STOW: A $100 million hospital that has been on the drawing board for several years is expected to break ground in the fall and bring more than 600 jobs to the area.

The 100-bed project by Summa Health System tops the list of changes coming to Stow in 2012, new Mayor Sara Drew said.

Drew took the oath of office this month, leaving her City Council seat to replace former Mayor Karen Fritschel. She said she is eager to finish some activities her predecessor started and to introduce projects of her own.

The Summa hospital is to be built in a Seasons Road joint economic development zone shared by Stow, Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson. The three cities will share in the revenue the hospital generates and that could attract other businesses to that largely undeveloped area.

Also on the economic development front, the city will welcome at least two new employers.

Evant Inc., a residential service provider for people with developmental disabilities, is moving its 55 employees to Stow from Cuyahoga Falls. A new Altercare nursing and rehab facility is to begin construction this spring and contribute 68 jobs to the economy.

Stow is in discussions with other businesses that Drew said she couldn’t identify.

“I feel confident in Stow’s ability [to attract] businesses here because we have great green space available” and the city is easily accessible to several highways, she said.

Infrastructure

Drew said the $600,000 the city spent on roads last year wasn’t enough. She hopes to expand that figure as the city continues current budget talks.

The city has three grants totaling $1.1 million in hand for resurfacing projects on Commerce Drive, Hudson Drive and Stow Road. Also, the resurfacing of Norton Road and widening of Graham Road are expected in 2012 through partnerships with the bordering communities of Hudson and Cuyahoga Falls.

Meanwhile, another kind of infrastructure will be going in along state Routes 91 and 59.

The OneCommunity nonprofit network is expected to install wireless Internet along those thoroughfares to provide inexpensive connections for nonprofits and government offices, as well as discounted service for private businesses.

Quality of life

Drew is considering candidates for parks and recreation director. A vacancy was created when Nick Wren was moved to the post of assistant service director.

The parks director will come from an internal candidate and not a new hire, Drew said.

Whoever gets the job will be charged with the task of “revamping” programs the department has offered for a long time. From summer activities to senior programming, the city wants to be certain it is offering activities residents want and need, Drew said.

Also being formed this year is a Commission on Disabilities, a volunteer group of residents who will be asked to advise Stow on the needs of its disabled residents.

The commission could make recommendations on anything from identifying crosswalks in need of improvement to offering specialized programs, Drew said.

“This is important to me,” she said. “This is a segment of our community we are not serving as well as we could.”

City staffing

Thanks to a grant received last year, the city’s firefighting forces are fully staffed. The same cannot be said of the police department.

Drew said the department is down a few officers, and she is assessing whether some of those positions need to be restored.

Overall, the city’s payroll of 234 people represents a 15 percent decrease from pre-recession staffing, and a study is under way to determine if there are critical vacancies in need of filling.

“It’s not like we’re going to get back to what we used to be, but it’s more about asking how do we move forward with what we have,” she said. “This is the new reality.”

Drew said she will be active in two mayors’ groups — one made up of Summit County mayors and another of Summit and Portage county chiefs — that are continuing to discuss ways of collaborating.

Stow operates a regional dispatch center and will be looking for new partners, but there are many other ways communities can team up to save money, Drew said.

Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or pschleis@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.