Akron City Council will have at least one new member and two other members might be forced to face off, under new ward boundaries council approved Monday night.
The revamped lines also create a new ward that encompasses most of the Highland Square neighborhood that had been split up among four wards.
The boundaries that council members voted 11-2 to approve Monday included no major changes from the proposal presented to the public and council a week ago.
Council members Bruce Kilby and Mike Williams, who had voiced concerns about the plan and called for different scenarios to be considered, voted against the legislation. They objected, in particular, to how the new lines forced Kilby, who is currently the Ward 2 councilman, and Jim Hurley, the Ward 1 councilman, into a new Ward 2 that includes North Hill and Chapel Hill.
“It was always a political thing and it doesn’t surprise me,” Kilby said. “They’ve got the votes to do what they want.”
Kilby, who often has been at odds with the administration and the majority on council, said the new lines are “designed to cut me out of the picture.” He said he hasn’t decided if he will run for the new Ward 2, try for an at-large seat or not run at all next year.
The new boundaries keep Kilby in Ward 2, rather than lumping him into Ward 10, which he brought up as a possibility last week. This would have forced him to run against Councilman Garry Moneypenny.
“Kilby is staying in 2,” said Council President Marco Sommerville. “If I take him out, he would say, ‘You put me in Moneypenny’s ward.’ ”
The boundaries put most of Highland Square in a newly drawn Ward 1 that no longer includes North Hill and extends to parts of the University of Akron area and downtown. (A new council member will be elected to represent this ward next year.)
The new lines have no bearing on today’s election and won’t kick in until the municipal elections next year when all 10 ward council seats and the three at-large positions will be on the ballot. The city paid TRIAD Research Group in Cleveland $20,000 to help in redrawing the ward boundaries, a process required after the census every 10 years.
Sommerville said the lines were tweaked in the last week to address a concern Councilwoman Marilyn Keith raised about Ward 8, with the change putting more of Highland Square in Ward 1. He said the boundaries also were changed slightly to reflect shifts requested by Moneypenny and Bob Hoch, the Ward 6 councilman.
Sommerville said he got a lot of feedback in the last week about the boundaries, with much of it coming from Highland Square residents who were pleased to be getting their own ward.
“This is a good plan for the city of Akron,” he said. “End of story.”
Sommerville said an alternative plan proposed by Councilwoman Linda Omobien would have eliminated one of the city’s three African-American-majority wards and disrupted the population disbursement among the wards.
Maps showing the new ward boundaries will be posted on City Council’s website, www.akroncitycouncil.org/.
In other business, council approved plans for a $3.8 million project to turn the pond at the Sterling Jewelers Inc. complex near Summit Mall into a wetland. The project will boost the storage capacity of the 5-acre, city-owned Ghent Road Detention Pond for stormwater runoff and reduce the risk of local flooding, officials said.
The project will be financed with a $1 million grant Akron received from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, $2 million that Sterling will front and the city will pay back with a 10-year note at an interest rate of 3 percent, and about $810,000 Sterling will pay the city in exchange for 16 more acres on two corners of its 375 Ghent Road campus. The company, which currently employs about 2,500 people in the Akron area, eventually plans to use this property to expand.
The project involves dredging the detention pond near Ghent and Miller roads and converting it into a wetland, complete with water-loving plants.
That is expected to reduce flooding along nearby Yellow Creek at the Lake of the Woods housing development by about 30 percent, said Brad Beckert, Akron’s development engineering manager.
Councilwoman Keith, whose Ward 8 includes the area for the project, says it will be a welcome improvement for several residents who have felt like their backyards were being washed away.