BARBERTON: Mayor Bill Judge recapped 2012 and emphasized projects for 2013 and years to come in his State of the City speech Tuesday night, focusing on economic development and revitalization, flood mitigation and addressing quality of life issues.
The Moving Ohio Forward project, locally known as Project Impact Phase II, began in Barberton last year, razing blighted homes and tackling redevelopment. The city tore down and abated nearly 74 structures in 2012 as part of the demolition phase, which ends this year.
Judge rolled out the city’s plan to continue this redevelopment and revitalization with the Barberton Forward, Neighborhoods First plan for 2013.
“Barberton Forward, Neighborhoods First will affect many quality of life issues facing our residents and help stabilize our neighborhoods,” he said. “It is essential that this program is instituted for the future and sustainability of our neighborhoods. Community is at the heart of this program.”
With the $1.3 million from the state and help from Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood Development Services, Manor Care, the Barberton Community Foundation, Alcoa and many other groups, the program will continue demolition and begin to rehab homes, redevelop, enhance and focus on health and wellness in the community.
Blighted homes will see roof and siding repairs, new paint, weatherization; the city’s land bank will work to acquire vacant land for new housing, commercial/industrial sites, green space and other uses; and the city will provide energy efficient light bulbs, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to homes, as well as resource guides.
“They say that your home is the single greatest investment. Let’s take back our neighborhoods,” Judge said. “We are reinvesting in our residents, and we are reinvesting in our neighborhoods.”
The city also plans to institute suicide and depression programs, wellness activities for residents and will roll out a comprehensive website for senior citizens this summer.
The website will feature information on health and aging, local events, links to local services and resources, and will be available from home, at libraries, senior centers and other organizations.
Judge also touched on the new elementary and middle schools that opened last year in Barberton, as well as the Stark State College branch campus, which is the first and only campus in Summit County for Stark State.
“We may not all agree with the way schools are funded, but Columbus has set the rules and we have to use the tools that they have supplied,” he said. “A community is only as strong as its school system.”
Other developments in 2012 included the opening of the towpath extension, expansion of Summa Barberton Hospital, expansion of Alcoa and the renovation of the former armory. Additions downtown included Fish Window Cleaning, Aaron’s Furniture and Leasing, US Renal Care, among others.
The joint dispatch center in Norton was also established in 2012, thanks to the collaborated efforts of Police Chief Vince Morber, Fire Chief Kim Baldwin, Safety Director Marta Savula, the IT Department and counterparts from the city of Norton and Copley Township.
“With all of our efforts, the City of Barberton continues to face difficult economic times,” Judge said. “Just as our schools are under attack by cuts and funding, so are municipalities. Cuts in federal and state funding disallow discretionary dollars needed for projects and programs.”
Despite cuts, the city moved forward, reducing the 2012 budget from 2011 by 14 percent, Judge said. The city also applied for more than $2.4 million in grants last year.
The city teamed up with Alcoa, Lake Anna YMCA and Barberton schools in 2012 to raise more than $12,000, donated to 15 local nonprofits.
A flood action community was created last year to tackle the flooding problems that have migrated into Barberton. The Streets, Water and Planning departments as well as first responders and community members worked to purchase property for flood mitigation, conduct engineering studies on infrastructure improvements and created legislation and programs to help residents with sewer backups.
“This is the first time ever we approached the subject of flooding from a regional perspective,” Judge said. “We’re discussing with neighborhood communities of the establishment of a watershed district.”
Judge announced a Job and Resource Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 23 at the Active Adult Center. Employers and employment resources will be available to help those who are searching for employment or the resources necessary to better their skills.