Every year produces good ideas in the public arena. Here are a few we reported about this past year.
1) Sharing resources: Early in 2012, the cities of Ravenna, Kent, Twinsburg, Hudson, Stow, Aurora, and Streetsboro and the villages of Mantua and Hiram informally agreed to share equipment and other resources. Streetsboro Mayor Glenn Broska hosted the first gathering of the group early in 2012 and since then they have been joined by Tallmadge, Munroe Falls and Cuyahoga Falls.
Kent Service Director Gene Roberts set up a wiki page in which those with access can share information about their needs and available equipment. The city of Ravenna is upgrading this so that answers to questions will automatically be emailed to those asking. Here are a couple of good results so far. Ravenna and Stow are sharing an arborist. Kent, needing an asphalt recycling machine, was able to buy a better one because both Ravenna and Stow have agreed to pay for one third of it in exchange for use thereof.
The idea for the sharing may have been spurred by longtime mutual aid between communities for fire and police protections, Roberts said. "These have been around for decades," he said.
2) Ravenna Brownfields Study: Kerry McComber, the city's economic development director, is spearheading this effort that with a grant from the Ohio Development Services Agency, is focusing on downtown Ravenna and a neighborhood immediately to the west. There have been two public meetings and each had a positive tone. Ideas included getting the county and Robinson Memorial Hospital, two of the city's most important economic anchors, involved in a dialogue not unlike the one that led to the great partnership between the city of Kent and Kent State University; connecting the downtown with the Portage Hike and Bike Trail; taking pride in the city's distinctive 19th and early 20th century architecture.
"Good enough isn't good enough. We can do better," one participant said
3) Save the Flagpole: This is an effort by a group of volunteers to repair the steel box lattice flagpole currently owned by Ravenna Township that stands in front of the Portage County Courthouse. The volunteers are doing a good job of raising awareness about the significance of the flagpole, one of the few survivors of a type of flagpole that was erected in communities throughout the United States in the second half of the 19th century. A goal of raising $150,000 is a large amount, but volunteers are more than halfway there.
4) Expanding the Kent Esplanade: Kent State University has invested nearly $10 million in acquiring property to link the campus with the downtown to make both pedestrian friendly. This will help undergird the success of rejuvenation efforts in the downtown. The university brings more than 2,000 employees and 20,000 students to the campus Monday through Friday. They help provide the critical mass needed to support retail and service businesses in the downtown. The presence of Ametek and Davey Tree in the downtown will help too. Kent State's lease-buy arrangement of the DuBois property utilizing the services of the Portage County Port Authority will protect the campus from developments that might undermine the Esplanade.
5) Refurbishing the old Kent Hotel: This idea is 30 years old, but it took Ron Burbick to step up to the task. He is turning the city's biggest eyesore into an attractive focal point that enhances Kent's early 20th century architectural heritage. Many have contributed to the rejuvenation of Kent's downtown, but no one any more so than Burbick. His Phoenix Properties, Acorn Alley and now the hotel are so artfully done and help make Kent a destination point.
6) A community college at beautiful old Ravenna High: This idea originated with Helen Jane Wilson, a longtime Ravenna High School teacher and wife of the late Don Wilson Jr., a developer. Kent State University sent a team to look at old Ravenna High and found it too expensive to save. It did not entirely rule out a community college, but said, "Not now." Without a deep-pocketed white knight, the effort to spare old Ravenna High from demolition has failed, but the idea of a community college in the downtown should be pursued. The University of Akron operates one called Summit Community College utilizing the old Polsky Building for some of its classrooms. Why not a Portage County Community College in Ravenna, possibly shared by Kent State, Hiram College and NeoMed?
7) A Marshall Plan for Kent neighborhoods: Editor Roger Di Paolo credits Sandra Halem, president of the board of trustees of the Kent Historical Society, for the catchy label of this good idea. Downtown has been the correct priority of Kent, but once it's completed, Kent and its partners including Kent State University need to look at the residential neighborhoods and the community's housing stock. Streets and sidewalks and well-maintained, single family homes may not seem glamorous undertakings, but they're important in attracting and keeping good talent. Though not a residential development, the new Kent municipal court branch can help preserve the city's historic Main Street neighborhood.
8) Kent State University's $170 million campus rebuild: Credit President Lester Lefton and his trustees for embarking on a huge rebuild of the campus, its academic buildings getting the lion's share of attention. These include the most heavily used science buildings (Cunningham, Smith and Williams halls) and a multidisciplinary research addition in the science mall area; construction of a new building for Kent State's nationally respected College of Architecture and Environmental Design near the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center; the rehabilitation, reconstruction or replacement of the art complex; and construction of a new building on the science mall to house the College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology. Collectively, this is the biggest KSU capital program on the Kent campus since the Bowman-White era. It will make KSU more competitive.
9) Non-Profit Status for Robinson Memorial Hospital: The Portage County Commissioners, urged by Robinson Memorial Hospital President and CEO Steve Colecchi, approved leasing the hospital as a not-for-profit operation, which by the middle of next year will lead to Robinson Memorial becoming a not-for-profit hospital. The change frees Robinson Memorial from cumbersome restrictions and gives it more flexibility in the rapidly changing world of health care. Most Cleveland-Akron-Canton hospitals are non-profit. America's hospitals face financial challenges that are forcing alliances of smaller ones with bigger ones to survive. Robinson Memorial has an alliance with Akron's Summa Health System, but even Summa is looking for partners bigger than itself.
10) Merging the Ravenna and County Health Departments: Their proximity makes this intuitively logical and Ravenna officials foresee substantial annual savings should it occur. Kent State University's College of Public Health has helped study this concept, which for a time included Kent, although Kent has since backed out. The city of Akron's health department and the Summit County Health Department have merged to save money. The finances need to be worked out, but Ravenna should not wait for Kent.
Those are some ideas that caught my attention this year, but there were hundreds of good ideas. I'd be interested to know what you think.
Of course you're not sure about this sharing concept DoWhatsRight! It's so profoundly un-conservative.
I am not so sure about this sharing concept. It always seems that some get more of a share than the others. Ravenna use to share the Fired Dept. but that did not work out to well.