University Heights City Council meeting highlights 10-20-14

OCTOBER 20, 2014

  • Public comments
  • Zoning changes
  • 2240 Jackson Blvd.
  • Grant approval policy
  • Approval of written contracts
  • Law enforcement hiring
  • Ebola training

Vice Mayor Susan D. Pardee was absent.

Public comments

Written Contracts: Mike Bohan, a member of the city finance advisory committee, expressed concerns about the resolution on this evening’s agenda for council’s approval of written contracts. Although it represents the majority view of the members of both the joint finance committee and the finance advisory committee, he wished to make three comments:

1) He recommended obtaining input from the law director and mayor as to whether clarifying the ordinance to stipulate written contracts is sufficient to resolve their perceived need to bring so many expenditures for approval before council;

2) The only substantive change to the law is the clarification that it applies only to written contracts; all of the other details in the resolution should already be covered by the current $5,000 written contract provision;

3) He also recommended that the entire approval methodology be reconfigured as council’s highly detailed budget approval process already authorizes the mayor to enter into the necessary contracts to make the expenditures pursuant to the approved budget. All contracts should then be obtained in compliance with the bidding and conflict of interest provisions of the statutes. That is, council’s specific approval would be required for any contract exceeding a certain dollar amount, for a contract awarded without competitive bidding, or for a contract awarded to other than the lowest bidder.

Ambulance staffing: Yanina Muzis of Warrensville Center Road asked how many people are currently staffed on the ambulances and how long will the fire chief’s pilot project last. She also asked why the city would give away the third ambulance instead of selling it. Mayor Infeld noted that the pilot project is ongoing and they are continuing to assign two people for most runs. The third ambulance is currently listed for sale on govdeals.com.

Public comment location on agenda: Muzis suggested moving the public comment to the end of the meeting instead of the beginning so people could comment on what has taken place. The mayor explained that the order of the agenda is stipulated by the charter and city ordinances.

Zoning changes

After lengthy debate and a divided vote, council approved zoning changes for six parcels along Cedar and South Green roads from two-family residential (U-2) to local retail district (U-7). A seventh parcel changed from parking/shopping district (U3, U8) to U-7. Larry Weiser, owner of these properties, hopes to put a Waterway Gas & Wash there. Weiser stated that he was open to a variety of business opportunities for that section. The change is conditional on the filing of the lot split and consolidation plat with the county.

A traffic study had been completed and an additional traffic signal would be needed at Fenway Road, which would have to be synchronized with the signal at South Green Road. Councilman Philip Ertel noted that Waterway was listed specifically but Law Director Attorney Coyne explained that, although it is standard to include a business in the request for clarity, a U-7 zoning allows a wide array of businesses.

With tie votes that were broken by a vote by the mayor, council voted down Councilman Mark Wiseman’s request to send the issue back to the planning commission for further traffic study and approved the planning commission proposal as presented. Voting against Wiseman’s request and for the proposal were councilwomen Nancy English, Adele Zucker and Pamela Cameron as well as the mayor.

2240 Jackson Blvd.

Council approved the request of two property owners, adjacent to an empty lot at 2240 Jackson Blvd, to split the lot and consolidate [it] with the adjacent properties.

Grant approval policy

Council approved a policy for the submission of grants by a split vote. Mayor Infeld explained that this resolution was needed for grants exceeding the mayor’s spending authority of $5,000, for grants that might entail legislation, and for some protection against the city being included in other municipalities’ grant applications without its knowledge. Council members Wiseman and Cameron voted no, explaining later that they felt this resolution was not necessary and would discourage people from taking the initiative to seek out grant opportunities for the city. Councilwoman English initially abstained from the vote because she wasn’t sure of the impact on departments or committees seeking funds, but then changed her vote to an aye, having been persuaded by the discussion regarding protecting the city from being named in a grant without its consent.

Approval of written contracts

Council unanimously approved authorization to pay administrative and other expenses and to necessitate council approval for other written contracts, expenses, or services. Minor changes had been made to the resolution since the first reading to improve clarity and remove its “on emergency” status, but there were no material changes.

Law enforcement hiring

Council authorized submission of a grant request to the Office of Criminal Justice Ohio Municipal Law Enforcement Programs, which provides funding for hiring, training and equipment purchase. Due to three upcoming retirements within the police department, several new officers will be needed. The top two candidates have already completed their training, but the third candidate has not. It is customary for the department to pay for the training, and to pay the person while he or she is in training. The total cost for the training and payroll is approximately $32,000. The grant application, which is due Oct. 31, will be for $20,000.

Ebola training

Fire Chief Douglas Zook and Police Chief Steven Hammett have both attended numerous meetings and trainings, and [participated in] phone calls regarding Ebola. Hammett showed council the first responder kit, which all police officers have in their cars, including hazmat suits and masks. Zook gave some memorable advice: if it’s warm, wet, and not yours—don’t touch it.

LWV Observer: Wendy Deuring.

These meeting summaries are abstracted from LWV observers’ written reports. The summaries have been edited and prepared by Anne McFarland, Charlene Morse, 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 of Greater Cleveland. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.

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