projects, including improvements to the Route 82 corridor, along with the Ohio Department of Transportation, Reville said. The township also wants to finish improvements at Beacon Hills Park.

On Dec. 14, trustees approved having Site Technology Inc. of Stow work on Beacon Hills Park, where improvements have been made this year with money from an Ohio NatureWorks grant.

The work will cost $19,050, and includes cleaning and color surfacing concrete and installing a tennis net and posts, two pickleball net systems, concrete footers and a 4-foot high black vinyl-coated pickleball divider fence on the courts.

John Zaccardelli, the chair of the Sagamore Hills Township trustees, said the township’s goal “is as always to be good stewards with all levy monies that the residents have supported through out the years.”

“Our biggest challenge will be juggling our funds to ensure that we have no new levies on the ballot for 2021-22, and hopefully beyond,” Zaccardelli said. “Sagamore Hills has a lot of residents on a fixed income with tight budgets.”

There are a few projects Sagamore Hills has in store for 2021, Zaccardelli said.

“The Board of Trustees are working with the Summit County Engineer, preparing for new road projects in 2021,” he said. “Sagamore Hills will have another subdivision just off Dunham Road. Site preparation has already begun.”

The subdivision is the Heartridge subdivision that was the site of the former children’s psychiatric hospital and was once owned by the Nordonia Hills City Schools.

The township also hopes to see the delivery of a new ambulance, which was purchased in 2020, but delivery was delayed due to COVID-19 and other factors, Zaccardelli said.

Zaccardelli added that “we are all excited and looking forward to 2021,” and “getting back too normal after COVID-19 and seeing our park filled with families enjoying time together, the return of sports and children just having fun.”

Jan Tulley, the council president for the city of Macedonia, said there were “no large projects on the horizon at this time for Council.”

“Most important is the health of our community, physically, mentally and financially,” Tulley said. “For the city of Macedonia, as around the world, it has been a challenging 2020 and with COVID will also challenge us in 2021.”

The biggest challenge heading into the new year, Tulley said, will be the city budget.

“We will need to continue to be cautious in spending, review all requests and assure the needs of our residents are met,” Tulley said. “We've lived through a recession, an upturn and now a pandemic impacting revenue. Thankfully the residents approved the tax for the continued improvement of our roads. Roads will continue to be worked on, but Council will keep a close on eye on spending versus income to assure we keep a positive balance. We will continue to ensure that our first responders for police and fire are funded and have the necessary tools required to continue safety in the community.”

This past November, Macedonia voters approved a 5.07 mill renewal of a real estate tax that has been on the books to fund city operations since the 1960s. The five-year levy generates about $650,448 annually at an effective rate of 2.3 mills.

More:Macedonia, Northfield Center renewals approved

Schools' 'biggest challenge'

For the 2020-21 school year, the pandemic “will continue to be our biggest challenge,” said Joe Clark, the superintendent of the Nordonia Hills City Schools.

“Hopefully the 2021-22 school year will be able to go off uninterrupted, because we will need to work extra hard to make up for any learning gaps caused among our students by COVID.”

Another big challenge facing the district are its facilities, Clark said.

“The community very generously supported an operating levy in 2019 which, because we have no permanent improvement levy, pays for literally every expenditure the district makes,” Clark said. “The community needs to make a determination if they want to keep applying Band-Aids to buildings that average almost 80 years old, or look at building new facilities that support 21st century learning for our kids while keeping them safe and warm.”

More:Aging facilities, pandemic challenges cited in Nordonia school’s five-year forecast

One program Clark said he looked forward to getting back to is “Portrait of a Knight,” a series of goals “where we start implementing courses that better prepare our kids for the future.”

Tammy Strong, school board president, agreed that even into 2021, the pandemic will be a hurdle.

“COVID will continue to present challenges for our students and staff,” she said. “I am concerned about our students, not only academically, but emotionally. In-person learning is the best for everyone. I hope we'll be able to get our students back in the classroom as soon possible for the remainder of the year.”

Strong added that she hoped “the second half of the year will be better for all of us.” 

“I would like to see our seniors walk across the stage for graduation, I would like our fourth and sixth grade classes to be able to have their year-end celebrations, field day at the elementary buildings, DC trip, and so much more.  Last year was rough. I'm hoping this year will end better for our students and their families.”

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com