MEDINA — Township trustees Lynda Bowers and Michael Costello addressed concerns Tuesday about Lafayette receiving a donation from Medina County of 8 1/2 acres of land for a new fire station.
“Commissioners know that Lafayette, unlike any other township, is disproportionately impacted by county facilities,” Bowers said at Tuesday’s county commissioners meeting. “My job is to protect the taxpayers of Lafayette Township. On this issue of fairness, this one is easy.”
Bowers said the county has owned large tracts of land in Lafayette Township since the mid-1800s. She said there are several county buildings in Lafayette, covering about 10 percent of all the land in the township.
“During the comprehensive planning process, it was determined that all of this tax-exempt property, along with county parkland in the township, accounts for about 10 percent of the township — all of which receives township services without contributing to the tax base,” Bowers said.
She said township firefighters and EMS respond to an average of about 700 calls a year.
“Not surprising, a large number of the ambulance calls are from the (Medina) County Home,” Bowers said.
“Please, please don’t think this is a complaint,” Bowers told commissioners. “It is not. These are just the simple facts.”
Bowers said about 15 years ago, commissioners decided to develop about 60 acres of the county home’s farmland into what became Innovation Park. The plan was to develop the land, but other than the building of the Medina County University Center, nothing else has happened.
“(If it was) successful, (it) would contribute to the tax base, providing much-needed jobs along with some tax relief to Lafayette property owners,” Bowers said.
“Commissioner (Pat) Geissman, I know you weren’t convinced it was a good idea. Maybe you were right, but here we are.”
Geissman was a commissioner when the Innovation Park idea was developed. Since then, SVN International Corp. has been retained by commissioners and the Medina County Port Authority to market the 60.42 acres of available land.
Geissman said Tuesday she believes the location of Innovation Park at Lake Road and state Route 162 is not close enough to major highways to lure developers.
“At least now we’re using a parcel of that now, a little bit of it, for a very good purpose in Medina County,” she said, referring to the plan for a new $3.4 million Lafayette fire station.
The township is still in the design stage and no date is set to break ground.
Township voters approved a 2.5-mill levy last November that will generate about $4 million over 15 years to pay for the station’s construction.
Earlier this year, the Port Authority approved a resolution to negotiate the transfer of land for the station to the township.
“The township is bearing the cost of surveys, splits, filing for the replat, etc.,” Bowers said. “I am not aware of any actual cost to the county regarding the proposed fire station site that the township is not bearing.”
Other county properties in the township:
- Medina County Highway Engineer’s facility;
- Medina County Soil & Water Conservation District;
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service;
- Medina County Public Transit;
- Medina County Animal Shelter;
- Buckeye Woods Park, a county park.
Firefighting, EMS training
One perk of having the fire station at Innovation Park is a possible “symbiotic relationship” with the University Center, Commissioner Bill Hutson said, which is affiliated with the University of Akron.
“Lafayette has spent years very carefully considering all aspects of our proposed safety services facility and how it would be used,” she said.
She said programs for paramedics and training could be combined with the University Center’s operations, creating “the potential to keep much of the hundreds of thousands of training dollars inside the county.”
“Some of the private colleges are getting into fire and EMS training and the costs are going through the roof,” Trustee Costello said. “By doing a cooperative effort between Lafayette Township and the University of Akron, we can provide all the equipment they would need, including fire apparatus, all the tools they would need and a fire tower.”
He called it “dual-operation training. It would be a strong win-win for not only the township, but the rest of the county.”
Bowers said she believes the University Center is an asset to the county.
“If you follow its success, you know that year after year, enrollment has far exceeded expectations in traditional, specialized training and life-long (teaching of) students.”
The center has programs that result in two- and four-year degrees.
Commissioners approved a $5 license plate fee for motor vehicle registrations in mostly unincorporated areas in Medina County. It will raise about $487,000 for the Medina County Engineering Department to help maintain roads, bridges and culverts.
The fee will be charged to residents in the villages of Gloria Glens Park, Westfield Center, Spencer, Chippewa Lake and Creston, and the townships of Brunswick Hills, Chatham, Granger, Guilford, Harrisville, Hinckley, Homer, Lafayette, Litchfield, Liverpool, Medina, Montville, Sharon, Spencer, Wadsworth, Westfield and York.
The statewide registration fee is $34.50, but counties, municipalities and townships have the authority to levy their own permissive tax up to $54.50. Several municipalities — Brunswick Medina, Wadsworth, Lodi and Seville — already are at $54.50, so Tuesday’s hike by the county will not affect them.
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.