Guest Column: Out with the Old, In with the New (Political)
October 11, 2018 by Submitted

Russell Residents Tells Why She Will for Vote Citizens Park District Levy and Against 1545 Park District Levy

One year ago, Russell Township voters overwhelmingly (62 percent) approved the formation of a new township park district in exasperation over the actions of park commissioners appointed by the probate court judge.

These actions included the threatened sale of park land on Dines Road to a private buyer, delays in the long-planned purchase of the Modroo property and extraordinary and unnecessary legal expenditures.

So now, Russell Township has two park districts and Russell voters will see two levies on the November ballot. I fear this will be confusing.

I have actively followed the situation in Russell Township parks. I’ll try to clear up some confusion by talking about how I intend to vote.

I plan to vote for the Russell Township Citizens Park District (511) 0.25-mill levy. I will not vote for the Russell Township Park District (1545) 0.50-mill levy.

Last year, we voted to form the Citizens Park District because Russell residents wanted local control over ALL township parks. Realizing the goal of local control over all of our parks will take time, the Citizens Park District will work toward unifying the two park districts into one. Meanwhile, they will preserve green space in Russell.

The Citizens Park District needs a small amount of funding to begin to function, to be available to acquire new park lands by donation or purchase, and to be ready for the transfer of assets from the old park district. The need for start up funding is clear.

Geauga County reviewed the old Russell Township Park District’s budget in August and failed to pass it. This means that even if their levy passes, they will lose at least one year of collection on it, and will not have funds available from the levy for two years. They’ve had to hire an accountant to straighten out discrepancies in their budget, so it is unclear how much money they have in their various accounts.

The latest news is that they are short on operating funds, but their levy will not help.

For the record, the Chairman of the Russell Township Park District, Scott Wayt, is an employee of the probate court. I wonder how he can make independent decisions about our parks when his livelihood depends upon the will of the probate court.

The current board, although clearly doing their best, have made some rookie mistakes, including poorly planned and unsupervised tree cutting at Russell Uplands. I have difficulty trusting this inexperienced group of commissioners with additional funds.

In time, when things have settled in Russell and we have one park district again, we can think about whether that park district needs more funding to do its job properly. For now, I support minimal funding of the Citizens Park District to move us toward the goal of one, locally controlled park district.

Please vote YES on Issue 4.

Shelley Chernin
Russell Township