Panhandlers in Summit County townships will now have regulations to follow or face fines and possibly jail time.
Panhandlers will still be allowed to stand near street corners, but have to be 25 feet from the intersections and they cannot solicit in an aggressive manner.
Beggars will not have to register, get a license, wear an identification badge or wear a safety vest while soliciting money.
Bath Township administrator Vito Sinopoli said his community initiated the legislation.
“It was the residents’ concerns that really brought this to the forefront,” he said. “We had a number of people concerned about the panhandling situation being a safety concern.
“People were frustrated with cars stopping on the roadway giving money and potentially causing a traffic hazard.”
County Councilwoman Tamela Lee, D-5, who represents the Montrose area, sponsored the legislation.
She said there were a number of jurisdictions that already addressed the issue.
Copley Township enforced existing traffic laws to deal with obstructing traffic flow, the city of Fairlawn and the city of Akron passed legislation for panhandling requiring registration and identification badges. In other areas it was nonexistent.
“For us it was a year in the making. This time we met with all the townships in order to come up with the wording and how to handle the issue most effectively in their communities,” Lee said. “We wanted to bring balance between what we have in Akron and what we have in Fairlawn so that you don’t simply cross the street and you’re in a different land of law.”
Sinopoli said the ordinance won’t be enforced right away. The new legislation will take effect in a month or two, after police talk to panhandlers to let them know about the new law.
“First we will meet with police officers and review what the law is and also meet with retail areas making them aware of what this legislation means,” he said. “Police will go out and make the panhandlers aware of the restrictions and then the panhandlers can make a decision on whether they choose to continue.”
The legislation restricts panhandling within 25 feet of:
• intersecting street or crosswalk
• any street or driveway entrance to or exit from shopping plazas, shopping districts, any commercial or business establishment, churches, schools or libraries
• a bus stop
• automatic teller machines or banks
• sidewalk cafes or outdoor cafes or restaurants
• driveway entrance or exit from an automobile service station
Aggressive panhandling is also restricted.
Violations are minor misdemeanors and fines are $100 or less for each offense. If found guilty of aggressive panhandling the fine is $250 or less, 30 days in jail or both.
In other county business, council approved:
• A renewal contract with Inmate Calling Solutions LLC for inmate pay phone services at the Summit County Jail for $36,000. The phone service records inmate conversations. Inmate phone calls are made collect. The sheriff’s office gets 70 percent of that collection revenue. Last year the county made $480,000 from the calls. There are on the average 650 inmates in jail on a daily basis. The jail capacity is 671 inmates.
• A resolution appropriating funds for the third year of a three-year contract for $185,000 from FirstEnergy Corporation for problems with people’s electrical supply and making sure homes are more energy efficient.
• A resolution authorizing the 2013 Home Weatherization Assistance Program award of federal funds from the U.S. Department of Energy for $284,000 and from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the amount of $604,809. The program assists in home insulation and furnace replacements for those in need.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.