Friday, November 26, 2010


The SCPR has been around to quite a number of Stark County-based township trustee offices over recent years.  Of all The Report has had contact with, the Nimishillen trustees, immediate past and present, appear to be among the most troubled in terms of how they function.

Many thought that when Trustee Todd Bosley left in January, 2007, Nimishillen's troubles were over.  Bosley and Trustee Goffus did not get along and when Trustees Lisa Shafer and Mike Lynch appointed Allen Gress to replace Bosley (Gress was sworn in on January11, 2007), many thought that the three would work harmoniously together.

But it appears very few are thinking that now.

So how is it that the three have fallen into disharmony?

Well, it is kind of like in a team sport when the players fail to figure out that there is no "I" in the word team.

Who suffers when trustees cannot get along and/or make poor decisions?

Of course, it is the taxpaying citizens.

It is appearing more and more that Nimishillen trustees (not the current board) made a financially unsustainable decision when they decided to build and equip Fire Station #3.  The Report hears that about $1 million was financed to put the fire and dispatch facility together.  With Stark County making steady progress on putting together a countywide emergency call receiving, dispatch and radio operation, it is hard to see how Nimshillen is going to keep its customers so as to generate sufficient revenue to be able to pay what Gress tells The Report says is about $750,000 remaining on the station's capital debt.

Since the Fire Station #3 decision, matters have only gotten worse for the trustees.

There have been a number of employee issues the latest being the firing of a fireman.  A firing over which the trustees were divided.  Gress against the firing.  Shafer, and Lynch for it.

One of the easier tax issues for local governments to pass is road maintenance issues.  However, Nimishillen Township trustees to a sound beating on an issue earlier this month.  Does this mean that Nimishillen voters have lost confidence in the trustees?

Another problem among the current set of trustees is what to do about neighborhood allegations that noise and customer conduct has gotten out of hand at a neighborhood bar known as the Carriage House.

When the SCPR last wrote (September 23, 2010) about the battle between Mike Ritchie, one of the owners of Precision Holdings, LLC (Bob King being the other owner) which operates a bar in Nimishillen Township doing business as Carriage House (hereinafter referred to as "Carriage House" or "Bar") The Report referred to an argument made by Nimishillen Trustee Allen Gress in opposition to the Bar's petition to vacate an alleyway that intersects Bar property as being silly.

At the September 22nd Stark County commissioner hearing on whether or not to vacate the alley, Trustees Gress and Shafter appeared on different sides of the issue.

The argument by Gress?

If the alleyway was not vacated, then it remains a public way and therefore makes it more difficult for the Bar to hold concerts outside.  Ohio law does not permit serving alcohol on a public right-of-way.   Moreover, Stark County commissioners somehow - according to Gress - had an obligation to find for the trustees and vote not to vacate the alleyway because governments need to support governments (this is the silly part) and keeping the alleyway a public street was the only way that Nimishillen trustee could control the problems that trustees and neighboring citizens allege to be emanating from the Bar.

The citizen allegations have been going on since Richie and King agreed to purchase the bar under land contract about two years ago and initiating outside concerts.

Back on  September 22nd, the commissioners asked the two sides to take 60 days to try to work out a compromise.  And they tried.  Carriage House did have an easement surveyed so that next door neighbor  Mathie could get her vehicles in and out of her garage.  But she was unwilling to accept an easement as a solution.  So it was back to hearing and decision time.

But before the hearing resumed, acrimony among the trustees surfaced at the trustees' October 28th meeting, to wit:
A resolution to close the alley [Honey Alley] offered by Trustee Allen Gress brought an angry response from Trustee President Mike Lynch. Lynch said that the action could result in the township becoming involved in a civil suit.  (David Scheurer - The Repository)
On Wednesday past (November 25th),  the commissioners did refuse to vacate the alleyway, but on a standard of law - public convenience and welfare -  not on Gress's "silly" government supporting government argument. 

The SCPR mentions the Gress's "silly" argument again only because Gress himself brought it up at the commissioners' meeting of the 25th (see the video posted below).  However, Gress, at the meeting of the 25th, misrepresented the scope of The Report's "silly" attribution in the September 23rd blog to include the Nimishillen citizens attending and speaking out at the hearing of September 22nd.

Not so!

Here is exactly what The Report wrote, in part, on September 23rd:
Gress looked pretty silly to the SCPR in his presentation. (meaning the "government supporting government" argument)  Mathie [the next door neighbor to the Carriage House] presented very effectively. (emphasis added)
In making his "silly" argument, The Report believes that Gress ran the risk of jeopardizing the effectiveness of the telling criticism coming from Bar area residents present at the hearing who were having a obvious effect on commissioners.  In effect, The Report's take on Gress's "government supporting government" plea as being a bailout request.

For two years Township trustees have not been able to broker a resolution of the problem, so Gress's solution is to punt to the commissioners?  With Trustee Shafer standing up for Carriage House at the initial commissioner hearing and Lynch lashing out against Gress on October 28th, is his appeal to the commissioners for "government to support government" a case of Gress trying to show up the other two trustees?

The Report believes that Commissioner Ferguson was all set to vote "yes" on the road vacate, but relented in the face of the powerful points being made by the people who actually live in the vicinity of the Bar.

The SCPR believes that the county commissioners listened intently to their complaints made at Wednesday's hearing  about the noise made at outdoor concerts (said to be two a year) being unbearable, that some bar patrons were conducting themselves in an unseemly manner out in the surrounding neighborhood, that more customers came to the Bar to attend concert events than was permitted by the Bar's occupancy permit, that parking on the Bar's property was insufficient to house all the vehicles of the patrons and, for one adjoining neighbor (Kellie Mathie), - the inability to get her vehicle in and out of her garage.

So with the commissioners denying the petition to vacate, is the matter dead?

No, is the SCPR's read of  Carriage House attorney Robert Soles and his client Mike Ritchie.  An appeal to the Stark County Court of Common Pleas seems likely.

Indications are, that in the meantime, Carriage House can and will continue to hold its outside concerts notwithstanding the inconvenience of having to deal with the public right-of-way running through the Bar property that is Allen Gress's grand solution to the problem.

If the concerts continue and if the Township finds itself in the middle of a lawsuit (Lynch's concern), what will Gress come up with next? 

More silliness?

Here is a video of highlights the exchange between Commissioner Ferguson and Trustees Gress and Lynch.

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