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The Suburbanite
  • Council changes ballot language of parks levy

  • Ohio Secretary of State said this month the money could not be used for two community centers

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  • The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office said this month that revenue from a proposed 4-mill, three-year parks levy can’t be used for capital repairs at two community centers because they are not owned by the Canton Park Commission.
    After a lengthy discussion Monday, City Council voted 9-2 to correct ballot language that will appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. The city will attempt to transfer the facilities to the Park Commission.
    “At this point now it’s full-steam ahead with the campaign to let the citizens know what we are asking them to approve,” Parks Director Derek Gordon said.
    Council voted in February to place the 4-mill levy on the general election ballot in hopes the money could be used, in part, for “bricks and mortar” repairs at the J. Babe Stearn Community Center, 2628 13th St. SW, and the Edward L. Coleman Southeast Community Center, 1400 Sherrick Road SE.
    The Canton Park Commission does not own either facility and therefore cannot spend money on their repairs, the Secretary of State’s Office determined. Law Director Joseph Martuccio said the Stark County Board of Elections gave informal approval to the ballot language earlier this year, but that the city did not receive the state’s differing opinion until a few weeks ago. Martuccio apologized to Park Commission members and all others who have planned the levy campaign.
    Council had other options to deal with the issue Monday, including asking for a smaller, 3-mill levy, or pulling the issue from the ballot altogether. Time was a factor. The deadline to file an issue with the elections board is Aug. 7. Pulling the issue from the ballot altogether would have set the issue back an entire year because parks levies can only appear on the general election ballot.
    Council chose to stick with the 4-mill levy, but change some of the ballot language. Council members Edmond Mack, D-8, and Mary Cirelli, D-at-large, voted against amending the issue. Councilman Gary Hawk, D-1, was absent Monday because he was attending a funeral.
    Mayor William J. Healy II called the issue a “technicality” that can be resolved if the city transfers ownership of the community centers to the Park Commission. The J. Babe Stearn Community Center board would have to sign off on the transfer. It leases the building from the city.
    Healy said the goal remains the same — to merge the Park Commission with the Canton Joint Recreation District when the district’s existing levy expires in 2016. At that time, the entities would explore a merger that includes a joint levy.
    “Nothing changed in the overall plan of merging the parks and recreation and rec centers to create a one-stop shop and improve the recreational park services for the city of Canton,” Healy said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Andy Black, president of the Park Commission, said the commission would be willing to take ownership so long as the proper funding sources are in place. Black said he was excited to move forward.
    “I’m looking forward to the campaign and to actually work with some funds to bring this community recreation together,” he said.
    Reach Matthew at 330-580-8527 or matthew.rink@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @mrinkREP