MUNROE FALLS: Three years after a local family donated its residence to the city, the light switch is finally being flipped on the Lehner Community Center.


The new center, next to the family’s Lehner Screw Machine Co. on South River Road, will be available for senior citizen activities, receptions and community meetings. An open house to introduce the renovated home to senior groups was held this month.


The center’s opening will go down as one of the highlights of 2012, said Mayor Frank Larson, who talked about what is coming this year for his city of 5,148 people. Larson was elected to his third four-year term in November.


“We’re really excited about it,” he said as he showed off the roomy building featuring a large kitchen and walls of windows that give view to a pond and a small barn.


The bedrooms still need to be modified, but bathrooms and an outside ramp have made much of the facility ready for use.


Economic development


In this bedroom community, where 80 percent of the residents work outside the city, the addition of any business is news.


So ask Larson what’s coming on the economic development front, and what tops his list is a new food retailer, the Cupcake Binge, opening today on state Route 91.


“Anytime we get a new business, we’re very appreciative,” Larson said.


Aside from the school district, the city has only four employers with staffing in the double digits.


“We’re a pretty well built-out veteran community,” Larson said.


Safety forces


That doesn’t mean the city isn’t looking for ways to bolster its budget.


The local police department launched the Munroe Falls Police Academy in 2009 as a way to generate money through tuition from students and income tax from the teaching staff.


This year, the academy is considering adding a third class to cater to those who want evening hours and adding a program aimed at security officers. The city also might return to offering concealed-carry weapon (CCW)training.


Finance Director David Bailey said any activity at the academy has a trickle-down effect, with students and instructors eating lunch in town and at times filling their cars at area gas stations.


“Plus when the students graduate, we get the pick of the litter,” Bailey said, noting that the city has hired several graduates as part-time officers.


The department has a new police chief. Former Stow police Capt. Rick Myers took the reins Jan. 4.


Streets, utilities


There are no notable street projects planned for 2012, but this could be the year that a serious effort to gain funding to widen Route 91 begins.


The communities of Munroe Falls, Tallmadge, Akron, Stow, Hudson and Twinsburg all would be affected. A grant is being sought that would pay to study possible improvements to the major north-south thoroughfare.


“We’d like to see that happen,” Larson said.


Meanwhile, the city expects a couple of court battles involving local gas wells to be resolved in 2012.


Last year, the city won a court order stopping Beck Energy from drilling a well until the company complies with city ordinances that regulate things such as fencing and performance bonds.


Beck appealed the order to the 9th District Court of Appeals, which could rule sometime this year.


In a second case, the state ruled that despite the city’s refusal to sign a lease, Beck Energy may consider a half-acre of city property as part of the 40 acres needed to drill at 144 S. River Road. The state has yet to rule on the city’s objection.


Events


Each year, the city participates in the regional River Day, where communities along the Cuyahoga River celebrate the waterfront. This year’s event is May 19.


Larson said he hopes residents will mark two other affairs on their calendar: the city’s ice cream social July 22 and the annual car show Sept. 15. Both events are organized by the city’s parks and recreation department.


While Munroe Falls might not seem to have as much new activity as larger communities around it, Larson said, there’s something to be said for maintaining the status quo.


“There’s nothing wrong with the status quo if things are running smoothly,” he said.


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