Top 5 takeaways from the Stow State of the City address
Stow Mayor John Pribonic delivered his state of the city address to the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, focusing heavily on the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the accomplishments achieved despite it.
Here are the top five takeaways:
1. City operations remain strong
Stow quickly pivoted to its "new normal" while maintaining its essential services, and no department experienced an outbreak, including first response operations.
The city was able to achieve this thanks to "solid financial planning and management" that allowed the city to be "flexible and rise to the occasion to meet, and exceed, the level of service that our residents have come to expect," the mayor said.
Stow also received significant state and federal assistance through the COVID Relief Fund.
"We are in sound fiscal condition. City services are intact and better than ever," Pribonic said. "I have no doubt that we will continue with excellent management in the future."
2. Businesses adapt and persevere
Once able to reopen after the state-mandated closure, Stow businesses implemented a number of precautions to ensure the safety of their employees and customers.
Measures included Plexiglas screens, one-way aisles, spaced out seating and outdoor dining.
Pribonic and city officials assisted by streamlining the approval process for temporary outdoor seating plans, meeting with local businesses to check in, providing information and guidance on state and federal funding and promoting various campaigns to earn customer confidence.
3. Development and growth despite the pandemic
Despite the hardships presented by the pandemic, businesses, residents and the city reinvested in the community.
While at least eight businesses closed in 2020, the city also issued 23 new business occupancies last year.
Construction began on the Regent Assisted Living Facility on Fishcreek Road; a 55-unit townhome development at the former Ritchie Turkey Farm property; and the Summa Medical Facility on Fishcreek, all three of which are set to open this year.
On the residential side, permits for home improvements in 2020 exceeded 2019, and the permits for additions and operations nearly doubled. A record number of permits were issued for pools, roofs and fences.
For the city's part, progress continued on the $56 million state Route 8 improvement project in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Transportation; $650,00 in storm water projects were completed; $1.65 million in waterline projects were completed; and parks and facility improvements continued citywide.
4. Renewed focus on community
While the pandemic necessitated physical distancing, the city ensured that no one had to socially isolate.
Last year, Stow police officers documented 224 mental health crisis calls, prompting the city, Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools and several Summit County nonprofits to launch the citywide You Matter initiative, designed to promote mental health awareness and foster acts of kindness among residents.
The city's parks and recreation department adapted its popular events and created new ones to comply with state mandates, including Easter Bunny Brigade, Fourth of July Reverse Parade, Stow Strong Celebration, Halloween Hayride, Holiday Lights Spectacular and the Santa & Friends Drive-thru.
The city also worked to celebrate diversity, which included the renaming of the Silver Springs Lodge in honor of Leona Farris, a member of one of the first Black families in the city.
"It is our responsibility as citizens of Stow, as Americans, as human beings, to do better, to be more empathetic and to be more understanding of our different experiences," Pribonic said. "We must listen to each other and unite behind a common cause of unity. As your mayor, I am here, I am listening and I welcome your thoughts and opinions."
5. More to come
Building off the success of 2020, Pribonic said he was optimistic about what 2021 will bring.
"Ultimately, our goal is to provide the best services to our residents, and to make sure our community is sustainable," he said. "It’s not just about today – it’s about our future."
Fogg Development, which created the Seasons Business Park, plans to construct its fifth industrial building. D & S Distribution, Inc. moved into an existing 200,000-square-foot warehouse on Commerce Drive. And Knight Sound & Lighting was approved for the construction of its headquarters in Stow.
The city also anticipates moving ahead on the spring and summer road repaving program, the Darrow Road sidewalk construction project, and continued improvement of city parks and facilities.
"For all the challenges we have faced, and all of the challenges we will face in the coming year, I see a light at the end of the tunnel," Pribonic said. "Not just a light, but a spotlight on the future, and that future is positive."
Pribonic's full address is available at http://bit.ly/smfstateofthecity.
Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.