Tuesday, June 21, 2016







JUNE 16, 2016


4:30 PM



lt came out at the regular June 16, 2016 meeting (this past Thursday) of the Canton Joint Recreation Board (CJRD) that the CJRD has some $850,000, more or less, in revenue surplus to spend before it dissolves into oblivion with the impending (likely about December 31, 2016) merger into the into the new Canton Parks and Recreation Department (CPRC) of Canton city government.

SCPR Note:  Members Peterson and Ross-Freeman were about 30 minutes late to the meeting.

Though a department of Canton government, the CPRC is separate from the city in that it has its own governing body (a commission of three commissioners appointed by the mayor of Canton for three year terms; one appointee each year) and an independent source of revenue in the form of its only 5 mill levy.

After failing in November, 2015, the levy passed in March, 2016 and now the march is on to consolidate the CPRC and the CJRD.

The passed levy was largely the work product of CJRD president J.R. Rinaldi.

On July 19th both the CJRD (at 4:30 p.m.) and the CPRC (at 5:30 p.m.) will be meeting to continue preparations for the merger of the two entities under the authority of the CPRC.

In this Part II of The Stark County Political Report series on the birthing travail that is taking place as the merger of the CJRD into the CPRC with the former Canton Park Commission with three board members appointed by the mayor of Canton picks up a full head of steam.

As far as the SCPR is concerned, one of the more controversial members of the CJRD has been and continues to be Don Peterson, III. 

He and former CJRD president Eric Resnick (now a member of the Canton City Schools Board of Education) created a ruckus when they as members of the CJRD personnel committee hired without prior board approval Canton based attorney Sally Henning to provide legal advice to the CJRD dating back to December, 2014/January, 2015. 

Current CJRD president J.R. Rinaldi roundly criticized Resnick and Peterson at the time for the hiring which was approved by the CJRD after the fact.

Rinaldi and Resnick faced off in 2013 for a CCS BOE seat in a bitterly fought contest which Rinaldi won.  (SCPR blog LINK)

Peterson has been among those CJRD board members (the only other, the SCPR thinks, was Resnick) who pushed hard for the CJRD to be the surviving entity in the-then in talking stages merger (2014).  

As seen in the this video, Peterson in his contribution to the discussion of the future relationship of the CPRC and the CCS, points out:  had his model of parks and recreation merger been adopted (three members of the board appointed by the mayor; two members by the CCS-BOE), there would be a formal role for the schools in the administration of the merged unit.

It also appears to the SCPR that Sally Henning and Sharon Fladen (an attorney who Henning hired to work on CJRD matters) were heavily involved in advocating that the CJRD and its funding source (a larger tax base inasmuch as the district is composed of the Canton City Schools' tax base footprint) as the "makes sense" lead in the proposed merger.

Matt Rink, now editorial page editor of The Canton Repository wrote (as a then reporter for The Rep) a thoroughgoing piece on the controversy that SCPR blog readers out to read.  (LINK)  (also, see SCPR blogs on the topic:  LINK 1, LINK 2, LINK 3).

Peterson came in late to the CJRD regular monthly meeting last Thursday evening. 

Perhaps he was getting "all his ducks line up in a row" prior the gracing the meeting as he asked that the board to continue a discussion regarding the CJRD purchasing the former Canton Jewish Center (CJC) which he said was brought up at the May meeting of the CJRD. (LINK)

The center located at 2631 Harvard Ave., NW opened in 1964.

The proposal presented was the feasibility of purchasing the CJC and its 14 or so acres for somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million (with a State of Ohio low interest loan that state Rep. Kirk Schuring told him "might" be available).

A forty-two minute discussion ensued, to wit:

Peterson did specify what portion of the money remaining in CJRD coffers after spending for this year's operation (thought to be about $850,000) would be drained off to complete such a purchase.

Board president J.R. Rinaldi came prepared with a preliminary written outline of what to do with the $850,000 or so in surplus funds.  In the meeting, assertions were made that previous CJRD boards had failed to "along the way" to make needed capital improvements.

It was apparent to the SCPR that the CJRD is not about to merely hand over its revenu surplus to the CPRC.  However, Rinaldi did say that any capital equipment/property items would be split 50/50 between Canton and the Canton City Schools on the finalization of the merger between the two entities.

One of the main persons that Peterson brought into last Thursday's discussion was one Greg Luntz  an commercial real estate agent for NAI Spring.

There was something about Peterson's "buy the Canton Jewish Center project" that does not seem quite right to the SCPR.

For one thing, Luntz was unable because of what he said was a confidentiality factor to provide very little useful information to the CJRD board if board members were to be interested in pursing the Peterson advocacy.

For another, Luntz said that the property may be unavailable for purchase because of an existing "option to purchase" held by an "unnamed 'potential' buyer."

So it appears that the Peterson CJRD initiative is being treated by NAI Spring as a back up plan for moving the property should the option to purchase not be exercised.

For a third, Peterson could be viewed by some to having played a "race card" in giving reasons why the the CJRD ought to purchase the Center.

That Peterson jumped on the revelation of Canton rehabbing the Southeast Community Center complex at a cost of $4 million including $900,000 from Canton's current levy  got a reaction from former CCS BOE member Ida Mae Ross-Freeman (an African-American) who was defeated in a bid for reelection in November, 2015.

Just as easily Peterson's initiative could be viewed as a North side, South side argument.  The Southeast Community center is in Ward 4.  The J. Babe Stern Center also received $900,000 and is located in Councilman Kevin Fisher's Ward 5.

There are no equivalent Canton government supported facilities in the north side of the city.

For a fourth, Peterson's bringing the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village Project (HOFVP) as somehow connected to the fate of the former Jewish Center seems to the SCPR to be quite a stretch.

For a fifth, he brought Canton City Council into the fray in having a Councilman John Mariol substitute Ward 8 Councilman Edmond Mack (Mariol is Ward 7 councilman, the site of the former Canton Jewish Center) appear at Thursday meeting 

For a sixth, Peterson strongly suggested that those opposing or resisting a consideration of buying the CJC lacked vision.

Does Peterson consider that they might well have a more plausible vision and the future they envision is taking on a burden in acquiring the CJC that the CPRC can ill-afford given the tight, tight budget that the commission faces in allocating scarce dollars to park and recreation activities and facilities?

Peterson invite Craig Luntz wouldn't even tell (ref:  the confidentiality thing) CJRD board members when the option expires.

How lame is that in terms of Peterson's preparation for the presentation?

It is unreal that Peterson would advance "let's think about purchasing the former Jewish Center" idea in the context of the marked uncertainty of the property's availability let alone other telling points advanced by a number of those in attendance at Thursday's meeting.

If the CJC becomes available, one would think that Luntz and his anonymous client have gotten the notion from Peterson's zeal in favor of the purchase that they can pretty much depend on getting the asking price of $2 million, no? 

The  SCPR's take on:
  • "the give and take" between CJRD board members "other than Peterson" and Peterson and CPRC board members (Black, Hanke and Sliman, who were in the audience of the CJRD meeting as was recently chosen CPR director Derek Gordon) 
is that Peterson's proposal is a non-starter and that his persistence is being abided out of considerations of giving him a diplomatic "no."  

The July 19th meetings are looking more and more interesting as the interplay between the CJRD and CPRC continue and Peterson seeming intent on forcing the CJC matter.

These meetings should be a top draw for Cantonians who care about the future of park and recreation facilities in Canton, Ohio.

The SCPR video of the entire June 16, 2016 meeting of the Canton Joint Recreation District meeting:

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