LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS / University Heights City Council meeting highlights [online 5-16-2016]
MAY 16, 2016
- Public comments
- Annual reports
- Dispatch center
- John Carroll University
- Water service transition costs
- Telecommunications network
- Storm water management
- Neighborhood park
- Ladder truck
All council members were present.
Change in water system: Phillip Luschek of Washington Boulevard expressed appreciation for the council’s concern for the 800 residents impacted by the change in water systems, but was surprised that the mayor had negotiated the transition costs with the City of Cleveland water systems without input from council members. Mayor Susan Infeld explained that it was her job to negotiate terms, and then present those terms to council for discussion and vote. Luschek noted that the proposed payment of $319,699 is inadequate given the total cost and, since the city seems to be pretty flush financially, they should be able to pay the entire transition cost of approximately $1,065,663.
Infeld noted the many annual reports that are sent to the city by county and state agencies, and also by area businesses. They are always available in the lobby of city hall. She recommended that everyone read John Carroll University’s newsletter to the community, Carroll Connection.
Two grant applications for the dispatch center are progressing through the review process.
John Carroll University
Kate Malone and Dora Pruce from John Carroll University (JCU) provided an update on campus activities. The update focused primarily on enrollment and graduation numbers; campus improvements; and some new programs being offered, including an early college program for about 10 juniors and seniors at Heights High. JCU admitted about 760 new students in 2015 and has a comparable number of acceptances for 2016.
Water service transition costs
Presented on second reading was an ordinance authorizing the mayor to expend $319,699 from the sewer fund to underwrite 30 percent of the transition costs for University Heights residents who are customers of the Cleveland Heights water department, as Cleveland Heights changes to the City of Cleveland water system. Councilwoman Michele Weiss was concerned about this significant sum, and that the budget committee was not aware that these were “extra” funds. She criticized [the idea of] using taxes paid by some taxpayers to subsidize the costs of other taxpayers, and that any “extra” funds would be better spent making improvements to the appearance and amenities of the northwest quadrant of the city. The 800 residents in question will now have access to other cost-saving measures, such as the Homestead Act and the summer sprinkler program, which were not available through Cleveland Heights so they will automatically receive other forms of relief. Councilman Mark Wiseman agreed, expressing concerns about what kind of deal had been made and that this sets a risky precedent for the city.
Vice Mayor Susan Pardee and Councilman Steven Sims agreed that the length of the payback should be examined, and asked the cost of extending it to 10 years instead of five. Pardee agreed that if money were available, she would like to form a citizens’ council to determine the best options for making improvements to the northwest quadrant.
Larry Heiser, finance director, reported that the sewer fund has an additional $550,000 above the amount allocated with this ordinance. The fund has been growing slowly because the city does much of the work in-house and doesn’t have to hire outside contractors.
Infeld noted that the northwest quadrant receives as much attention and improvement as the other areas of the city, and was concerned about extending the payment terms to 10 years, which would increase the total cost.
Councilman Sims noted that the payment made by the city would be on behalf of the addressees rather than to the homeowners per se, and would thus provide ongoing benefit to the community as opposed to paying individual taxpayers. Furthermore, the taxpayers receiving the benefit have also paid into the fund. It is their money. The people are at the mercy of the city of Cleveland Heights. They did not have a choice of which water system to use. He agrees that there is a need to improve the northwest quadrant, but suggested that an exterior improvement project for the homeowners would be most beneficial, but the sewer/water fund cannot be used for such projects.
The sewer district meets next week before adjourning for the summer. Before they adjourn, the city must inform them of the billing rate, which will be based on costs as determined by the water department and council’s decision on transition costs. According to Councilman John Rach’s quick calculation, the transition cost over five years would be $1,291 or $21.52 per month. Spread over 10 years, the cost would be $1,417 or $11.81 per month.
Council voted to change the transition rate to a 10–year payback. But the vote to suspend the rules and vote for passage was not approved with Mark Wiseman, Pamela Cameron and Michelle Weiss voting no. Council scheduled a special meeting for May 23, to vote on this ordinance.
Council authorized a franchise agreement with Ohio Exchange Facilities Networks LLC, granting them the non-exclusive right and franchise to construct, use, operate, own, modify, manage and maintain a data and telecommunications network in the public right-of-way of the city of University Heights.
Storm water management
Council authorized a storm water management agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) for the purpose of implementing the regional storm water management program with member communities. According to Jeffrey Pokorny, service director, this agreement will give NEORSD the right to inspect the rates of storm water drainage inlets in order to monitor the flow. NEORSD already has this right in relation to the sanitary sewer system, so this extends the right to the storm water system. Twenty-five percent of the fees paid to NEORSD will be set aside for local community projects.
Council approved submission of a grant to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for funding to develop a neighborhood park on an empty, city-owned lot on Silsby Road near the western entrance to the city. The plan and costs are still being developed but will comprise mainly landscaping as the lot is 40 x 130 feet and bordered by homes.
Council authorized the cost and repair of the fire department ladder truck by W. W. Williams at an estimated cost of $20,362.50.
LWV Observer: Wendy Deuring.
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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.
League of Women Voters
Observer Corps editor for the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland