This article originally appeared in the Geauga County Maple Leaf. Our thanks to the Maple Leaf for permission to republish the article here. For all local Geauga County news, check out the Maple Leaf website at http://www.geaugamapleleaf.com/
Geauga Maple Leaf
August 11, 2016
The ball is back in play for Russell Township Trustees in their bid to form a park district separate from Geauga County Probate Court Judge Timothy Grendell’s controversial oversight.
With Geauga County Common Pleas Court Judge Forrest Burt’s Aug. 11 decree in their favor, the trustees plan to meet Aug. 13 to appoint a committee which will likely include at least one member of the former park board, said Trustee Justin Madden.
Late in the afternoon Aug. 11, Burt accepted the trustees’ certification of 332 resident voter signatures petitioning for the park’s formation under the rules of Ohio Revised Code section 511.18.
During the hearing, Burt called upon Deborah Reiter of the Geauga County Board of Elections to verify trustees had enough signatures. Based upon the number of registered voters, 231 valid signatures were required. When she answered they did have enough signatures, Burt promptly “ordered, adjudged and decreed” that “the trustees may organize a new park district.”
Burt explained the court proceeding was to determine the “sufficiency of the petition.” He said it was a hearing and not a public meeting and he would not be hearing any public comment, as was previously reported.
“This is not an adversary hearing and there are no parties to the hearing,” he said.
Burt further explained ORC section 511.18 “does not require the court to inquire as to the wisdom of the park.” He indicated he would leave that up to township officials and voters in Russell who will ultimately decide if they want a new park district.
“This is not political,” Madden said after the hearing. “It’s the right thing to do. We want to be very transparent. Our residents petitioned for this. They feel that it’s a black and white decision for the current park board to use the public money they voted for to purchase land that they want preserved. Right now, they feel there is nothing they can do.
“The current park board does not accept public comment during their meetings. Those board members are appointed by the probate judge who faces voters only every six years, and that’s decided by voters in the entire county,” Madden said. “Russell voters can change the direction of their board of trustees every two years.”
Trustee Jim Mueller added, “I’m very excited to see who wants to be on the committee to take this forward and form a new park.”