The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 13, 2013

Conneaut council fights closing of tourist center

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — City Council in Conneaut will consider a resolution stating its objections to state plans to close the tourist information office inside the Interstate 90 rest area/weigh scales facility.

At Monday’s meeting, Ward 2 Councilman Phil Garcia asked for a resolution be prepared that would state the city’s opposition to the plan announced by the Ohio Department of Transportation earlier this year. In a cost-cutting move, ODOT has said it will remove itself from the tourist center business and will transfer those to other jobs. Local governments can assume the operation if they choose, state officials have said.

Garcia, a vocal opponent of the proposal, said the first contact visitors entering the state from Pennsylvania need is a human being, not a pile of brochures or a computer monitor. “It’s classless not having anyone there,” he said.

A resolution urging ODOT to reconsider, at least at the Conneaut facility, could come before council at their Feb. 25 regular meeting.

In other business:

• Efforts to secure state dollars to create a parking lot and Conneaut Creek access at the long-closed Farnham Park were unsuccessful, said Councilman-at-large Neil LaRusch, who spearheaded the initiative. A project in Cincinnati will be funded instead, he said. The city, which had garnered letters of support for the project, will reapply for funding, he said.

• Council learned the city may have a tentative contract with its dispatchers’ union. Council met in executive session after the Monday meeting to discuss contract talks. A three-year contract with firefighters was approved last month.

• City Manager Tim Eggleston said the city will try to raise the nearly $20,000 needed to participate in a “Communities of Distinction” video program, which could be used to market the city. Council liked the idea but balked at the price tag. The Conneaut Foundation may be asked to provide “emergency funding,” Eggleston said.

• Members heard from Glenda Lowe of Ramblin Rose Alpaca Farm in Monroe Township, who announced a “Feed Our Community” food drive at the farm on July 20. Various activities will be held at the farm to raise cash and groceries for the Conneaut Food Pantry, Lowe said. The farm will match the food items raised during the event, Lowe said.

• A new welcome-to-Conneaut sign has been delivered and will be erected on Route 20 at the Conneaut-North Kingsville line as weather permits. The Conneaut Port Authority has purchased a similar sign that will be placed on Lake Road, council learned.