CANTON – City Council has approved ordinances to fund improvements to the City Service Center and relocate road salt domes for an estimated total of $14.1 million.
The city will issue 15-year bonds to pay for the work. The council was scheduled to vote on the bond and contract authorizations April 25, but members asked for an early vote Monday because of concerns about the Federal Reserve Board raising interest rates to combat inflation.
“We’ve already been hit with one increase that probably cost us a couple of million already,” Councilman Frank Morris, D-9, said during a committee meeting prior to the regular council session.
Public Service Director John Highman presented plans to move road salt storage from the City Service Center at 2436 30th St. NE to property the city purchased last year near Ninth Street and Marion Motley Boulevard NE. The dilapidated storage facility on 30th Street also is above an aquifer, posing a risk to a city water source.
Highman estimated that $1.5 million in renovations were needed to prepare the Ninth Street building for salt storage before this coming winter. Additional work would include the demolition of the current storage facility, expansion of Canton’s impound lot and relocation of the city’s auction lot for $2.5 million.
“We will be moving all of those operations to the front of the Service Center and no longer inviting folks into the working area of the Service Center,” Highman said.
The last of the series of projects, which resulted from a master planning process with the Akron-based consultant GPD Group, would be a building for the Sanitation Department. City employees responsible for waste removal currently operate out of a small area with only a men’s locker room at the Service Center, where vehicles stay outside.
“On the site of the former salt domes, when they’re demolished as part of project two, we’re looking to build an approximately 37,000-square-foot facility for the sanitation building that will serve to house all of our vehicles,” Highman said. “It will house all of our offices. It will have locker rooms. It will have meeting space and everything that, basically, all of our other departments have.”
The building’s design is expected to cost $781,836 with construction estimated at $8.8 million. Work is expected to start in early 2023, and customer rates will not increase beyond “cost of living adjustments,” according to the service director’s memo to City Council.
ARPA funding awarded
City Council approved American Rescue Plan Act funds for several community programs. Awards include:
- $492,447 for youth summer learning and work programs led by En-Rich-Ment, Stark County Community Action Agency, and Simply Youth. Canton City Schools is expected to contribute $164,450 for the programs.
- $632,327 for summer camp programs in partnership with area agencies.
- $381,905 for community partners to provide family support and year-round educational youth programs.
- $300,500 for facility and equipment expenses at the Domestic Violence Project, United Way of Greater Stark County, StarkFresh, and the Stark Community Support Network.
New city engineer introduced
James Benekos was introduced Monday as the new city engineer. He succeeds Dan Moeglin, who was hired as executive director of Stark Parks.
Benekos previously was the city engineer for North Canton and Massillon and has been the facilities engineer for the Canton Water Department the past four years. His salary as city engineer is $123,235.
Highman said Benekos was “by far” the best candidate of about a half dozen applicants. The current market for engineers is challenging, he added, but Benekos has the experience to lead the department and mentor potential successors.
“We’re very fortunate to have it work out this way,” Highman said.
‘Justice for James’
Several people attended the council meeting to decry the city’s response to the fatal police shooting of James Williams.
Williams, 46, was shot and killed by Canton officer Robert Huber on Jan. 1 while Williams was firing an AR-15 into the air from his fenced-in patio.
Nine people who spoke during the council’s public speaking period referenced the shooting and called for accountability and transparency.
His wife Marquetta Williams read a list of demands, which included the release of 911 calls for shots fired on New Year’s Eve, the firing of the officer, and the return of her home security cameras. She ended with a refrain repeated throughout the evening, “Justice for James.”
Many of the people present then walked out shouting “Justice for James” and other remarks as the council proceeded to vote on a resolution that commended Police Chief Jack Angelo on his retirement and service to the city.