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City might give food pantry a site

SOLON– The city council members don’t want to store food for a proposed pantry in the library’s basement, but they may agree to something more critical to the project: a location.
In a packed meeting last Wednesday (Feb. 1), the Solon City Council and organizers for a Solon food pantry came together again to discuss a request to temporarily store non-perishable food in the basement of the Solon Public Library. Organizers were seeking a site to stockpile items in anticipation of the pantry’s proposed June opening.
Council members and Mayor Cami Rasmussen raised numerous concerns at a Jan. 11 meeting, and those concerns led to consensus against the use of the library basement in a 4-1 vote last week.
But shortly after the vote, council member Steve Stange suggested he might support providing the pantry with a location adjacent to Randall Park.
Stange had been against the temporary storage proposal, aligned with former council member Sue Ballantyne on this particular issue. Both suggested the basement was home to too many items that didn’t belong to the city.
Pantry organizers are still reviewing numerous options for a permanent distribution and storage site, including the use of a temporary building belonging to the Solon Community School District and property owned by the Solon United Methodist Church.
A discussion of those options and the city’s concerns about security in the library basement were cut short by Stange’s motion to deny the pantry request.
With no more discussion, the council voted 4-1 not to allow the temporary storage. Brad Kunkel was the dissenting vote. “I don’t personally see the problem with allowing the food pantry to store food down there for what’s going to turn out to be four months, probably less,” Kunkel said.
That prompted Solon Senior Advocates member Larry Meister to query the council members how each felt about the idea of a Solon pantry.
“And down the road, when we need certain things and come to you, are you going to amenable to listening to those things and helping it be the Solon community pantry?” Meister asked.
Each of the council members voiced support for the overall idea of the pantry.
“If you bring other things to our table, we will listen and take consideration of how we can help you out,” council member Mark Krall summarized.
“I’m going to bring that next thing to you,” Meister responded, asking whether the city might have land where a temporary building from the school could be permanently located.
“A building means parking, handicapped spaces,” countered Rasmussen. “I think you have to think a little bit bigger than just a building.”
“Personally, that might be something I actually might support,” Stange said. He said he didn’t know if the city had such a site, and would want it to look nice. “I don’t want it to fall apart in five years’ time,” he added.
Meister suggested it would be better to know how all the council members felt, so organizers and the city didn’t waste time on an idea that would end up as a roadblock for the project.
Stange, continuing with his thought, came up with a potential location, at the edge of Randall Park’s parking lot. “That may be a possibility,” he said.
The temporary buildings have air conditioning, are wired and are the right size, Meister said. “It could be pursued further if we had someplace to put it.”
“I think it’s definitely something we could talk about,” Stange said.
A couple of other sites were also mentioned as council members continued their consideration, but Rasmussen wrapped up the discussion.
“I think what we can take from this discussion is the support is there that you asked for, and we’ll cross those roads as we need to,” said Rasmussen.