Alison Stewart correspondent

BARBERTON: The Oakdale lot issue went through its first reading during Monday’s City Council meeting.

Summa Hospital Barberton President Tom Debord came to speak in support of rezoning the property to allow the hospital to create a parking lot for its employees. Debord said the potential parking lot would provide employees with a new place to park once parking deck, currently being used, is removed.

“Several options have been explored,” said Debord. “We have a track record of using dollars we save to reinvest in projects for patients.”

Debord said the hospital has reinvested more than $39 million back into the patient care since 2007.

“We have made the decision to invest in patient care instead of a $19 million parking deck,” said Debord. “We will save approximately $15 million that can be reinvested in patient care and in our employees.”

Debord said the hospital contributes greatly to the city of Barberton’s payroll taxes.

Barberton resident and member of the Parks and Recreation Department board member Dennis Liddle spoke in favor of the rezoning.

“I was on the school board for several years and the community continuously asked us ‘why don’t you sell these properties that are not being used,” said Liddle. “This rezoning is the best option for Summa and its employees. It is an excellent opportunity for the school board to get rid of this property so they no longer need to pay to maintain it.”

Council member John Lysenko wonders how it could cost the hospital $19 million to build a new parking deck when, he says, Akron Children’s Hospital just built a much larger one for $20 million.

“I haven’t seen any estimates from any contractors though I have asked to see them several times,” said Lysenko. “I have heard about several departments moving out of Barberton, though I have not heard how many employees have been moved out.”

Lysenko said he believes Summa can afford to build a new deck and that they should do so rather than constructing over such a beautiful space.

The controversial rezoning issue must go through three readings before being voted on by council. It is scheduled to have its second reading at the upcoming meeting on March 3.