The following article was originally published by the Geauga County Maple Leaf. Our thanks to the Maple Leaf for permission to republish the article here. A subscription to the Maple Leaf will help you stay informed about issues concerning the Geauga Park District and everything that is happening in and around Geuaga County.
Following the publication of this story, the Maple Leaf reported that Charles Butters has resigned from the Russell Township Park Board. In a self-serving press release, Judge Timothy Grendell praised Mr. Butters for his service on the park board “through some challenging circumstances.” There was no mention of the fact that Mr. Butter himself was instrumental in creating those circumstances.
Geauga Maple Leaf
March 23, 2017
By Gwen Cooper
Residents expressed temporary relief after the Russell Township Park Board met last week in executive session and did not vote on a motion to sell the passive park on Dines Road.
“I’m pleased with the decision, but it left the door open for another buyer in the future,” Martha Dempsey said.
“Just because they did not vote on this offer doesn’t mean they won’t act on others,” she added. “There could be other parks for sale, as well. We just don’t know with these closed-door meetings they are holding. I just don’t trust them.”
Park Commissioner Charlie Butters explained the board did not take an actual vote.
“We said thanks, but no thanks to the offer to proceed to sell the land to an adjacent landowner,” he said.
According to Park Commissioner Linda O’Brien, president of the park board, the board did its “due diligence” in exploring an offer by Russell resident Paul Kiebler to purchase the 21.7-acre park located adjacent to a 7.8-acre parcel he recently purchased from the Blackburn family.
Butters added the meeting was opened up to public comment.
“The residents said their peace and that was that,” he said. “Some took credit for blocking the sale by having everyone show up, but the decision not to proceed was made before the commentary.”
Butters also denied the board has not permitted residents to speak at its monthly meetings.
“We have had had (a public comment section) in every meeting since last April, with the exception of the special meeting on Feb. 27,” Butters said in an email.
Butters previously declined to comment on whether the board is considering selling other passive park property.
Dempsey expressed concern over possible legal fees the park board is incurring, and noted the board’s independent legal counsel was present during the board’s routine meeting as well as its executive session.
Dempsey said she and other concerned residents created flyers and distributed them to encourage attendance at the March 14 meeting.
“We shouldn’t have to do all that,” she said. “Our park board should represent us and our wishes. That’s what they’re there for. We shouldn’t have to organize and form watchdog groups to make sure they act in the interest of the residents.”