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With the strike of the clock at midnight, 2016 became our past and 2017 becomes our future.
And the nation will watch what the future brings under a new president, Donald Trump. Trump, who received the Republican nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland earlier this summer, won over Democratic challenger Hilary Clinton. Trump garnered the necessary electoral votes while Clinton won the popular vote in an extended contentious period of campaigning.
City of Munroe Falls
For the city of Munroe Falls, 2016 saw changes in its leadership, starting with Mayor James Armstrong, who won election to the post in November 2015 over incumbent Frank Larson. Joining his cabinet during the year were Thomas Kostoff as law director; Karen Reynolds as finance director; and Jerry Hughes as police chief. City Council had two new members after the November 2015 election -- Chris Ritzinger and Jenny Markovich.
The financial well-being of the city was a challenge for the administration and prompted the placing of three different issues on the ballot for November 2016. One would have added .25 percent to the 2 percent income tax; another sought approval of a 2.8-mill levy for funds for the police department; and the third was a 2-mill capital improvement levy. Voters rejected the first two tax issues but did give a thumbs-up to funding capital improvements.
Mulberry Gardens Assisted Living started construction on a 64-suite memory care facility on Route 91 at the Steeplechase entrance. The project represents a $10 million investment and looks to provide 70 new jobs. SGS Tool Co. was acquired by a Japanese firm, but company officials stated the headquarters and all its associates would remain with the new company. Thompson Electric had a 7,000-square-foot expansion approved. And the Cornerstone Market and Deli reopened with a new building at its same Route 91 location, after a 2015 fire destroyed the business.
Looking ahead to 2017, Armstrong has stated the loss of revenue the two failed levies would have provided means struggles in coming up with the city's budget for the new year, with a definite need to look at department cuts and elimination of services.
"It is my wish for the City of Munroe Falls that we will be able to remedy our financial problems so we can focus on improving city services, repairing and repaving our streets, and addressing our storm water problems," Armstrong told the Stow Sentry. "The City will be in a better position to fund future road projects thanks to the passage of the capital levy, but the failure to pass the operational levy and the police levy will most likely result in necessary expenditures once again exceeding revenue in 2017.
"Therefore our most important issue is finding and replacing the needed operational revenue since in the past seven years there has been an annual operational deficit in five of those years, the exceptions being 2011 (resident won lottery prize) and 2013 (sold city property)," he added..
City of Stow
Then-Mayor Sara Drew and all seven members of City Council were re-elected to their posts in the November 2015 election. Drew later became Mayor Sara Kline following her marriage to Rob Kline in March.
Creating a Council of Governments for a regional safety dispatch center is still in the planning stages, with the cities of Tallmadge and Cuyahoga Falls and most recently, the Summit County Sheriff's Office, looking to be involved. Officials have said state mandates have prompted the talks of consolidation, as well as the projected cost savings.
Stormwater continued to be a focal issue for the city, with an increase in stormwater fees to help fund the many projects planned. At its last meeting in December, Stow City Council voted to contribute $13,000 to the stormwater management fund, with the monies coming from City Council's contingency fund.
Economic development was also a focus of the city's administration. A proposed Meijer store, to be located at the Stow-Kent Shopping Center on Route 59, met some delays but plans are still in place to go ahead with the project, according to city officials. The year saw more development and plans for the Seasons Road area.
MACTac, which closed its Stow plant in 2014 but left its headquarters at its Route 91 site, was sold to a Toyko-based company. And Wrayco on Seasons Road announced it would be closing in 2017, with almost 80 employees losing their jobs.
The city also began work on its Comprehensive Plan with one community meeting in September and another planned for this month. The plan is a guideline for the long-range development of the city.
The Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library purchased nearby property and had plans to add additional parking approved. The library plans to expand its available parking from 119 to 150 spaces, using the newly acquired site and reconfiguring the present lot.
Stow Police, working with the Community Health Center, developed the Operation Second Chance program, designed to focus on treatment and not jail for area opiate addicts, in an effort to combat the growing epidemic.
Stow Firefighter Sandy Ray was named Ohio Fire Prevention Educator of the Year.
"I believe the most important issues facing Stow in 2017 will be merging dispatch operations, continuing efforts to attract and retain business (including the former MacTac and Wrayco buildings) and ensuring we have a welcoming community that offers a safe place for all our residents," said Kline. "I hope all residents accept my sincere wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year and a year filled with love and warmth. Happy 2017!"
The Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools Board of Education gained three new members through the November 2015 election: David Licate, Kelly Toppin and Lisa Johnson-Bowers. The district also went to the voters for its financial needs, asking for a 1.99-mill continuing tax levy for permanent improvement funding. Voters in both communities approved the tax issue, giving the district $1.8 million annually to repair, update and maintain district buildings and property.
The state report cards provided mixed results for the schools, with an initial release described as "awesome" by Superintendent Tom Bratten. And while releases at the beginning of the year showed good scores, the district's grades dropped with the September release of additional categories.
The Board of Education decided against moving its central offices from the Allen Road site to Stow City Hall after several discussions and a tour of the proposed area.
A new community program, Bulldog Bags Inc., kicked off in January aimed at helping qualified elementary school students by providing a bag of food items for the student to take home the last weekend of each month. Businesses, organizations, churches and community members gave support through monetary and product donations as well as volunteering, and the program was looking to expand.
And in high school sports, the Bulldogs' varsity football team returned to the playoffs, losing in the regional semi-final, and the baseball team almost made it to states, but got stopped at the regional final.
"As a district, our most important focus in 2017 will be to continue to provide a high-quality educational environment that will help our students successfully grow. It's important for us to provide an environment that allows our students to excel within the district and in their lives after graduation," said Bratten.."We will accomplish this by continuing to provide excellent instruction, the latest technology and safe facilities.
"We will also focus our efforts on continuing to develop our master facilities plan for the district. Our residents blessed the district by passing the Permanent Improvement levy in November, and we now have the ability to take care of important issues without depleting our general fund," he shared. "Our district will begin to make needed updates to our buildings, including significant structural repairs. We will address items in order of safety and security first, then we will address items of greatest need to improve the academic and extracurricular opportunities for our staff and students.
"I hope everyone has the opportunity to take the time throughout the new year to notice the blessings that we are given every day. Often, these blessings are taken for granted. It's the little things throughout the year that make life interesting and inspiring, yet we often forget to reflect and give thanks for those blessings," he added. "My wish is that the new year brings our residents physical, mental and emotional health. I hope everyone has a wonderful new year!"
those we've lost
2016 saw the Stow safety forces family lose three beloved members in 2016. Retired Stow Police Chief Louis A. Dirker lost his battle to cancer in February at the age of 67. He served as Stow's chief from 2003 to his retirement in 2014. Previously he had served as the Cuyahoga Falls police chief from 1999 to 2001.
His family planned the Louis A. Dirker Memorial Run to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and its inaugural event in August raised more than $10,000. The street behind Stow City Hall was renamed Louis A. Dirker Boulevard and the signage was unveiled prior to the run.
Also in February, retired Stow Fire Chief Robert Dauchy died at the age of 71. He had joined the Stow Fire Department in 1973 and became chief in 1982, retiring in 1999. Chief Dauchy was involved in starting a full-fledged Emergency Medical Service in Stow with the hiring of the city's first 12 paramedics in 1990. He was also involved in the planning of the construction of the city's Safety Center.
And in October, Stow Police mourned the loss of 8-year-old K-9 Colt, the oldest of the city's three K-9s and the first to die while still on active duty. Colt, known as the "People's Dog," had been diagnosed just a couple days earlier with leukemia, according to his handler and partner, Sgt. Steve Miller.
The school district lost a former principal at Echo Hills Elementary, Susan Martucci, who died in April.
She started her career with the district as a teacher for 18 years and then as principal for 17, retiring in 2012.
And the county lost its leader when County Executive Russ Pry died in August. County Council President Ilene Shapiro served as county executive in the interim and was elected to the post in November.