Oberlin City Council votes to rescind ban on handguns in parks
Oberlin City Council has voted to rescind a ban on handguns in its parks – a ban that’s trumped by a 2007 state law. A gun owner from neighboring Ashland County notified the city last month it’s in violation of the law, and Oberlin’s Park Street Park has been the site of two gun rights rallies in recent weeks. Gun rights activists say the purpose of the state law is to allow them to protect themselves in public places, and to avoid a checkerboard of different laws across Ohio. Oberlin council voted 4-3 to drop the ban, though all seven members expressed a reluctance to do so. Council Vice-President Kathleen Fairchild-Soucy had said it’s financially best for the city since it could face lawsuits from gun rights activists, as well as from its own insurance companies for violating state law. The cities of Clyde, near Sandusky, and Cleveland went to court to protect local gun restrictions and lost. Fairchild-Soucy says the city may put the parks under the control of the public schools, which would make them subject to different gun laws.
Evacuation zone scaled back hourly following chemical release
Stark County HAZMAT says the evacuation zone following a chemical release in Canton is being scaled back hourly, based on air quality readings by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The fire began Monday morning at the former Convoy Containers building. Little remains of the structure Tuesday. There is still a smell of sulfur in the air surrounding the site, along with thick clouds. Firefighters are now using an automated system to pour water on the building. The fire is now nearly out. Police continue to patrol neighborhoods in the evacuation zone to make sure no one is reentering without permission. About 7,000 people were forced to leave their homes, with a handful reportedly treated for minor injuries. About 100 people took advantage of a shelter set up at the Canton Civic Center downtown.
Ohio focusing on preventing falls for elderly
The state wants to keep older Ohioans from falling and make sure their caretakers and others know how to help prevent tumbles. Ohio's Department of Aging says an older resident is injured in a fall every two minutes on average, resulting in an emergency room visit every eight minutes, two hospitalizations an hour and three deaths each day. The agency has started a new statewide initiative called STEADY U Ohio to get tips, resources and online risk assessments to the elderly, their families and caretakers. It wants to expand access to workshops to help improve balance, increase activity and reduce fears of falling. The initiative is similar to a falls-prevention partnership the state has had with the Ohio Public Health Association and others
Environmental group seeks documents related to illegal wastewater dump
An environmental group seeking documents related to alleged illegal dumping of wastewater from oil and gas drilling into a northeast Ohio storm sewer is suing the state for access to the records. The Sierra Club filed its suit Monday in the Ohio Supreme Court. The group alleges the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has failed to produce public records it requested six months ago. The club's Ohio chapter is seeking documents related to the department's investigation of D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating in Youngstown. The department revoked the firms' permits in February amid a federal investigation into the dumping of up to 40,000 gallons of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing into a storm sewer that drains into the Mahoning River. A spokeswoman said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
Summit County extends health benefits to domestic partners
Summit County will make health insurance benefits available to domestic partners of its employees. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, the measure was approved at Monday’s county council meeting. The change will start January first of next year, and will allow domestic partners to get the same health benefits as spouses and dependents. That applies to both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, as long as both partners sign an affidavit saying they are in an exclusive relationship and share responsibility for each other’s welfare. Summit County had some benefits already in place for domestic partners, such as sick leave, bereavement and family and medical leave. Monday’s amendment is considered an extension of those benefits.
Top price for instant lottery tickets could go up
Some instant lottery tickets could soon cost more in Ohio. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Ohio Lottery is considering a plan to raise the top price for instant tickets from $20 up to $30. Several other states have increased their maximum price, some as high as $50. The move would allow the lottery to boost prizes and would improve odds for those playing the most expensive games. Scratch off ticket sales were down 6% last month from the year before.
Cleveland contracts critical repair audit for First Energy Stadium
It will cost the city of Cleveland nearly half a million dollars to find out what repairs need done to the First Energy Stadium. The Plain Dealer reports that council approved a contract with URS Corporation to perform a critical repair audit before January, at a cost of $400,000. Work will begin on the stadium at the beginning of next year. The Cleveland Browns have projected the cost of renovations they would like to see done at $120 million. The city’s lease with the Browns requires a repair audit every five years, and contribute $850 thousand a year to the stadium’s repair budget. That lease was signed in 1999, and no audit has been performed since. Last year, the city spent nearly $6 million to refurbish seats, and replace concrete on ramps, bridges and other surfaces. The Browns are requesting a new scoreboard, audio equipment and changes to allow fans to move more freely inside the stadium.
University of Akron professors to receive raises
A contract extension will give full-time faculty at the University of Akron raises of up to 2%. According to the Beacon Journal, the raise will cost the University $1.3 million during a time when it’s already dealing with a budget shortfall. That contract was approved by trustees on Monday. The president of the UA chapter of the American Association of University Professors said the university came to the AAUP with the offer. The contract runs through June of 2015. A nearly 6% decline in enrollment increased the university’s budget shortfall from $30 million to $40 million this year.
US Rep. Ryan wants help for Delphi retirees
Youngstown-area Congressman Tim Ryan wants the Health Care Tax Credit extended for retirees of former GM parts supplier Delphi. According to the Youngstown Vindicator, Ryan participated in a congressional hearing about the Treasury Department’s role in a loss of pension benefits for salaried retirees. 1,500 salaried Delphi retirees in the Mahoning Valley had their pensions and health insurance benefits cut significantly, while union employees retirement plans were preserved during the automaker’s bankruptcy. Ryan blames politics or favoritism for the inconsistency. He says the country’s bankruptcy laws should be reformed in light of the situation.