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The Minerva Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual State of Minerva luncheon at Great Trail Golf Course, which brings together representatives from Minerva Village, Minerva Local Schools and the Minerva Area Food Pantry Council.
Special guest speakers included Minerva Local Schools Superintendent Gary Chaddock; Minerva Go Team's Rev. Harley Wheeler; Minerva Village Administrator David Harp; and Minerva Police Chief Christopher Miller.
Chaddock kicked-off the luncheon with a brief summary of Minerva schools and how much local businesses mean to students and staff.
"I am always thankful for the local businesses and organizations who contribute to our school system," said Chaddock.
"The community gives to our kids and our kids give back to the community."
Chaddock stated the goal is to offer and assist students with three choices out of school which are college, a trade school/technical college, or military.
He stated approximately 1,900 students are in the Minerva school system. Approximately 130 went to R.G. Drage this year and next year it is expected to climb to 160 students.
Students going to college may take advantage of the College Credits Plus program which is in cooperation with Kent State University, University of Akron and the University of Mount Union.
Chaddock explained a $740,000 technology grant is being utilized to its full potential.
"We don't want to just get this stuff so it sits," said Chaddock. "Our staff utilizes it into every day learning."
He explained the school is financially stable and the new field house is a result of that, coming through the general fund that uses tax payer dollars.
Tours of the new field house will be given in the Spring, according to Chaddock.
Finally he wanted to be clear that safety is the number one concern for students.
"Officer Larry Carver has been excellent an excellent addition as the school resource officer," said Chaddock.
Carver serves to assist with law enforcement at schools; to serve as an educator for the students; and to assist students and prevent crime as an interventionist. The school is also continuing education against the heroin epidemic.
Rev. Harley Wheeler represented the Minerva Go Team and Minerva Area Food Pantry with a presentation on food help for those in need in the village.
"I like to say that there is one church in town but in several different buildings," said Wheeler when speaking about the unity of the village churches in helping those in need.
Wheeler said they have been working to better communicate with those who need assistance and there has been a significant increase of 18-20 percent of clients. He noted this advertising effort has also increased the number of those volunteering to help.
Wheeler explained approximately 720 households in the Minerva Area will seek food help at least once in any calendar year, which is close to 1,800 individuals.
"A little money can serve a lot of people," said Wheeler. He said that every dollar donated works like $10 at the Akron Canton Food Bank, where they get the food for distribution.
Finally he spoke upon the success with the Minerva Local Schools backpack program with True North Church which sends bags of food to those children in need so they have food for over the weekend.
"I have heard actual reports of cries of delight when children open their backpacks," said Wheeler.
Wheeler informed attendees food help is available in a number of places in Minerva including the Minerva United Methodist Church at its monthly distribution, Community Outreach at St. Paul's monthly, True North Church as well as a community dinner held each first Tuesday, 6 p.m. at the Minerva Community Building.
Village Administrator Harp began by addressing the elephant in the room in the form of the conflict when members of council voted to not renew his contract at the August 31 Village Council meeting.
"I really did not see that coming at all," said Harp. "I have been here 30 years and last year was a tough year, but we have a new council and we are going to work together and get things done."
Harp spoke about the new census data which makes it hard for the village to get grants. He said Minerva is doing a study by an outside agency to confirm this. He mentioned the waterlines are aging and not getting any better. Water rates are going to need to adjusted.
Harp informed chamber members demolition has been completed on the old village pool despite a few setbacks, such as another layer of concrete below the previous pool.
Harp introduced a fourth guest speaker, Chief Miller of the Minerva Police Department.
Miller explained some of his background in law enforcement, including 19 years in Minerva and the Stark County Deputy for four years.
"It really is a privilege and an honor to be in this position," said Miller. "As tough as it is, I enjoy it."
Miller stated he and Harp's top priority was to revamp and update the police department's technology and look. The redesigned patch and cruisers logo were done by 10th-grade art students Faith Taylor and Amber Hume, respectively.
Miller said all vehicles are now fully equipped and two officers are assigned to each car.
"You always hear about departments getting body cameras, well we have had body cameras for five years," said Miller.
"We are currently getting them upgraded. Another priority of law enforcement in general is to get more non-lethal weapons which is what we are doing."
He explained everyone is getting special training to work deal with juveniles and how the school resource officer Carver is a perfect liaison between the juveniles and officers.
Miller said there have been 1,520 arrests in 2016. He also stated that half of the drug arrests made were because of the influence of heroin.