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Morning Headlines: Akron Unveils 2018 Capital Budget; Arco Dump Cleanup Gets Another $3.25 Million

Akron downtown

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, Jan. 23:

  • Akron will postpone courthouse project, take on more debt in 2018 capital budget;
  • Cleveland strikes deal with unions to raise minimum wage for city workers;
  • State gives another $3.25 million to clean up East Cleveland dump;
  • Power back on at Cleveland Hopkins after early-morning outage;
  • Hartville man says he threw his wife's body into a river after she died of natural causes;
  • Former death row inmate argues Ohio's death penalty is unconstitutional;
  • Congressional district reform groups are divided on solutions;
  • Akron schools board member resigns after opiate overdose;
  • Juvenile jail superintendent resigns after inmate riot;
  • Former Medina superintendent wins settlement;
  • FirstEnergy shares spike after cash infusion;

Akron will postpone courthouse project, take on more debt in 2018 capital budget
The city of Akron has unveiled its capital budget for this year. Included in this year’s budget is a quarter-percent income tax increase voters passed in November. The Beacon Journal reports the city is headed for more debt, but that’s expected to level off over the next five years. The city is looking to get $200,000 from the state to tear down the Rubber Bowl, currently owned by the Summit County Land Bank. Parks and rec spending will drop more than $1 million dollars as the city prioritizes police and fire services. Akron’s massive billion-dollar sewer project is half done but continues to draw debt. About half of all capital improvement dollars will go toward the court-mandated sewer project. The city will not build a new municipal courthouse this year. The Main Street renovation project is drawing more private investment, including $3 million from FirstEnergy for electrical upgrades. Only about 12 percent of the renovation is being funded with local dollars.

Cleveland strikes deal with unions to raise minimum wage for city workers
The city of Cleveland is a step closer to paying city employees $15 an hour. City Council on Monday approved 10 out of 30 union contracts to raise the minimum hourly wage for about 500 city workers. Those benefiting from the change include employees with the Utility Workers Union, the Treasurers and Ticket Sellers Union and the International Longshoremen’s Association. In exchange for the new hourly wage, unions must agree to an annual pay increase of 2 percent.

State gives another $3.25 million to clean up East Cleveland dump
The state is expected to spend millions more to clean up an East Cleveland dump that caught fire last year. The Ohio EPA originally allocated $6 million to clean up the Arco dump on Noble Road. An additional $3.25 million will go toward the cleanup effort. The state EPA has until July to clear the site, which was ordered to close a year ago.

Power back on at Cleveland Hopkins after early-morning outage
Power has been restored at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The airport announced an outage early this morning via Twitter. The outage knocked out lights on the roadway and in the parking lot. The airport is asking travelers to check their flights for delays or cancellations.

Hartville man says he threw his wife's body into a river after she died of natural causes
A Hartville man who told authorities he turned his wife's body over to emergency responders after she died on a trip to Graceland now says he put her body in the Tennessee River after she died of natural causes. Philip Snider, 72, previously said Roberta Snider was ill and died in a hotel parking lot in Memphis in early January. He told authorities he didn't know where emergency responders took her body. Hartville police say Snider admitted in a later interview that he threw his wife's body off a bridge over the river after she died because "he wanted to put her back with nature." Authorities are searching for the missing 70-year-old woman. No charges have been filed in the case.

Former death row inmate argues Ohio's death penalty is unconstitutional
The Ohio Supreme Court is weighing arguments from an ex-death row inmate that the state's capital punishment law is unconstitutional because judges and not juries hand down death sentences. Convicted killer Maurice Mason says the U.S. Constitution requires juries to impose death sentences. Mason argues a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring Florida's death penalty law unconstitutional should apply in Ohio. If Ohio juries recommend capital punishment, judges impose the sentence. Ohio judges can reject death sentences, but can't impose them if juries don't recommend them. A federal appeals court overturned Mason's death sentence and he's challenging a new sentencing hearing.

Congressional district reform groups are divided on solutions
Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way Ohio draws congressional districts says they oppose a competing plan brought forward in the state legislature. Members of the Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio, including the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause Ohio, said they plan to fight the rival proposal of Republican state Rep. Matt Huffman. Huffman's proposal, introduced last week, is intended for the May ballot. It gives the Legislature primary responsibility for approving a 10-year map and requires at least one-third of the minority party, currently the Democrats, to agree to the new district lines. Fair Elections is advocating a proposal for November's ballot that's modeled after a plan overwhelmingly approved by Ohio voters in 2015, which only affected map-making for state legislative districts.

Akron schools board member resigns after opiate overdose
Akron Public Schools board member John Otterman has resigned following an opiate overdose last week. Otterman submitted a letter of resignation to the board, which members unanimously voted to accept during Monday’s meeting. Last Thursday, paramedics administered four doses of the antidote naloxone when 57-year-old Otterman was found unconscious in his car. Otterman was elected to the Akron school board in 2015 and had not attended a meeting since November, according to the Beacon Journal. The board now has 30 days to fill the vacant seat.

Juvenile jail superintendent resigns after inmate riot
The superintendent of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center has retired following a riot inside the jail that caused about $200,000 in damage. Cleveland.com reports Karmin Bryant did not specify why she’s retiring after 32 years with the county. Earlier this month, about a half dozen teens organized a riot that that injured an inmate and SWAT officer. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley has called for reforms to be made.

Former Medina superintendent wins settlement
Former Medina schools superintendent Randy Stepp will get $750,000 in a settlement with the district. The board approved the payment last night that will be paid by the district’s insurance company. The legal battle goes back to 2013, when Stepp was fired after a state audit found he improperly used hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds from a carryover account to pay off personal student loans and other non-board approved expenses. Stepp sued, claiming breach of contract, defamation and infringement of his constitutional rights.

FirstEnergy shares spike after cash infusion
Shares of Akron-based FirstEnergy Corporation jumped nearly 11 percent Monday after the company announced a major cash infusion from private investors. The money comes weeks after feds rejected a proposed taxpayer-funded bailout of struggling coal and nuclear plants. A group of private equity firms purchased $2.5 billion-worth of preferred convertible stock and regular shares. The purchase gives the investors a 17 percent ownership stake in the utility. FirstEnergy has been pushing for increased consumer rates and subsidies to pay for unprofitable coal and nuclear plants, with mixed results.  FirstEnergy said it will use $750 million to fund its pension plan and another nearly $ 1.5 billion to pay off debt. FirstEnergy will continue to push for re-regulation of the power industry in which government, not the markets, set prices. The utility’s coal and nuclear power generation has come under increased competition from natural gas, wind and solar energy sources.

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.