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Morning Headlines: FirstEnergy Offers Buyouts to 600 Workers; Akron Digital Academy Quietly Closes

First Energy downtown Akron

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, June 29:

  • FirstEnergy employees face deadline on buyouts;
  • Akron attractions to lower admission for low-income residents;
  • Akron Digital Academy closes after failing to repay $2.8M;
  • Ohio BWC to hand out $8M to schools, police departments;
  • Babcock and Wilcox Enterprises lay off 51 in Barberton, Copley;
  • Groups finalize second phase of Gorge Dam removal;
  • Akron gives foodbank a $100,000 boost;
  • Developers announce $2B park in Columbus;
  • Lawsuit over Hoover development dismissed;
  • Controversial confederate statue has a new home;

FirstEnergy employees face deadline on buy outs

As many as 600 FirstEnergy employees have until Monday to take early buy out packages. Cleveland.com reports the company made the offer earlier this month to those employed by the FirstEnergy Service Co., that includes many Akron employees in human resources, IT, legal, financial and the communications department. The buyouts have been offered to non-union employees with 10 years of service who are at least 58 years old. FirstEnergy Solutions, a subsidiary of the utility is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and says it will sell nuclear power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Akron attractions to lower admission rates for low-income residents

A group of Summit County museums and attractions will offer discounts to low income residents beginning Sunday. Guests who present their food stamp benefits card will pay $1 to $3 admission. The program stems from the 2014 national effort called Museums for All, with the goal of opening doors to underserved audiences. The Akron Art Museum, the Akron Children’s Museum, the Akron Zoo, the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, and the Summit County Historical Society are participating.

Akron Digital Academy closes after failing to repay $2.8M

A virtual charter school in Akron quietly closed earlier this month after it couldn’t make repayments to the state. The Beacon Journal reports the Akron Digital Academy owed nearly $3 million for failing to track its enrollment. The newspaper reports the academy claimed it had 375 total students, but the state could only account for 73. The Ohio Department of Education has been trying to better track online schools' attendance following the case against the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, which was forced to close in January. The state says ECOT owes $80 million for failing to provide attendance records for 70 percent of its students. 

Ohio BWC to give $8 grants to schools, police departments

Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation will fund $8 million in safety grants for Ohio schools and police. The expansion of the safety grant program is part of a two-year, $44 million investment in safety in the wake of the agency's $1.5 billion rebate program. The bureau will increase its annual Safety Intervention Grant Program from $15 million to $20 million in each of the next two years and set aside $4 million each for police departments and schools. That's in addition to $2 million for state agencies.

Babcock and Wilcox Enterprises lay off 51 in Barberton, Copley

Babcock and Wilcox Enterprises is laying off 51 workers at its Barberton and Copley plants. The Charlotte North Carolina-owned company makes coal broilers and pollution control equipment for power plants. It employs 630 people in Barberton and 125 people in Copley. In May, B&W reported a loss of more than $120 million, and earlier this month announced it’s selling off two of its businesses in a $130 million deal.

Groups finalize second phase of Gorge Dam removal

Plans are being finalized for the second phase of a project to remove the Gorge Dam from the Cuyahoga River in Summit County. The EPA, city of Cuyahoga Falls, Friends of the Crooked River and others unveiled an agreement Thursday to manage the removal of tons of contaminated sediment that have accumulated behind the dam for more than a century, along with other studies that will work to restore habitat afterwards. This second phase of the project is being funded by a $750,000 state grant that will be matched by funds from the Great Lakes Legacy Act. The bulk of the $70 million project will be spent on phase three, which is removing the sediment. Removal of the dam is the final stage, planned next year.

Akron gives foodbank a $100,000 boost

The city of Akron has allocated another $100,000 for the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. It brings the total funding to $300,000 for the year. The money approved by city council allow the food bank to better stock the food pantries it serves.

Developers announce $2B park in Columbus

Developers have announced plans for a massive, $2 billion entertainment park outside of Columbus. The planned 350-acre Planet Oasis park will be located near I-71 in Delaware County. It will include indoor skydiving, an indoor water park and BMX racing. The first phase of the project is projected to open in 2019.

Lawsuit over Hoover development project dismissed

A lawsuit over funding for redevelopment of the former Hoover company complex in North Canton has been dismissed. An affiliate of Illinois-based investor CMB sued the owners of the district, Maple Street Commerce and other investors, in 2016. CMB claimed that Maple Street was in default of a $36 million loan by misusing federal funds. The Canton Repository reports both parties asked a judge to dismiss the case and enforce the terms of a settlement agreement reached earlier this year. Part of the settlement includes Maple Street and developer Stu Lichter obtaining a loan.

Controversial confederate statue gets a new home

A controversial monument honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that had been removed from its original location is now displayed on private property in southwestern Ohio. A Franklin Township trustee says the bronze plaque on a five-ton rock is now on property at a Fraternal Order of Eagles lodge. Some Franklin Township residents became angry in 2017 after learning the 90-year-old marker originally along Dixie Highway was removed in August after deadly violence during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Neighboring Franklin, removed the marker. That city subsequently returned it to Franklin Township.

Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. After serving as WKSU's Morning Edition host for a dozen years, she moved to afternoons in March of 2022 to become the local host of All Things Considered. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio's sports scene called The View From Pluto. She also hosts and produces Shuffle, a podcast focusing on Northeast Ohio’s music scene.