Portage County roundup: Aurora fire chief retires, plus Ravenna and Streetsboro news

Ravenna City Hall. Ben Wolford/The Portager


Longtime Fire Chief David Barnes retired in August. He was with the department for 45 years, and 20 of those years he was the chief. The city is undergoing a search using the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association to assist it and hopes to name a new chief early in 2023. The acting chief is Matthew McBirney.


The Aurora Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau held its annual holiday luncheon Dec. 6 at The Aurora Inn where it presented its Person of the Year and Business of the Year. The 2022 Person of the Year is outgoing Fire Chief Barnes, and the 2022 Business of the Year is Lynk Packaging, located at 1250 Page Road. Proclamations for Barnes and Lynk Packaging were received from Governor Mike DeWine, Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague and U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce.

Before being promoted to fire chief, Barnes, a 1975 graduate of Aurora High School, held other positions with the fire department, including emergency medical technician, lieutenant and assistant fire chief. He also serves as a part-time Aurora police officer.

“I learned a lot from the people of Aurora,” Barnes said. “It was nice to give a little back.”

Lynk Packaging has been in business in Aurora for 37 years and employs 50 people. The company has offered meaningful employment in partnership with True Freedom Enterprises to those who may otherwise be unemployable, including those in halfway houses, those recovering from addiction and formerly incarcerated individuals.

“The leadership at Lynk is amazing, working extremely hard to support our clients,” said David Wessel, True Freedom Enterprises director of operations and development. “The positive culture at Lynk is unmatched. Many of our clients have never known positive role models. Lynk’s mentors lovingly fill that gap. They have a huge heart for those marginalized by society.”

Lynk Packaging, through its owner, Rick MacDonald, has sponsored and financially supported Aurora Relay for Life Teams benefitting The American Cancer Society, Food2Share, Hattie Larlham, The Church in Aurora 4-H Club and others as well as sponsoring and coaching Aurora Little League Teams and Aurora High School Hockey.


A citywide traffic signalization project is in the final stages. All traffic signals and many of the poles with traffic signals are being replaced by traffic signals and poles that have the latest technology.

“We upgraded the entire system,” said Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin. “We received a sizable grant from AMATS (Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study) to help pay for it. We had about 100 traffic signals that we took down that city council authorized us to auction.”


The city received a proclamation from the Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA) at its Nov. 21 meeting because the city has been a member of RITA for 50 years. Aurora was one of the 39 founding municipalities of RITA.  


The city held its annual holiday tree-lighting festival at Bicentennial Park Nov. 26 on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Highlighting the event were various musical performances, a dance troupe from the Bollywood Dance School in Cleveland, a brass quartet from the Behrendt family, ice carving, food trucks, visits with Santa Claus, a Holidays of the World Scavenger Hunt for children and a disc jockey.

“It was wonderful and a lot of fun,” Womer Benjamin said. “The whole event has changed a little bit over the years. We’re doing it more as a festival now.”

City of Ravenna

Helping people experiencing homelessness is a huge task, but Ravenna City Council, in conjunction with Neighborhood Development Services, is trying its best to do just that. It is not necessarily a council project, but there are some council members involved with it.

“We’re trying to work with the people who provide these services like the homeless shelters and make sure they’re working quickly so people aren’t suffering,” Mayor Frank Seman said. “Quite often, some of our homeless are really abused because of their situation, so the downtown area is where a lot of them congregate. They feel safe there because there are cameras on the courthouse and the police station is right around the corner.”

The objective is to make sure people have places to go, such as shelters, to get them services. Some of the people without homes are more needy than others, and some of them may have criminal records and have trouble getting access to shelters.


City council will hold a public hearing about a cannabis business that will be opening soon on North Chestnut Street that is one of the sites selected for medical marijuana distribution. The business is in the process of starting to remodel the building, and it is still working on getting all of its permits.

“They bought the lot next door, which was all residential, and they’re going to use that for parking,” said Seman. “They need to come to council to get that rezoned.”


One city council member is considering legislation to restrict the use of recycling and garbage cans in front of houses. Council is looking at the possibility of asking people to keep the recycling and garbage cans in the side yards or the backyard.

“Council thinks that it’s detracting to the city, that it doesn’t look nice,” Seman said.


City council is trying to wrap up a project with the Recreation Department to acquire a piece of land that runs between Diamond Street and Lakewood Street. It is a rather large piece of land, undeveloped for the most part, but it is really limited on what it can be used for. For the most part, it will be a quiet place for people to go on walks and see wildlife. Walking paths will be put in. It is under a conservancy. The city will be taking the land over but does not have to pay anything for it. It is being done with grant funds.


Big Dog Saloon and Cimmaron Lounge will host Christmas parties in the next week and a half.

Big Dog Saloon, located at 432 W. Highland Ave., will have its party Friday, Dec. 16, at 9 p.m. There will be a food truck, specialty drinks and a disc jockey. 

Cimmaron Lounge, located at 241 W. Main St., will have its party Friday, Dec. 23, at 6:30 p.m. There will be an Ugly Sweater Contest, a 50-50 raffle, karaoke, a disc jockey and drink specials.


There will be an event called “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” from O.U.R. Place (Open United Recovery) at 260 W. Main St. Friday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. Photos with Santa and free pizza will highlight the event.


The Portage County Historical Society (PCHS) will hold its second annual “Vintage Christmas Walk” Saturday, Dec. 17, and Sunday, Dec. 18, both from 5-9 p.m. The walk will start at the PCHS at 6549 N. Chestnut St. The cost is $20 per person and $20 per family. With paid admission, individuals will receive a free one-year PCHS membership. Free refreshments will be available. Tickets are on sale at the PCHS, West Main Street Winery & Brewery and Susie K’s Café & Tea Room.


Ravenna 7 Movies, located at 215 Cedar Ave., is showing Christmas movies through the holidays.  


There was an open house the weekend of Dec. 3-4 for construction that was done at 219 W. Main St. The old Triangle Pharmacy was renovated into office space. Portage Metropolitan, which owns the building, is hoping to find a tenant for the building.


Another open house was held Nov. 25 for a beauty, cosmetics and personal care business called Manifest Beauty, which is located at 211 Lawrence Ave.


A building next to Guido’s Pizza and Catering on West Main Street was torn down. It was purchased by Neighborhood Development Services. Most recently, the building housed the Roubic Law Offices.

“We all are waiting on bated breath to know what it’s going to be,” said Main Street Ravenna Executive Director Arasin Hughes. “We’re hoping for a hybrid of parking and green space. A while back, it was the last Art Deco building in Ravenna. It had some historical aspects to it, and we were all sad to see it go.”


The city recently has looked at expanding its community reinvestment area (CRA). It would be an incentive for businesses to add on or rebuild. Businesses can expand now, but there is no economic incentive.

“When we do an abatement for someone, a CRA is essentially the same as an abatement, but it’s in a specific area, and we can give them a certain amount. We’re trying to increase the size of the area where we can give it to them,” Mayor Glenn Broska said. 

“Say that a business wants to increase the size of its business by 30,000 square feet. If they’re in the CRA, we can give them an abatement on the new size. If that business wants to add 30,000 square feet, we give them an abatement on the 30,000 square feet that they’re adding, so it’s an economic incentive for them to add on. It would be more difficult for us to give them an economic incentive under the current law.”


A new law based on a State of Ohio law will make using electronic devices while driving a primary offense instead of a secondary offense. It is on third reading, and city council has to make a couple adjustments to it.

“There was some ambiguity in it, and we want to tighten it up, and we’re making those adjustments,” Broska said.

City council will vote Monday night, Dec. 12, and indications are that it will go into effect in a month.

Roger Gordon
+ posts