Letters to the Editor: Chagrin Valley Times—Dec. 29, 2016

Public ignored at park meeting

I attended the meeting of the Geauga Park Commissioners on Dec. 13, at 9 a.m. (the ongoing frequent changes in the times of these meetings making them more difficult for the public to attend has been frequently noted).

Before the meeting one audience member respectfully requested that the public comment time be reinstated; she was ignored.

The meeting, including the pledge, roll call, approval of the agenda, approval of the minutes, reading of the financial statement, presentation and approval of over $500,000 in vouchers signed by park Executive Director John Oros, operations update, approval of a revised $7 million budget which contained at least one $500,000 increase in departmental budget and commissioners time, took less than 10 minutes.  Not a single question was asked by any commissioner.

When they tried to adjourn to executive session, they were peppered with questions by the audience:  “How can you approve a budget with no questions?”  “Why is snowmobiling being allowed in Observatory Park, closing it to the rest of the taxpayers?” 

“How can John Oros give away hunting privileges without board approval?” “Are you conducting business out of public view, so no questions are asked at public meetings?” and so forth.  We were ignored.

After executive session and meeting adjourned, we again objected with questions.  Park Commissioner Jackie Dottore claimed we were misreading the Observatory Park announcement and tried to show the “correct” version.  Later checking showed that her version was a then unannounced change to the original announcement.  Either she was unaware that the change had not been officially made or she was ignorant of the original.

I invite you to keep track of when the next meeting is announced and come to see your park board in action.

Ed Buckles, Burton

Park commissioners need to do their jobs  

Regarding the continued abuses of the Geauga Park District and particularly the abuses of allowing snowmobiling at  Observatory Park, it becomes ever more apparent to the citizens of Geauga County  that Geauga Probate Judge Timothy Grendell  and Geauga Parks Director John Oros have neither respect or consideration for the expressed concerns and wishes of the taxpayers of Geauga County or for that matter,  the park commissioners to whom John Oros serves.

 As I stated in September , ” the opaque decision making mind set” of this probate judge demeans the ideas of fairness, due process and the law which he obviously does not embrace .  It would be apparent that the general “overreach” of this probate judge continues to reach new lows ! Director Oros is continually used as Judge Grendell’s  “mouth piece “ and “fire wall “  both of which are expendable and replaceable.

For the last six months, the Geauga parks commissioners have  not allowed public input  at their meetings. John Oros appears to run the meetings ? ( where is the oversight and legitimate scrutiny of the  Geauga Park commissioners ? )

    •  Please consider the following as examples of  blatant disrespect of Geauga park properties.
    •  Closing parks for days at a time to allow recreational hunting that has not been designated necessary by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
    • Raffling off hunting privileges in our public parks as a “gift” to a few select organizations.
    •  Opening Observatory Park to snowmobiles at night – risking the International Dark Sky designation of this special park. The $2 million which paid for Observatory Park came from private ( not taxpayer ) monies.   Grendell and Oros myopic and politically motivated decisions to promote snowmobiling there will  inevitably damage the property  and will jeopardize  the Dark Sky Certification.      
    •  Closing Observatory Park to the public to allow a few people with snowmobiles to monopolize the park.
    • More recent plans – up for discussion (if they discuss rather than rubber stamp)  Zip Lines, climbing walls and BMX Bike trails planned for the Hyde Kaplan preserve.
    •  Please support Protect Geauga Parks & its efforts to shine the light of transparency on these abuses.

Bill Franz, Chagrin Falls

Questions on park go unanswered

I was in the audience at the Geauga Park Board meeting referenced in the cited article. I attended because of my concern about multiple initiatives in the parks over the past year, including questionable practices related to hunting and trapping, and the bizarre snowmobiling issue referenced in the article. As a lifelong Geauga County citizen and heavy user of the parks for passive recreation, I attended the meeting hoping for an opportunity to voice my concerns to the Board and Executive Director John Oros, as well as to hear them discuss these recent items as a matter of board business.

I was shocked that they ignored the request made respectfully by a member of the audience as the meeting got started to allow public comment, and then ignored attempts by some of the 40 or so persons in the audience to engage in discussion after concluding the business portion of the meeting, eight minutes after it was called to order. None of the issues that I am concerned about, which I believe threaten the mission of the parks, were discussed. Indeed, very little, if anything, was discussed in these 8 minutes. I have never seen business conducted in such a hasty manner.

 Since the board will not entertain comments and concerns from the public at their monthly meetings, I reached out to each of them, as well as to Executive Director John Oros, via email on Dec. 14. The email was a short one in which I simply asked how I might be able to reach them to let my concerns be known. Tomorrow it will be a week since I sent these emails, and not a single board member nor Mr. Oros has responded to my message.

 These actions call into question the integrity and commitment of the board to the public interest of the citizens of Geauga County, including the many who do not hunt, trap, or snowmobile.

 Ann Jacobson, South Russell

Park business needs to be done in public

At the Dec. 13 Geauga Park District Commissioners meeting, there was an astounding accomplishment of conducting million-dollar park business in about 10 minutes.  And this accomplishment because the three park commissioners sat mute while Executive Director John Oros read the monthly park information, gave a brief financial report (including the 2017 proposed multi-million-dollar budget) and then having Mr. Oros take over the commissioners time.  The only words spoken by these three park commissioners in the 10-minute meeting was to second and approve all Mr. Oros’ proposals.

Now, is that a way to run a large public business?  Just to point out that 1545.05 of the Ohio Revised Code states that, “Before entering upon the performance of the duties of the office, each commissioner shall take an oath to perform faithfully the duties of the office.”  But after watching the Dec. 13 park commissioner meeting one can only be left with the fact that the commissioners do not care about anything that is happening at the Geauga Park District. 

Or is it possible the park commissioner have been privately meeting and discussing the various park issues, budgets, etc. with Mr. Oros which is illegal under the Ohio Sunshine Law.  As a point:  It was only after coming out of executive session and the audience kept asking about snowmobiling in Observatory Park at night, did one commissioner suddenly speak up and state that the audience was wrong and snowmobiling would only be until sunset as noted on the park website.  She then walked up and showed the audience this fact on her phone.  Trouble is all public information at that moment, including the so-called park website, stated snowmobiling was until 11 p.m.  It didn’t change until the next day.  Where did she get the information on her phone?  How did she know about the changes to snowmobiling?

 So do the park commissioners not care about anything happening in Geauga Park which is under their charge?  Or are they illegally meeting in secret to discuss park business?  Either way the county taxpayer should be outraged that their monies are being used and very possibly being abused without any public oversight by the three park commissioners.

Katherine Malmquist, South Russell

Modroo park gateway to Russell

Thank you to the many people who contributed to the preservation of Modroo Farm as open space in Russell Township. This historic farm, the gateway to Russell, will now become a public park thanks to the dedication and hard work of so many in the community. There are a few people I would like to single out for their special contributions.

Thanks first and foremost to everyone in Russell who put out a yard sign, signed a petition, donated money toward the purchase, distributed fliers, attended park board meetings, participated in the survey, wrote letters, spoke to neighbors, and let our township officials and park commissioners know that Russell citizens overwhelmingly wanted to use our land acquisition tax monies to save Modroo Farm from development and make it a park. Thanks especially to Barbara Berkeley for partnering with me to inform and organize the community. Well done, friends and neighbors!

Many thanks to Mary Modroo for her patience and her willingness and desire to place the family farm in the hands of the public, who will treasure the land and its history in perpetuity.

Thank you also to our former Russell Township Park District commissioners, Roy Podojil, Sandy Seigler and Terry Ries. These commissioners worked quietly and effectively for many years to preserve green space in Russell. They had the foresight to see that eventually Modroo Farm would become available, and they stayed in contact with Western Reserve Land Conservancy about the status of the property, which led to the purchase of the farm for public use. Roy, Sandy and Terry developed a sound financial plan, budgeted wisely and saved the funds that were eventually used by the current park commissioners to buy Modroo.

Thanks are also due to the current Russell Township Park District commissioners, Linda O’Brien, Charlie Butters and David Genske, for listening to the citizens of Russell and completing the negotiations for and purchase of Modroo following the departure of the former commissioners. We, the people, are truly grateful.

Last but not least, many thanks to Western Reserve Land Conservancy, and in particular to Rich Cochran, Joe Leslie, Jean Gokorsch and Kendrick Chittock, for your years of hard work in shepherding the public purchase and preservation of Modroo Farm. The Russell community is forever grateful to you for your assistance.

Shelley Chernin, Russell

Categories: News

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