Letters to the editor—Chagrin Valley Times, July 27, 2017

Upkeep on observatory vital

A recent guest column by Geauga County Probate Judge Timothy Grendell employee Kim Laurie extolling the virtues of the good judge made me wonder why virtually all pro Grendell letters to the Editor /Guest columns were authored either by the good judge himself or employees of the court. 

In a recent news article Judge Grendell blames “fake news” for park district problems.   Who is he trying to emulate, the Donald?    What comes next your honor?    Maybe “the media is the enemy of the people?”  Where have we heard that before?   At a tea party meeting not long ago the good judge made fun of naturalists interested in birding.    Not the sort of behavior one would like to see in one who is emperor of a park system.

Let’s look at the latest “Foo Pa” by the Geauga Park District that the good judge controls. Some years ago the district acquired a marvelous property in Montville that was owned by Case Western Reserve University.    An astronomical observatory (Nassau Observatory) was on site and the observatory/telescope along with the land became park property.     The Observatory/telescope was built in the late l940’s early l950’s as a research/teaching facility. It was one of Warner & Swasey’s  finest with optics figured to great perfection by Perkin Elmer.   

For several years now the park district has been working on altering and refurbishing the building/telescope for public use. Well over a million dollars is being spent yet a most important consideration, thermal problems with the building are being ignored. The thermal problems prevent good telescope performance under most circumstances. Aug. l9 from 6-11 p.m. will be the scheduled opening night for the refurbished telescope/observatory, so hopefully with clear skies citizens will be able to get a view through the 36 inch telescope. You might ask for a view of Saturn which should be low in the sky but still a stunning sight through a fine telescope.

Unfortunately, folks will likely get a better view through the park district’s donated 16 inch commercial telescope which I’m told will also be set up that evening.  The park district administration has ignored the thermal problems with the building and seems to be intent on turning the Nassau observatory into a tourist attraction. Better to look at than look through or actually use to good purpose.

For a small fraction of the million plus dollars they spent for “an elevator and a bathroom” the park district could have configured the telescope for remote operation so disabled people, students doing research projects and citizens could have operated the telescope from their desktop computers.

So go to Observatory Park on Aug. 19, look through the  36 inch scope, compare it to the view through the 16 inch Meade and 25 inch Oberle telescope and then shed a tear for an administration that does not seem to have a clue. 

~John G. Augustine, Parkman Township

And then this letter (not park-related but Grendell-related)

Fact checking needed for CASA history 

As a former employee of the Geauga County Probate Juvenile Court (1998-2015), I appreciated the letter to the editor that was lovely tribute to Judge “Chip” Henry written by another former court employee.

The inappropriate response to this tribute by Kimberly Laurie, a current court employee, was interpreted as a “passive aggressive assertion about the current judge” and resulted in a boastful letter to the editor about Judge Grendell’s accomplishments.

Judge Henry was not boastful, he would not have allowed the altered facts that appear in Ms. Laurie’s letter, and he would have insisted on giving credit where credit is due.

Allow me to explain some facts I have as the former program director of CASA for KIDS (court Appointed special advocates), a program of the Geauga County Juvenile Court that provides advocates (legal term is guardian ad litem) to represent the best interest of abused and neglected children involved in the court.

Ms. Laurie referred to a 30 percent operating expense cut for the juvenile court.  This is mostly due to the fact that the CASA program became fully financially funded by a federal grant in 2015.  This was made possible when an act of Congress – not an act of Grendell – increased the Victims of Crime Act funds that CASA for KIDS has been receiving since 1998.

Ms. Laurie stated that CASA has “consistently grown year after year, going from 50 volunteers in 2012 to almost 70 volunteers who contributed over 8,000 volunteer hours in 2016”.  In fact, the CASA program had 63 volunteers in 2012 and 79 in 2013 (you can find this information on the juvenile court website under annual reports.)  The credit for the increase in CASA volunteers starting in 2012 goes to the dedicated CASA staff who recruited, trained, supervised and supported more volunteers to cover the increase in abuse/neglect cases due to the opiate and heroin crisis.  CASA for KIDS was already a well-established, successful program (instituted in 1997 by Judge Henry) when Judge Grendell was appointed in 2011.

As one of Judge Grendell’s accomplishments, Kimberly Laurie lists the “2013 Roger Morris Helping Hand Award” given to the CASA volunteers by the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services. The nomination for this award was initiated and submitted by CASA staff.  Judge Grendell did not even attend the award ceremony.

In fact, in 2012 the CASA volunteers were also nominated by CASA staff and recognized by the American Red Cross as Hometown Hero’s.

The real accolades should be given to the 300-plus CASA volunteers who have advocated for and made a long term difference in the lives of over 2000 Geauga County children in the last 20 years.  I am forever inspired by the amazing CASA staff and volunteers who I had the honor to know during my time with the CASA program.

~Christine Steigerwald, South Russell (Former CASA for KIDS program director)

Categories: Commentary

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