Tuesday, September 12, 2006

North Canton Council Indecision on Application for State GrantsFor City Infrastructure Improvements Is Unreasonable

Prepared Comments Made to
September 11, 2006

It is apparent to me and I believe to anyone else who has followed the North Canton Council debate to apply or not apply for state grants over the last few weeks that this body has taken leave of its senses.

The lengthy discussions by this body have been on-going at no less than two Council of the Whole meetings and one regular council meeting over the last three weeks. The Repository’s report for North Canton City Council business for the last two weeks reads like the movie Groundhog Day.

The first report covering the August 28, 2006, North Canton City Council meeting was titled “N. Canton Council debates applying for state grants.” Two weeks later, The Repository report for the September 5, 2006, meeting was titled “North Canton still debates applying for state money.”

Council first began discussions on this issue at its Council of the Whole meeting on August 21, 2006. The Repository briefly reported that council wanted more information about the projects.

What information Councilmember Magel or Councilmember DeOrio were looking for is beyond me.

This was a simple request for authorization to apply for grants from the State of Ohio through the Ohio Public Works Commission for infrastructure improvements that the city can ill afford to do itself.

Without the assistance of grant funds for the 2007 Joint City/County Paving Project, many streets would go unpaved. Without the assistance of grant funds for the East Maple Street Safety Improvements Project, the city would be hard-pressed to accomplish the needed safety improvements. Without the assistance of no-interest loans, the city would have to bear a greater financial burden of replacing aging water mains in preparation for future road improvements to Applegrove Road.

How much clearer does this request have to be to each of you city leaders? If you cannot comprehend that fact, then maybe one should find other ways in which to pass the time than at city hall on Monday evenings.

I would like to ask everyone here on this council, what is there to debate? This is FREE money, simply for the asking.

Is this typical North Canton politics? What is to be gained with these kinds of political games?

And if it is not games, the only thing that comes to mind is stupidity!

These are grants made available by the state to communities for infrastructure improvements. An 80/20 match with the local communities paying only 20 percent of the project cost.

How can you go wrong? How much more information do you need? City Engineer Jim Benekos spelled everything out for you publicly and the information was in your packet.

The grant for the Joint City/County Paving project would allow for the paving of many streets throughout the city, for a fraction of the project’s estimated $1.3 million cost. North Canton taxpayers would receive a 10 to 1 return for the expenditure of their tax dollars with the award of grants from the Ohio Public Works Commission.

Where can you go wrong? Repeated comments from certain members of council that not enough information was made available to council are not the least bit valid.

The grant for the East Maple Street Safety Improvements would allow for safety improvements on a major east/west corridor that runs between Washington Square and Walsh University. Here again, grant funds would result in significant savings to taxpayers, improved traffic flow and safety for pedestrians.

Where can you go wrong? Repeated comments from certain members of council that not enough information was made available to council are not the least bit valid.

I believe it was very sad that Walsh University President Richard Jusseaume had to appear before this council last week to ask this body to reconsider its position not to apply for state infrastructure funds for the East Maple Street Safety Improvement project.

City Engineer Jim Benekos pointed out in his request to council for permission to apply for state grants that there was no commitment, no cost, no anything. Mr. Benekos simply asked that he be allowed to apply for state assistance to fund projects that will make this city a better place.

Mr. Benekos knows the smart thing to do is to take advantage of state resources designed to help communities make needed infrastructure improvements. Mr. Benekos simply wanted North Canton to compete for its share of FREE money from the state that undoubtedly would benefit this city and its residents.

For council, and in particular, council members Magel, DeOrio and Repace, I do not know on whose behalf you are speaking when you debate, delay and question ad nauseam anyone’s efforts to improve this city through grants from the state.

If you think this is your fifteen minutes of fame to exercise your power plays and showboat, I can only say that it exactly what it looks like.

The sad thing about all of this is that you have the balance of this council sitting up there seemingly buying into this mindless debate with no one fighting to make North Canton better.

For a better future for North Canton and its residents, this council must do better than this!

Thank you
Chuck Osborne
City of North Canton