SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — Summit County Leader Ilene Shapiro shared her fourth county state address Wednesday at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron.
At the event, hosted by the Akron Press Club, Shapiro shared the county’s recent accomplishments and outlined plans his office is developing in the areas of public safety, economic development and internet access.
CARES Act Funding
The county has taken a “tactical approach” to meeting critical community needs during the pandemic, Shapiro said. Early progress included a drive for personal protective equipment and the creation of a $1.5 million small business grant fund. Shortly thereafter, in April 2020, the county received $94 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) funding, Shapiro said.
“Given the economic uncertainty that accompanies anything Covid has touched, this money has provided a lifeline to our community,” Shapiro said in the speech. “But, the money came with strings attached – only eight months to spend it and federal guidelines on how the funds should be used have been slow to develop. My administration could have seen that as an obstacle. Instead, we chose to move forward with determination and lightning speed. Our local investments needed to have clear guidelines, open application periods, review processes and auditing standards. We immediately got to work on all of this and began reaching out to partner agencies across the county to help us. »
Here’s how the funding has helped so far:
- $12 million in local small business grants to over 3,000 small businesses
- $4 million in grants for nonprofits and arts organizations
- $7 million in reopening or technology funds for Summit County’s 17 public school districts
- $22 million in direct support to 31 communities, the University of Akron and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office for first responder services
- $16.7 million in emergency assistance for rent, mortgage and utilities
In his speech, Shapiro thanked Health Commissioner Donna Skoda for her work helping the county and its residents during the pandemic. She also thanked Summit County Council and its staff for creating and implementing contingency plans and emergency methods during the pandemic. As a result, not a single county employee was fired, according to Shapiro.
In late 2019, Summit County received a settlement from the pharmaceutical industry for its role in the opioid epidemic.
“Selected as a flagship plaintiff, Summit County led the United States in holding big pharma accountable for the plague they inflicted on so many of our residents, our neighbors, our families. In an effort to invest these funds in the most meaningful way, I convened stakeholders to review the reduction plan approved by the Federal Court,” Shapiro said in his speech.
The county, along with Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, Skoda, Barberton Mayor Bill Judge, and Coventry Township Administrator George Beckham, have appointed 17 subject matter experts to the Disaster Reduction Advisory Council. Summit County Opioids. Millions of dollars have been invested in services to help people struggling with opioid use disorder and addiction.
Here’s how the settlement funds have been allocated so far:
- Over $1 million has been invested with the Akron Community Foundation to support organizations that help those in need in the community.
- More than $2 million has been allocated to help drug-dependent pregnant women with services called “Centering” through local health care providers.
- $6 million was used to purchase life-saving drugs for the community from manufacturers.
- $2.5 million was used to fund emergency services that treat addiction as a health crisis.
“With the resources available, the leadership of the ADM Board of Directors, and the support of our community, Summit County is leading the state and the country with a progressive vision in how we treat addiction,” said Shapiro said in the speech.
Noting that there is still work to do, Shapiro shared the county’s plan to create a data platform that “will connect treatment providers, hospitals, the criminal justice system and others to support more effectively residents in crisis”.
The county is in the process of selecting a vendor to build such a platform, according to Shapiro.
Joint 9-1-1 Dispatch Center
In an effort to improve response times and better communicate pre-arrival information to prepare first responders, the county led efforts in 2019 to create a consolidated 9-1-1 dispatch system that includes Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn, Green, Stow, Tallmadge, the University of Akron, and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. The cost savings from consolidation over five years will be nearly $9 million, according to Shapiro.
Now, efforts will be further streamlined with a new 9-1-1 dispatch centre, which is under construction in Tallmadge. The county, Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn, Stow and Tallmadge will jointly own and operate the center. The center will help save time and eliminate the need to transfer 9-1-1 calls between participating jurisdictions. The center will also increase communities’ purchasing power for training and resources, including NextGen 9-1-1, which will send text and video to 9-1-1, according to Shapiro.
Public Safety Surveillance Network
The county has worked with the City of Akron, University of Akron and FairlawnGig to launch a public safety monitoring network in neighborhoods south of the university to help students, residents and businesses . The network will first launch as a two-year pilot program that will monitor the network, communicate with area businesses and residents, collect data to validate the impact of the project, and report on the results of the project.
The county has partnered with FairlawnGig to launch a virtual courtroom platform with the Court of Common Pleas, Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office and Clerk’s Office. The virtual courtroom eliminates the need for deputies to transport inmates to and from the courthouse, increasing public safety and reducing costs, according to Shapiro.
Smartphone monitoring of criminal offenders on probation
The county has invested in Outreach Smartphone Monitoring for criminal offenders on probation. The technology enables real-time video recording and holds offenders accountable while allowing them to keep their jobs, according to Shapiro.
New Jail Case Management System
The county worked with the sheriff’s office to launch a new jail case management system in April. The system streamlines inmate management, personnel and court operations.
Online invoicing system for court-appointed lawyers
The county is working with the Ohio Public Defender’s Office to roll out an online billing system for court-appointed attorneys. The new system will eliminate the processing of thousands of checks, reduce the county’s workload and help lawyers get paid in a timely manner.
New departmental technological platform
Earlier this year, the county transitioned to a new enterprise-wide technology platform, Shapiro said. The platform consolidates and manages key county functions, such as finance, purchasing, human resources, time tracking, scheduling, payroll, and fixed asset management.
Summit County Investment Highlights
Akron has undergone historic redevelopment in recent years, including a redesigned Main Street and the renovation of historic downtown buildings. Now the county is working with the Knight Foundation, the Ohio & Erie Canalway and the city to support the Civic Gateway, which will transform Lock 3 into downtown’s Central Park.
The county’s Department of Sanitary Sewer Services is working to complete a new service center in Firestone Park that will keep jobs in the community, as part of a $36 million investment in Firestone Park.
In Hudson, the county’s Department of Sanitary Sewer Services and the Environmental Protection Agency are working with the city on a $7.5 million project to bring water and sewer services to the peninsula. The project is expected to alleviate economic development and environmental protection issues in the village. The county is also working with Boston Township to repair roads and expand sewer infrastructure.
$2 Million Commercial Energy Efficiency Loan Fund
Shapiro announced today that the county is working with the Summit County Development Finance Authority to launch a $2 million commercial energy efficiency loan fund. The fund will provide business loans for energy efficiency improvements.
Access to Capital Program for Minority Entrepreneurs
After forming the county’s first Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, it became clear that the county needed to do more to help minority-owned businesses grow. As a result, the Minority Entrepreneur Access to Capital Program was created, according to Shapiro. The program offers interest-free working capital loans, underwriting for bonding requirements, and business services provided by Urban League of Akron. In the two years since the program’s launch, participants have secured 169 new contracts totaling $2.8 million in revenue.
“This is truly a life-changing program that helps businesses grow and become self-sufficient. This all stems from investments from the County and the City of Akron at $1.4 million and $500,000, respectively. This is yet another example of how collaborative and creative work can drive tangible results,” Shapiro said in the speech.
Creation of a rainfed district
After decades of stalling, funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) enabled the Summit County Engineer’s Office to create a stormwater district. The $19 million initiative includes the city of Reminderville, the county’s nine townships and three villages.
To view the live stream from Shapiro’s address, visit the event’s website.
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