University Heights City Council meeting highlights

Mayor Infeld swears in new Finance Director, Jenny Esarey. Photo by Anita Kazarian.

MARCH 15, 2010

All council members present.

Salting concerns

Resident Deborah Newman asked council to continue clearing sidewalks rather than increase the salting of streets, as another resident, Harvey Morrison of White Road, had proposed at the previous meeting. She was concerned for the public’s safety as they use the sidewalks throughout the winter.

Budget concerns

Win Weizer, a resident of University Heights and former council member, expressed concern that the budget was being used for political gain by withholding approval of a balanced budget until demands were met. She noted that $300,000 of the increase in payroll was due to the 27th paycheck that occurs every 12 years for those who are paid bi-weekly. A member of the fire department noted that this paycheck was incurred in 2009 but was postponed because it had not been included in the budget. The pay raise wouldn’t take effect until July and accounts for $96,000. [Note: Typical fiscal years have 26 payrolls, but once every 12 years there is a 27th - where the first payroll falls within the first day or two of the year and the last one is on the last day or two.] Weizer also reminded council in reference to the charter amendments to abide by the vote of the residents.

Permit and inspection requirements

Resident Jeff Muller addressed council regarding recent changes to the permit and inspection requirements for rental properties. As a resident of this city he has owned several rental properties for over 20 years and has a strong interest in maintaining the community values. The annual permit of $200 for a duplex is high when compared to neighboring communities with the exception of Beachwood. He found the inspections were arbitrary and petty. He would like for a committee to be available to hear appeals for cited violations. Mayor Infeld stated that the building commissioner was available for appeals, and that there have been recent changes in the permit process.

“Sensible salting”

With members Frankie Goldberg and Frank Consolo voting no, council passed a motion to continue the “sensible salting” policy that was implemented in 2009. The decision had to be made now in order to meet ODOT’s deadline for a salt order for next winter. The city will order 3300 tons of salt and will continue to salt main and secondary main streets, hills, intersections, and all streets during ice storms. Council authorized an agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation to purchase up to 3,300 tons of road salt.

Tree planting

Council approved the advertisement of bids for the 2010 tree planting. The purchase is expected to be larger than usual due to the plan to replace ash trees before the emerald ash borers infest the city.

Otis Paul Drayton Jr

Council approved a resolution honoring the life of Otis Paul Drayton, Jr., an Olympic champion who won two medals in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and was a resident of University Heights.

2010 expenses and expenditures

Council did not approve appropriation for current expenses and expenditures for 2010. Council members Steven Sims, Kevin Patrick Murphy, VFrankie Goldberg and Steven Bullock voted no. The points of contention were the lack of funds budgeted for capitol or infrastructure improvements, and the increase in payroll costs. Since the budget must be submitted to Cuyahoga County by March 31, council will schedule another meeting within the next two weeks to resume discussion. Vice Mayor Goldberg said this would give Mayor Infeld additional time to continue working on changes.

Pumper truck

Chief Pitchler announced that FEMA had confirmed receipt of the city’s grant application for a new pumper truck. Feedback should be received within two weeks. He also had received notice of a smoke detector grant in the amount of $81,000.

LWV observer: Wendy Deuring.

MARCH 23, 2010 – special meeting on 2010 budget

All council members present.

2010 budget approved and discussed

Council unanimously approved the budget for calendar year 2010.

Council members discussed the budget and the budgeting process.

Councilman Steven Bullock stated he would vote yes to give the mayor more time to make changes in leadership and management style. The city must not simply “squeak through” as they’ve done for the six years of his tenure. He hoped work would begin immediately on the 2011 budget.

Vice Mayor Frankie Goldberg noted that University Heights is one of the few cities that had an increase in tax revenues last year, but she is concerned that current systems are at risk. She thanked the directors and non-union employees who had agreed to a pay freeze, however, they need to take up long-term planning and forecasting. No more “business as usual.”

Councilman Kevin Patrick Murphy also voted yes to give the mayor more time. Union contracts will come up for negotiations, and the recommendations of the Efficiency Study must be considered. He suggested that they look outside the region for innovative ideas since Northeast Ohio is not known for its innovation.

Councilman Steven Sims stated that the budget is a commentary on the city’s structure and organization. He was concerned with increasing personnel costs and also urged immediate work on the 2011 budget.

Councilman Phil Ertel observed that since the city has a new mayor and interim finance and law directors, he was simply glad to be moving forward.

Mayor Infeld thanked council members for their comments and stated that she was beginning to research options. Research assignments would be given to council members in the near future.

Director of finance

Council approved the rate of compensation for the director of finance at $70,000, presumably for a full-time position. Anthony Ianiro currently serves as interim finance director in a part-time role.

LWV observer: Wendy Deuring.

APRIL 5, 2010

Vice Mayor Frankie B. Goldberg and Councilman Steven Sims absent.

Finance Director Jennifer Esarey

Mayor Infeld welcomed and swore in Jennifer Esarey, the city’s new finance director. Also present was the former interim finance directory, Anthony Ianiro, who will help with the transition.

Warning for gardeners

Mayor Infeld warned residents to call 811 to locate buried pipes and wires before digging in the garden this spring.

Gesu boys basketball team

Council honored the Gesu boys’ basketball team for winning the 2010 Catholic Youth Organization Championship. A picture was taken of the players and coaches with the mayor and each player receiving a certificate.

Recycling processing services

Council authorized the city to participate in a consortium to invite proposals for recycling services.

Third Frontier Program

Council passed a resolution supporting Issue 1, better known as the Third Frontier Program. Mayor Infeld noted that the Cuyahoga area had received $400 million through the current Third Frontier Program.

Pay scale for recreation department personnel

Council agreed to freeze the 2010 season pay scale for all recreation department personnel at the 2009 season level. Projected savings were between 25 to 26 thousand dollars. Seasonal workers haven’t been hired yet, and the hourly minimum wage of $7.30 could impact the budget. Councilman Kevin Patrick Murphy suggested council also review work schedules for efficiency and possibly further savings.

Packer box rubbish truck

Assistant Service Director John Pucella requested a motion for an emergency repair of the floor of the packer box rubbish truck at a cost of $11,097. Currently garbage falls through to the street. If one more truck were disabled, the city would not have a truck to collect brush from tree lawns. Councilman Steven Bullock said that city maintenance should be more proactive to avoid emergencies and that a better use of the $11,000 would be for a down payment on a new truck. Council understood the emergency because they had already advertised brush pickup to the residents. However, the motion made failed for lack of a second.

Smoke detectors

Fire Chief John Pitchler reported receipt of $81,880 for the purchase of 4,000 state-of-the-art smoke detectors. They will be distributed at local venues, such as block parties and through his staff of fire fighters. The city will install them for free. The chief was congratulated for his success with his two recent grant proposals.

City newsletter production savings

Councilman Frank Consolo reported that the city had saved a substantial sum of money by producing its newsletter, At Your Service: Information Bulletin, in house.

Financial help for home foreclosures

Councilwoman Susan Pardee asked the mayor to inform residents of the wonderful work ESOP (Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People), a local community organization, is doing regarding financial help for home foreclosures. The organization has an 83 percent success rate.

LWV observer: Carol Gibson.

This is an expanded version of the report published in the printed Heights Observer.

These meeting summaries are abstracted from LWV observers’ written reports. The summaries have been edited and prepared by Anne McFarland, Charlene Morse, Marilyn McLaughlin and Maryann Barnes. To receive e-mail postings of full reports, send an e-mail to mbarnes9515@gmail.com or join through Google groups using “lwv-chuh observer reports” as a search phrase. 

These reports contain member observation and selected highlights of public meetings and are not official statements of the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters Cuyahoga Area. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 12:54 PM, 04.19.2010