University Heights Mayor Infeld addresses the state of the city

[University Heights Mayor Susan Infeld gave her annual State of the City Address at the Feb. 4 University Heights City Council meeting. Below is her address in its entirety.]

As I begin my fourth year as your mayor and look back over the past year's events in University Heights, I believe that we have many things to celebrate in our community. Your City Administration has made continued progress toward several of our long-term goals: improved fiscal responsibility, the expansion of our limited green space, participation in local and regional efforts to improve services and improved communication between city government and our constituents.

I am happy to report that we closed the books last year with a $2.2 million revenue surplus, the largest surplus in our City's history. This money is being reinvested into the City's operations and will pay for equipment, programs and services to benefit you and ensure the financial health of our community for years to come. Continuous vigilance assuring that your tax dollars are spent wisely remains a top priority at City Hall. We will press forward with ongoing reviews of operations to improve efficiency, save costs and employ best management practices. This year's budget increases the funds available for street paving projects by 60% over last year. We will replace aging vehicles and out-dated computers in several departments, so that your public servants have the tools to help them provide the best possible services to our citizens. The City has been able to save money by using grant dollars for numerous capital projects. We were recently awarded funds to conduct an energy audit for all municipal buildings. A second funded grant allowed some building improvements that reduced energy costs and improved use of space in our properties.

As a small, inner ring, residential suburb, the opportunity to acquire new public space is rare indeed. Our green space initiatives have advanced tremendously through the purchase of the former Fuchs Mizrachi /Northwood school property on Fenwick Road. Although preliminary investigation into redevelopment of this green space as a park has occurred, the final decision about the use of this community space is awaiting feedback from our constituents via a citizen's advisory committee. Smaller scale green initiatives in the City continued with the addition of a new neighborhood green space on Silsby near Allison Road. We are looking forward to an updating of the City's Planning and Zoning Code in 2013. This document was last updated some sixty years ago. The resulting upgrade will be more user-friendly to homeowners seeking to improve their property and more accommodating to potential businesses that are exploring new locations in University Heights.

Regionalism is the wave of the future in Northeast Ohio and more than just a buzzword in University Heights. Your City Administration has continued to aggressively investigate programs that could be shared regionally resulting in more cost-effective services. The feasibility of consolidating University Heights' fire services with those of Shaker Heights has been under consideration for the past 2 years. Such a consolidation of fire services has never happened before in Cuyahoga County and naturally generated questions and concerns among community members. A study which analyzed the feasibility of a consolidation took place last year. In January, Shaker Heights Mayor Earl Leiken and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding that formalizes the exploration of this concept. Although this document establishes guidelines for the proposed consolidation, it is non-binding. No action on this proposal will occur without the approval of the city councils of both communities. University Heights' analysis of this proposal is ongoing and continued community feedback about this proposal is being sought to help the City Council and me decide if this merger is an appropriate course of action for our community. Other cooperative Public Service efforts include a study exploring the establishment of a regional dispatch center for police services for University Heights, Beachwood, Euclid, South Euclid and Shaker Heights. If established, this center would function similarly to the fire dispatch center that is operated jointly by University Heights, Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights. Our City's regional partnership with the Cleveland Water Department produces annual upgrades to the infrastructure of University Heights as century-old waterlines are replaced with new ones.

Given the name of our city, the value of top-notch educational opportunities for our citizens cannot be overstated. The City Council and I are engaged in ongoing dialogue with the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board in an effort to preserve a public elementary school within our city boundries as they formulate their long term plans to preserve the excellence of the public education available to University Heights residents. City Hall continues to work to improve the very good relationship we enjoy with the institution for which we are named, John Carroll University. The successful renaming of North Park Boulevard to John Carroll Boulevard last year is just one minor demonstration of how close cooperation can strengthen both the University and our community.

Communication through ever expanding resources and Governmental transparency are key issues as we move forward in the 21" century. However, sometimes old fashioned face to face conversation just has no substitute. In this regard, several Town Hall meetings were held in the past year on important and controversial topics such as the proposed consolidation of our City's fire services with those of Shaker Heights and the acquisition of the former Fuchs Mizrachi School property. The City Council and I have found that using a Town Hall forum has been a useful way to exchange information and hear your thoughts on projects under consideration. City Hall has upgraded its communications to you with the addition of a Twitter feed to supplement the city's Facebook presence. A new website was recently unveiled to update our look on the Internet and to better serve your needs. E-mail notifications to those of you who have provided e-mail addresses have been expanded to include alerts of important information in addition to regular delivery of the City newsletter or as it is affectionately known, the "garbage gazette".

I would like to thank the City Council and vice-mayor Frankie Goldberg for their hard work, cooperation and support of the City Administration in its delivery of services to the community. I would like to especially acknowledge the contributions of my good friend and colleague Councilman Thomas Cozzens, who recently passed away. Tom's strong work ethic and friendly manner will be sorely missed here at City Hall. I was honored to have served this community with him. I would also like to thank the Department Directors at City Hall for their strong management skills which served the City Administration in the delivery of services to you. Chief Steven Hammett reorganized the Police Department and aligned its services to be more responsive and visible to the community. Service Director Jeffrey Pokorny oversaw several improvements to the Service garage and negotiated contracts to save money and improve City services to you. Building Commissioner David Menn incorporated research from Case Western Reserve University to improve the operation of his department. Interim Fire Chief Brian Phan realigned functions of the Fire Department to accommodate best practices. Finance Director Larry Heiser undertook outreach to state agencies for the City's benefit and made improvements in our budgeting process.

I appreciate the confidence you have placed in me to work with your City Council for the continued growth of our community. I will work hard to ensure that your tax dollars are managed wisely and to seek new ways to make the experience of living in University Heights pleasant and productive for you and your families. As always, if you have any questions or would like to speak to me about any issue, please contact me by email at and by phone at 216-932-7800 x222.

Thank you.

Feb. 4, 2013

Mayor Susan Infeld

Susan Infeld is the mayor of the City of University Heights.

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Volume 6, Issue 3, Posted 11:19 AM, 02.05.2013