University Heights City Council meeting highlights 9-15-2014
SEPTEMBER 15, 2014
[Town Hall Meeting]
- Public comments
- Responses regarding fire and ambulance issues
- NOCCA Award
- Commercial zoning request
- Equipment grant
- Public nuisance
- Less restrictive hiring
- Leaf collection contract
- Direct deposit
- Health insurance
- University Square parking garage
- Sewer cleaning
All council members were present.
Two residents asked for an explanation about reduced staffing in the ambulances and not using the third ambulance. They stated that in 2009 the fire staff was reduced, but residents’ taxes were not. Mayor Susan Infeld said that the city always had only two ambulances and the third was extra. The city no longer needs the third ambulance and may donate it to East Cleveland. East Cleveland is not financially sound and is currently using a donated ambulance from Shaker Heights, which is extremely old.
Responses regarding fire and ambulance issues
Because University Heights is part of a joint dispatch, emergency calls are heard by many cities. If a city needs extra help and an ambulance or fire truck is available from another city, that city will help out the city in need. Cleveland Heights does not help with ambulance needs but does with fire needs. Other cities such as Shaker Heights, Beachwood, and South Euclid also help. University Heights has seen a sharp increase in ambulance runs to East Cleveland. That city’s ambulance is in disrepair and its staffing is low. The fire chief feels that donating the extra ambulance to East Cleveland is a good idea. A low resale value, about $2,000, further justifies the donation.
Regarding staffing, a pilot program was implemented to see if two paramedics per ambulance would be sufficient. Two are always in the ambulance and, if needed, a squad car and sometimes a fire car are dispatched as well. If the call comes in as cardiac, three paramedics will be in the ambulance.
When asked by Councilman Mark Wiseman whether East Cleveland reimburses the calls or provide mutual aid, the fire chief said no to both. He hoped that donating the ambulance might alleviate the issue. Councilwoman Pamela Cameron stated that, as a former East Cleveland resident, she was sympathetic to its fiscal issues but was not aware that when University Heights purchased a new ambulance it would discontinue using the old one. The fire chief stated that of 375 ambulance calls between May and August, 32 percent required more than two paramedics. The staffing of six paramedics daily will not stop because of the two-paramedic pilot.
The city received an award from NOCCA (Northeast Ohio City Council Association) for planning for pedestrian and bicycle experience on Cedar and Warrensville Center roads.
Commercial zoning request
At Mayor Infeld’s request, council added a rezoning item to the agenda. By a four-to-three vote, council approved rezoning parcels on Cedar Road for Waterway Gas and Wash. Councilmen Steven Sims, Philip Ertel and Mark Wiseman voted no.
Larry Weiser, who owns the four houses up for rezoning, spoke, and brought Waterway Gas and Wash representatives to discuss the proposed building. Responding to a question from Vice Mayor Susan Pardee, Weiser stated that parking would be better because the current parking at the nearby Jack’s Deli, which Weiser also owns, would be restructured. Responding to questions on traffic congestion, Weiser said that a traffic study would be conducted and, if a light [is] needed, he would pay for it.
Presented on first reading was a grant of $206,008 for rescue equipment, computer equipment, and health and wellness items for the fire department. Lieutenant Bob Perko, who wrote the application, stated that $60,000 is for fire hydraulic equipment; $80,000 for mobile data terminals, such as tablets; and $76,000 for health and wellness, which includes exercise equipment, wellness classes and checkups.
Council declared the property at 3761 Northwood Road a public nuisance. This property was acquired by the land bank, which wants to tear the structure down.
Less restrictive hiring
There was a first reading of a resolution that would make hiring auxiliary police members less restrictive.
Leaf collection contract
An ordinance was presented on first reading that would allow the mayor to enter into a contract with Minute Men to help with curbside leaf collection. Councilman Sims wants young people in the community to have the opportunity [to apply] for these positions in the future. Vice Mayor Pardee stated that these funds come from the tree fund.
Council approved direct deposit of wages for city employees. Larry Heiser, finance director, stated that only nine employees do not currently have direct deposit, and that First Merit Bank will allow anyone who works at the city to open a bank account.
Heiser mentioned that health care reform requires that all employees working 30 or more hours per week be offered health insurance. Council needs to discuss how to track employee hours.
University Square parking garage
Heiser pointed out several factual errors in the Heights Observer regarding the parking garage at University Square. Currently there is no plan to use the garage for high school parking. [LWV explanatory note: A report of school district use of parking spaces at University Square was included in the Aug. 5 LWV BOE meeting notes, but refers to parking spaces behind the apartment building at University Square, not the garage. We apologize for any confusion.]
Gigi Benjamin, an attorney who came to discuss the parking garage, said there are structural issues that need to be corrected. The garage owners’ revenue does not support their debts. The owners have not paid special assessments of $2 million in a timely fashion and are now in default. There are investors who purchased the bonds and now have interest in the property.
Sewer cleaning is 35 percent complete and going well.
There is a pending lawsuit regarding a dispute over an access road to University Square. There are 24 defendants and the city is one of them. The city has said it will work with the developer to resolve this issue.
LWV Observer: Michele Weiss.
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