Redeveloping Kent’s downtown is done and is now booming with students and residents. While the change downtown is complete, residents should expect more changes coming closer to home.
With focus centered around the new downtown, other issues have been placed on the back burner. More students are attending Kent State but there is limited student housing. College Street will be the new home to the Kent Police. Fracking is a key issue on the November ballot and a possible revamp of the Kent Fire Department. Mayor Jerry Fiala explains what all this means for the city.
Fiala is a lifelong resident of Kent and has been involved with the city’s government. For 14 years he served as the Ward 1 representative. Then in 1997 was appointed to be mayor when then mayor Kathleen Chandler was elected Portage County Commissioner. He was later voted in as mayor in 2009 by the smallest of margins, a flip of the coin.
In the 1970s Kent City Charter changed the duties of the Mayor and transitioned the position as a ceremonial figure that only votes on City Council to break a vote.
Environmental concerns have been a hot topic for City Council lately and will there will continue to be an important topic on the November ballot. The bill of rights initiative has been brought to the ballot over fracking in Kent and is the centerpiece of the environmental concerns.
“It isn’t the issue of if you want fracking or you don’t want fracking, it’s the side variables that they brought within the initiative,” Fiala explains. “There is a very good possibility if this passes you won’t be able to start your car because it has an emission.”
This is not the only environmental concern for the city. Recently a levy was passed to fund the building of a new police station. Initially the city wanted to build next door to where the current police station is located, but due to possible soil contaminations it was determined to be cheaper to purchase the properties on College Street than to survey and fix the contamination.
While there is a concern for what possible contamination and old tanks may still be underground, the money is just not in the budget at this time.
The levy for the new police station has a budget of $18 million. On top of the possible costs of removing old tanks and possible environmental effects, the cost to build the new station on the location would have been more than $2 million over budget.
In the past week, the Village of Brady Lake voted to dissolve their fire department. Following the decision came a call to the city of Kent in support to assist if any calls are made. The city already is responsible for the village’s EMS calls, adding the fire response calls is not expected to cause any issues or any major increase in spending according to Fiala.
As time inches closer to the ballot in November it will be very important to follow the bill or rights initiative and what it will mean for the future emissions in Kent.
It will also be important to see what will happen to accommodate the rising student population on top of 18 properties on and around College Street being bought out by the city for the new police station.
No matter the time of year, Kent is always changing and it is important to stay as up to date every step of the way.