Sunday, September 11, 2011


The clock tower that adorns the Stark County courthouse in one beautiful structure.  And, on the outside, majesty and grandeur are apt descriptions of the edifice.

Built as the third Stark County courthouse (built in 1895), the angels on the top of the tower (before the city skyline obscured the view) as "Trumpeters of Justice" (ref:  OJC Court Spotlight) beckoned and called to Stark Countians well beyond the immediate vicinity of the courthouse itself:  to settle their disputes within its walls.

Nearly a hundred years later (1992), county government decided at the cost of $11 million) to rehabilitate the aging structure.  And, in 1995, it was rededicated.

Now word comes down that while the outside of the clock tower looks magnificent, the inside is following apart and in need of serious repair.   Efforts are under way to do the needed repairs.

In an ironical sense of the situation with county finances, the commissioners are having to dip into the severely depleted county's capital fund to find the nearly $40,000 needed (the Stark County Common Pleas Court judges have set aside $7,300 for window repairs) for the internal clock town repairs.  The SCPR's take on the health of the capital repair fund is that all that remains is money to cover "unplanned for" repairs.

Here is a summary video of the discussion that took place between commissioners and Court administrator Marc Warner and Stark County Engineer Joe Underwood about the need for repairs.

Again, in an ironical sense, the outside/inside contrast of the clock tower is - in the opinion of The Report - symbolic of the financial condition of county government itself.

Stark County government in terms of its ability to deal with the needs of Stark Countians has certainly seen better days.

The SCPR takes the position that one of the reasons that Stark County is in such dire condition today is because of the poor leadership it has had in modern times.  And, as readers of this blog know, The Report is into naming names of those local officials (boards of education, township trustees, village, city and county officials) who have presided over and, in some instances, continue to preside over the deterioration of the quality of Stark County local government.

Stark County faces an immediate financial crisis that contemporary Stark Countians have not seen the likes of if the proposed 1/2 cent sales tax fails this November.  Cuts of as much as 40% of the 2011 appropriation for some county departments could be in the offing in the tax issue fails.  The sheriff's department and the county prosecutor function stand to be gutted.

Even if the issue passes, county finances will be severely curtailed for the foreseeable future and such things as economic development and repairing the Stark County ditching system will go unattended too.

A side note on the ditching situation.  This is a topic on which yours truly and Commissioner Tom Bernabei have differences.  He says that if the 1/2% issue passes, he is committed (beginning in 2013) - if he remains a commissioner (his current term expires 12/31/2012) - to putting $1 million into ditch repairs so as to get a handle on Stark's flooding problem (which, it is estimated, would take $70 million or so to get on top of).  The SCPR does not think that there will be $1 million for ditch repair.  The pressure to allocate to other "more pressing?" needs will be so great, it would be truly amazing for the "non-glitzy" ditch problem to get the promised million.

No disrespect intended, but we all know the proverbial "the way to Hell is lined with good intentions."  The Report believes that Bernabei means well, but he is being totally unrealistic on this count.

For Bernabei's hope to have any reality and, indeed, for a more or less permanent fix of the ditching problem to have any possibility of happening over time, either the current tax issue should have been 1% or the commissioners will have to follow up - assuming the 1/2% passes - with an additional sales tax increase dedicated exclusively to ditch remediation.

It really does make a difference who we elect to local office and Stark Countians need to do much better at selecting better quality officials than we have done in modern times.

In modern times, Stark County county-level leadership has been, let's say, "less than stellar."

Massillon Clerk of Court Johnnie A. Maier, Jr., at loyalist Stark County Democratic Party gatherings when called upon to introduce (now former) county Commissioner Gayle Jackson, extol her as being the greatest Stark County commissioner ever. 

Of course, he just makes the "mere assertion;" he does not provide any list of chapter and verse listing of notable accomplishment.  Why not?  How about:  because they do not exist?

But she has apparently been successful in helping family members Lisa and Shane get appointed jobs within the Stark County local government complex.

The SCPR asked County Administrator Mike Hanke (former managing editor of The Repository) to provide a list of Stark County relatively recent vintage county commissioners.  Here is his list (he cautions that he may have missed a name or two as he is recalling from memory):

1971 -- LaVerne Dale (appointed, for Joe Sommer seat, I think), Norm Sponseller and Robert Freeman
1973 --  (first time it changed): Robert Freeman, Norm Sponseller and Al Creighton
1975 -- Norm Sponseller, Al Creighton and Virgil Musser
1977 -- Virgil Musser, Norm Sponseller and Robert Schirack
1979 -- Norm Sponseller, Virgil Musser and Jerry Patrick
1981 -- Jerry Patrick, Norm Sponseller and Richard Watkins
1983 -- same as '81
1985 -- same
1989 -- Robert Capestrain, Tom Rice and Patty Miller
1991 -- Tom Rice, Patty Miller and Mary Cirelli
1993 -- Mary Cirelli, Gayle Jackson and Don Watkins
1995 -- Gayle Jackson, Don Watkins and John Dougherty
Remains the same until ...
2001 -- John Dougherty, Gayle Jackson and Jane Vignos
2003 Richard Regula, Gayle Jackson, Jane Vignos
2005 -- the same
2007 -- Todd Bosley, Gayle Jackson and Jane Vignos
2007 -- Todd Bosley, Jane Vignos and Tom Harmon
2009 Tom Harmon, Peter Ferguson and Jane Vignos
2010 -- Steve Meeks, Peter Ferguson and Todd Bosley
2011 -- Tom Bernabei, Peter Ferguson and Janet Creighton

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