April 20, 2014

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Avon Lake hires public relations firm to explain why city, school losing money

AVON LAKE — The city will spend $12,000 on a public relations firm to help explain why the city and school district are losing money after the devaluation of NRG Energy Plant.

Mayor Greg Zilka said the hire was a smart one in order to maintain the residents’ trust after the approval of a school levy in May and with the uncertainties surrounding the plant’s devaluation.

“We are seeing a very dramatic reduction in the public utility tax obligations of the power plant. This could cause some tremendous ramifications for the city and for the schools in the long run,” he said.

“They are going to blame that on the schools and say that, once again, the city and the schools have not been truthful. This is a very complicated issue and one that needs professional guidance as to how it may be presented so it can be as clear as possible.”

The devaluation of NRG Energy Plant, which was announced in late October, came as a surprise to city officials, according to Zilka. The devaluation by the Ohio Department of Taxation from about $35.9 million to nearly $16.4 million will cost the city, school district and county money.

Avon Lake Schools, which presently receives about $3.3 million in annual revenue from the plant, will lose about $1.3 million in annual revenue, according to the district’s treasurer.

During Monday night’s City Council meeting, Council unanimously approved the hire of the public relations firm, The Impact Group, for a period of three months. But the hire was not without criticism.

Avon Lake resident Richard Gerrone said the city is wastefully spending money for services that could be provided by city officials.

“We really need to take that in-house — $12,000 for a PR firm to tell us the city did nothing wrong,” he said, asking Council to reconsider.

Zilka said the purpose of hiring The Impact Group for a “sustained communications program” is to educate the residents. He said the city often hires outside firms, such as law firms, because the city has limited resources.

“It’s not unusual, because we’re such a small city,” he said.

Zilka said the city and the school district plan to hold an informational public meeting in December on the devaluation. He said it is important to keep the residents informed on the issue.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.

  • Pablo Jones

    They should hire another company to do a poll and ask the residence whether they have heard about the issue or not and if they did where they heard about it. I’d bet even after the PR firm does their thing many people still won’t know about it and those that do probably knew about be cause they read it in the paper. More wasted money.

  • ClevelandBill

    This is poor leadership, and duplicates what the Mayor should be doing as part of his job. Small-town mayors with BIG DREAMS start thinking in terms of “political defense” early, so that they can keep climbing their personal ladder of accomplishment. Running a city just isn’t that difficult. Government of the people, by the people, for the people. Instead, we have government of the people, by a separate, insular class of the politically connected, and all for their benefit. Either nobody read their history books, or nobody any longer believes, but this kind of government in Avon Lake is un-American.

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  • Beentheredonethat

    Well the federal goverment wants all coal fire plants too close so get ready for higher electric bills and anouther school tax levy just to stay even.

  • GreatRedeemer

    Politicians… geez Do you really need a PR firm to
    communicate to the residents ? Just tell the truth and move forward. the PR firm isn’t going to get the lost revenue back just waste $12,000 that could be used
    elsewhere.
    At least find a local to Avon Lake PR firm, I’m sure they are not the only one that can make your 30 second commercial and tell you what to say or write.

  • Americaschild

    Total waste of tax dollars by Zilka! He should be working and addressing this information on the local cable, local newspapers, and community town meetings. He needs to start doing his job and stop wasting taxpayer’s money. This $12,000 could pay for safety–police and fire.