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County sanitary could handle Mercy hospital facility

WARREN — Trumbull County commissioners have voted against acknowledging the public designation of a road that could be used by a new Mercy Health facility in Champion.

But they did confirm Wednesday that the county has sufficient capacity to accept projected sanitary sewer flows of that proposed facility, identified in an agenda item as a hospital.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding with Mercy Health confirming the county will serve the sanitary sewer needs of the facility. Assistant Sanitary Engineer Scott D. Verner told commissioners the memorandum was needed for Mercy to proceed with the purchase of the property.

The facility would be on nearly 63 acres adjacent to Kent State University at Trumbull.

Commissioners, however, voted 2-1 against officially acknowledging County Highway 1321, also known as Educational Highway, as a publicly dedicated road until the prosecutor’s office clarifies some remaining questions.

Commissioners Mauro Cantalamessa and Frank Fuda on Wednesday both said that waiting another week to acknowledge the designation of the road would not cause any problems for Mercy Health.

“We would rather make sure that we get everything according to our legal person,” Fuda said.

Commissioner Niki Frenchko, who voted yes on the acknowledgment, disagreed that the board needed a prosecutor’s opinion on something so “basic.”

The road was accepted into the county system in 1978, according to Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith, who said his department intends to continue to treat it as a county highway until it is told otherwise by a prosecutor.

He said certain procedures and dedication language are involved and “it’s a little more complicated than people might realize.”

Still, he never requested a legal opinion on the road, he said.

Champion Township Trustee Rex Fee told commissioners during their regular meeting that the township is “concerned” with the issues surrounding the road. He noted that Mercy Health is considering making a significant investment in the township.

“I don’t understand why it’s taking two and three weeks to come up with the answer,” Fee said. “In my opinion, it should be put to bed.”

A 2014 inquiry into the designation of the road by surveyor Dave Dubiuga, who was at the time working for the Trumbull County Planning Commission, found no formal dedication of the road for public use as a right-of-way other than access and utility easements granted to Kent State University and the Trumbull Career and Technical Center.

The same 2014 summary, provided to the Tribune Chronicle by the county engineer’s department, states the road is situated within a 150-foot wide strip of land owned by county commissioners but was in use by the general public.

“From the information above, it appears that Educational Highway is, preliminary speaking, a non-dedicated private road that is in use by the general public,” the summary reads.

Smith said it’s ultimately up to the prosecutor’s office to determine if there is a conflict with the road’s designation.

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