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Akron seeks grants for youth violence, tech, art

3/16/2017 - South Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

The City of Akron is seeking grant funding to make the city more technologically smart, address the issue of youth violence and put more public art throughout the city.

During committee meetings March 13, Akron City Council learned more about efforts the city is making that, if successful, could result in it being awarded thousands of dollars for those efforts.

Passed on first reading was an ordinance authorizing the city to apply for and accept grant funding that would go toward a facilitator for the city’s Youth Violence Steering Committee. The $30,000 grant, from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS), would cover the cost of a strategic planning process that would include data collection, stakeholder engagement and intervention prioritization, according to the legislation.

The grant, if awarded, would require a 25 percent match, but the city is asking OCJS to waive it, according to Malinda Sampsell, who is the city’s grants administrator. She also said the committee is considering Crystal Jones, of Project Ujima, to serve as the facilitator.

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Charles Brown said the committee convened in 2016 to look at models used in other communities to combat youth violence. He added that one initiative the city is looking at is Cure Violence, an effort that examines violence as a health issue.

Sampsell said the effort in Akron is still in the research phase, as the committee considers whether to target older teens caught up in violence or children who have witnessed violence. She added that Kent State University will assist with data collection.

In Council’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting, information was presented on a $250,000 grant request submitted to the Knight Foundation for the Akron Smart City Internet of Things (IoT) Technology Initiative. If approved, the grant would allow the city to develop a citywide “smart city” strategy and pilot implementation to “showcase the city as a technology-forward city,” according to the legislation.

The plan would be part of the city’s project to overhaul South Main Street in the downtown central business district, a project that received support through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. Only Knight Foundation cities are eligible for the funding, which would be for a two-year period, Sampsell said.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, IoT is the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. The committee placed the ordinance allowing the city to apply for and accept the grant on the consent agenda for approval at the next meeting.

In the Planning Committee meeting, Council members heard about the city’s application for $100,000 from the ArtPlace America 2017 National Creative Placemaking Fund. If awarded, the grant would fund the placement of public art in the city’s 24 newly designated neighborhoods. City officials should know in May or June if the application was successful, Sampsell said. The committee placed the ordinance regarding the application on the consent agenda.

The City of Akron’s Department of Planning and Urban Development recently updated the boundaries of its neighborhoods. Most of the neighborhoods have had boundaries redefined, while four new neighborhoods have been created to more accurately represent the city, Akron officials said. A map of the new neighborhood designations is available at www.akronohio.gov/cms/Akron_Neighborhoods_Updated/neighborhoods_akron_2016_85x11mxd.pdf.

Also this week, Council adopted an ordinance authorizing the issuance and sale of $4 million in notes to cover the costs of the city’s self-insurance program for employees. The city has done this since 2009, according to Steve Fricker, deputy director of finance.

Council placed on the consent agenda for approval at its next meeting the annual contract with the Summit County Public Defender Commission to provide legal services to indigent defendants in Akron Municipal Court at a cost of $415,200.

Joseph Kodish, director of the office, said the contract reflects a slight increase over last year’s. About 5,000 cases were handled by public defenders last year, he added.

“This is consistent with what we’ve been doing for 40 years,” he said.

Council will next meet March 20 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. that day, also in Chambers.

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