City and county land swap discussions close
By Taylor J. Hale
PORTAGE COUNTY – City Council members voted to end discussions centered on a property swap between the city and the county during a council meeting on Aug. 19.
Leaders carried the motion during what Mayor Mike Wiza called an “unprecedented” meeting in terms of resident attendance, as roughly 15 individuals came out to speak against the development.
The now-defunct swap would have seen the two governments reassigning ownership of the County Annex building and the Portage County Law Enforcement Center to the city. The county would have gained the Portage County Library main branch, the Aging and Disability Resource Center, and roughly 25 acres of land located in the East Park Commerce Center on the east side of town.
Locals noted concerns about the possibility of a decline in economic growth, if the facilities were to leave the downtown area. Residents also voiced concerns about possible vacancies in downtown buildings and the drop in public transportation usage that could stem from the proposal.
Alder Tori Jennings first moved the motion to prohibit further action with the county on the land-swap. Jennings voiced concerns over poor communicative practices about the now dropped plan.
Mayor Wiza added that the city could still utilize existing assets. “Other things on the table are still the Lincoln Center and the library, and those have been on the table for a while,” Wiza explained in a Gazette interview. “I don’t see anything moving there.
“Two things will remain constant as they have had for the two decades the county has been talking about this. The problems aren’t going away, they still exist, and it’s not going to get any cheaper to fix them.”
While talks on the former land-swap outline are closed, other options remain open to the city and county as they continue down their paths towards updated or new facilities. The decision to halt discussions on the swap doesn’t restrict the county from purchasing land privately in any given location in the city.
Contact Taylor J. Hale at [email protected] with Portage County news and information.