NEW FRANKLIN: Mayor Al Bollas won his fourth term in the office this month by defeating the man who got him involved in politics more than 20 years ago.
In 1992, Bob Lockhart, along with fellow Franklin Township Trustee Jim Russell, appointed Bollas to fill a vacant trustee post, the mayor recalled after winning a decisive victory in this year’s race against Lockhart, who was also a write-in mayoral candidate in 2010, and Terry Harget, the current Ward 2 councilman who gave up his seat to run.
“I was just helping out in the township. At the time, I was running the Memorial Day parade, I was the Portage Lakes boat parade chairman and I chaired a levy committee to fund the police department. They just got to know me,” Bollas said.
Bollas, 66, said this will be his final term as mayor for the city’s nearly 13,000 residents, and it could be his most challenging.
When this term ends, he’s going to be a hard man to replace, said Paul Adamson, who has worked alongside Bollas for 14 years, first as a township trustee, then as Ward 1 councilman.
“He has been the best thing that has happened to us out here as we’ve made the transition from a township to a village to a city,” Adamson said.
Since New Franklin became a city in 2006, officials have operated with a 1 percent income tax — one of the lowest in the county. Residents get full credit for the income tax they pay to the city where they work as well, Bollas noted.
Adamson said that stretching every dollar and bringing in more takes the savvy and commitment Bollas has shown.
“We have an administration building that is paid for, a police station that’s paid for and we have no debt. We’re in good shape financially. We’ve had no layoffs and no reduction in force. He’s brought hundreds of thousands of dollars here in grants,” Adamson said.
Bollas said maintaining “zero debt” is a carryover from when the fledgling city was a township, and he shares the credit for that accomplishment with the people in his administration and the council.
“We have been really fortunate. As Ohio’s youngest city, we’ve been able to keep that up. We’ve done a lot on our own with no outside millage,” he said.
Voters support and fund the police department with four levies. But for the past couple of years, the 2.5-mill measure approved in 1981 that currently draws less than $300,000 annually, and a 3-mill levy that raises $532,000 a year aren’t enough to operate the department’s $1.7 million budget.
“We’ve pulled almost a million dollars a year out of the general fund for the police department,” Bollas said. “We have a challenge on how and what we intend to do.”
The fire department also is funded by two levies: a 1.5-mill measure passed in 1982 and a 5.75-mill levy voters approved in 2009.
This year alone, the city has spent $3.4 million on road and intersection improvements, with 80 percent of it paid for with grants from the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study and Ohio Public Works Commission.
The Summit County Engineer’s Office kicked in an additional $50,000, the mayor said.
Though Bollas serves on many county commissions and committees and has held offices in several of them over the years, he said his participation is not the reason the city has done as well as it has in securing grants.
“But it doesn’t hurt. That’s where you do your networking and meet people who make those decisions,” he said.
Mayor Al Knack of neighboring Clinton said Bollas has been helpful in introducing him to other elected officials since he was elected two years ago. The men frequently attend meetings together and are friends, Knack said.
“It’s a pleasure to work with him because he has an open mind and is always receptive to ideas for our joint cooperation between the city and village,” he said.
Bollas said one of the biggest disappointments in his career as mayor was watching the Ohio Department of Natural Resources move its base of operations from the populous Portage Lakes area to Wingfoot Lake in Portage County’s Suffield Township.
“It’s an unfortunate situation that ODNR has reduced its funding and awareness of the lakes. The state beaches are wide open, and New Franklin safety forces have had to take over as first responders,” he said.
The city is awaiting final approval of a $30,000 Community Development Block Grant that would be used, along with matching funds from the city, to expand a walking trail and build a multi-activity level park near city hall, adjacent to a new stormwater demonstration system. An existing trail would be extended 3,300 feet and would travel through Miracle Woods, Bollas said.
Adamson said that no matter what the project, Bollas can be found on weekends pitching in alongside other volunteers — as he did two weeks ago, when he helped with plantings around the stormwater demonstration project.
“Last weekend, three volunteers showed up to decorate the Tudor House. Al was one of them,” Adamson said.
Staying busy is always a concern for Bollas, said Knack, and the two hatched a contingency plan in case Bollas lost his bid for re-election.
“We had this all planned out if he lost the election: I was going to drive the Portage Princess [a 60-passenger tour boat on the Portage Lakes], and he was going to give tours and talk about it,” Knack said with a laugh.
Bollas and his wife, Elizabeth, better known as “Bootsie,” have been married 40 years and live along Turkeyfoot Lake. They have two sons, Nick, 31, and Jonathon, 29, and three grandchildren.
The couple have an unconventional arrangement when it comes to worshipping, said Bollas, who is of Greek heritage.
“I married a Catholic girl. We are members of two churches: St. Francis de Sales parish and Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.”
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or email@example.com.