The 2017 capital and operating budgets were approved by Council during Monday's regular meeting. Council had conducted committee hearings on the city budget for more than a month before approving $375 million for operating and $590 million for capital expenditures. The operating budget is for salaries and services the city provides. The capital budget covers expenses related to city assets including roads, buildings, utilities and parks. During the public comment period, Council heard from citizens supporting a resolution to declare Ohio a sanctuary state and urging cities to be sanctuaries for immigrants. Council took time on the resolution.
The 2017 capital budget continued to hold Council's attention as the administration provided additional details on proposed expenses and some restructuring of city departments. Council also referred new legislation to sell city-owned land until it learns more about Mayor Horrigan's new housing initiative.
A week after passing a resolution commending former President Barack Obama for his dedicated service, Council passed a resolution Monday opposing new President Donald Trump's ban on immigration from seven Middle East countries. Council also passed resolutions promoting racial healing throughout 2017 and urging the Ohio Department of Education to continue funding a grant for an afterschool program that services 20,000 students from low-income families statewide.
A resolution expressing appreciation to former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and a resolution opposing a repeal of the Affordable Care Act were supported unanimously at Monday's City Council meeting. Council also supported legislation seeking grant funds for the downtown Landmark project, a zero percent interest loan for the sewer separation project, and stadium improvements at Canal Park.
During the first meeting of the new year, Akron City Council addressed routine legislation ranging from approving grant applications to unanimously passing a resolution asking Congress to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood. Unrelated to any legislation, Council again heard from citizens about the drug epidemic in Akron during the public comment period. Earlier in the day, an Oriana House executive appeared before a joint meeting of the Public Safety and Health and Social Services Committees to answer questions about drug use inside their rehabilitation facility. Council plans to tour Oriana House later this month.
An ordinance that will allow the city to create a mowing list of unkempt, high-weed lots was approved by Council Monday evening. Owners of the lots placed on the list will be notified that the city has put the property on a regular mowing schedule and the cost will be added to the property tax bill. Previously, lot owners had to be notified in advance and given the opportunity to mow their own grass every time they were in violation of the city's high-weed ordinance. In other action, Council discussed raising campaign contribution limits from $500 for ward candidates and $750 for citywide candidates to $750 and $1,000 respectively. Even if the increase is approved, Akron would still have the lowest campaign contribution limits of any city in Ohio.
Stoney Pointe Commons, a development that will provide housing for Akron’s homeless and disabled, withdrew a request to build a parking lot that was smaller than required by Akron’s zoning laws. In doing so, the developers, Tober Development and Community Support Services, removed an obstacle that could have delayed the start of construction. The renovation of six buildings in Downtown Akron on Main Street also took a step forward Monday when Council approved selling the city-owned buildings to Bowery Development Group. The key piece in the sale was the Landmark Building, which the developers plan to turn into a high-end loft apartment building.
During committee meetings Monday, two developers proposed to invest $33 million in downtown to renovate six buildings, including the Landmark Building at the corner of Main and Bowery Streets. The proposed development would include street and canal-level retail and restaurants as well as office space and 116 loft apartments. Planning Committee Chair Jeff Fusco asked Council to be prepared to vote on an ordinance approving the sale of the city-owned buildings to the developers next Monday. During the regular Council meeting, an administration proposal to purchase IT help desk-type services at below-market rates from the county was approved.
Mayor Dan Horrigan introduced legislation that will allow the city and county to purchase information technology (IT) consulting services from one another for lower-than-market rates. The agreement would give the city access to the county IT staff for basic maintenance and help desk services while the city IT department focuses on strategies to improve Akron’s information delivery to residents. Administration officials said the city would spend less than $100,000 annually for the county’s help. Some Council members questioned whether the agreement amounted to a merger of services and asked for a week to consider the proposed ordinance.