University Heights City Council meeting highlights 7-28-2014
JULY 28, 2014
- Meritech contract
- Credit card policy
- Bond issue for park
- Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
- ODNR grant for tennis courts
- Vendor payments
Councilwoman Adele Zucker was absent.
Council tabled legislation authorizing a contract for professional services for computer support, network security and network upgrades after Councilman Mark Wiseman inquired about a connection between city hall and Meritech. Finance Director Larry Heiser acknowledged that his assistant is the sister of the sales rep for Meritech, but explained that his assistant had no role in the contract decision. The city worked at length with another vendor before determining that it was not a good fit, and it has had prior, satisfactory business with Meritech.
Councilwoman Pamela Cameron also asked for assurance that Meritech had not received special information to help with its bid. Heiser noted that bid packages were vague because he didn’t know what the options were or what they should ask for. Meritech provided the lowest bid by quite a bit and has been very responsive to the city’s questions.
Law Director Anthony Coyne offered to look into the issue to determine if there was any possibility of a conflict of interest. The primary indications of a conflict are if the related employee was a decision-maker or might affect information related to the contract. Council voted unanimously to table the decision pending the outcome of his investigation.
Because Meritech has been paid $1,600 for providing monthly service in June and July, and Mayor Susan Infeld is limited to $5,000 expenditure without council approval, the mayor will call council together in early August to resolve this without interruption to computer security, and without exceeding her financial limits.
Credit card policy
Council approved the city’s credit card security policy. The city is accepting credit card payments at the pool for the summer, and will move the credit card reader to the police department to accept credit card payments for fines beginning in September.
Bond issue for park
With one dissenting vote, council approved a resolution determining to proceed with the submission to the electors of the question of issuing $1.8 million in bonds for the purpose of improving the city’s park and recreational facilities by constructing and equipping a public park area and related improvements, and declaring an emergency.
At the request of Councilman Wiseman, Pamela Hanover, bond counsel for Squire Patton Boggs, was present to answer questions and explain the process. This bond will incur a cost to homeowners of 7 cents on every $100 of taxable value of a home. A home with a market value of $100,000 has a taxable value of $35,000. The amount of the bond has to be certified by the Cuyahoga County fiscal officer. The language of the bond issue was written by Squire Patton Boggs and is mostly determined by statute. The issue was presented on emergency so that the next steps could be taken immediately. The final language needs to be presented to the board of elections by Aug. 6. Wiseman voted no to presenting the resolution on emergency, and also voted no to the resolution itself.
Community Development Block Grants
Council approved, on emergency, application for a grant from the Cuyahoga County Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) 2015 Muni Grant Program. The CDBG deadline is Sept. 16 and the city is required to advertise a public meeting at least seven days prior to submitting the grant application. Based on her prior experience, Libby Ellis, the city’s development director, believes that the best way to increase the city’s chance of being chosen is to make sure the proposal is a good fit to the purpose of the grant, which is to benefit low- and moderate-income persons or to prevent or eliminate blight. The proposal includes public improvements to the Cedar Taylor district, including benches, bike racks, and coordinated plantings. The development director and the mayor have been working closely with the Cedar Taylor merchant association on the plan. The average CDBG amount has been $58,000. The purpose of the public hearing is to get feedback from the community on the project. The next step will be to meet with the City of Cleveland Heights to see if they have been developing any plans for the Cedar Taylor district.
ODNR grant for tennis courts
Council approved, on emergency, a grant application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to rebuild at least three of the city’s tennis courts. The application, due Sept. 1, must be for recreational needs and requires a 25 percent match from the city.
No council member was willing to make a motion requested by the mayor to authorize her to pay various vendors. Mayor Infeld explained that Law Director Coyne had ascertained that she was not authorized to pay any vendors to whom payments will eventually exceed $5,000. Councilman Steven Sims noted that council had clearly agreed that the mayor should continue with business as usual until the finance committee had the opportunity to review the regulations. Coyne maintained that the city code was unclear and that invoices that aggregate to more than $5,000 are implied contracts. He said it would be prudent to approve these in the course of business until the charter language can be clarified. Spending limits in other cities are somewhat higher and competitive bid language varies. Councilman Wiseman asked why the Ohio auditor hasn’t been asked to provide a ruling.
LWV Observer: Wendy Deuring.
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