University Heights City Council meeting highlights 10-16-2017

OCTOBER 16, 2017

  • New dispatch center
  • University Square
  • Prisoner housing services with Solon
  • Regulations of rental properties
  • Medical marijuana dispensaries

Present were Mayor Susan Infeld, Vice Mayor Susan Pardee, and council members Philip Ertel, Steven Sims, Michele Weiss and Mark Wiseman. Councilman John Rach was absent, and Councilman Philip Ertel arrived just after roll call. Also present were Law Director Luke McConville, Finance Director William Sheehan, and Clerk of Council Kelly Thomas, clerk of council. The meeting was held from 7 p.m. to approximately 8:20 p.m.

New dispatch center

The new dispatch center ribbon-cutting is scheduled for Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. All dispatch employees will move over to the new center, located on Severance Circle, on Nov. 13. All University Heights employees have accepted ongoing employment in the new center.

University Square

Mayor Infeld noted that there would be a meeting on Oct. 24 with the bondholders of University Square to discuss the current situation and possible options.

Prisoner housing services with Solon

Police Chief Hammett reported that in the most recent change in ratings (February 2017) the University Heights jail went from being considered a 12-day facility to only a holding cell until new placement can be found for prisoners. The city jails for Euclid, Maple Heights and Bedford Heights are all in the same quandary, so Chief Hammett moved quickly to secure a contract with Solon. The new rules require more space per prisoner, full medical exams, and natural light. With the dispatch staff moving to the new facility, they won’t be available to serve as matrons, and police officers would have to be pulled off street patrol to staff the jail. Solon is able to take over the University Heights prisoners for an annual cost of $81,600 (versus $83,622 for University Heights to house them). The current salary cost of $56,000 would remain for the lieutenant in charge of the jail, in addition to the payment to Solon. Hammett reported that the lieutenant would remain on staff to handle the many other duties that have not been fully managed because of jail requirements. The city currently houses 175 to 250 prisoners per year, with a two-and-a-half-day average stay. Most have been arrested for shoplifting.

The motion to approve the contract with Solon was tabled until the next meeting to give council time to review the details. Council members objected that this ruling was made in February and they are only now hearing about it.

Regulations of rental properties

Legislation (Ordinance 2017-38) changing city code regarding rental of one- and two-family homes was presented on first reading. Mayor Infeld explained that this is how the city works: the administration does research and puts forth proposals regarding administration and taxation, which is then presented to council for a vote. Councilman Sims replied that council shouldn’t be presented complex issues on short notice. The mayor noted that the changes to the regulation were in bold and they had received the materials almost a week ago. Councilman Ertel asked if the problems addressed by the changes were a bigger issue for rental properties than for owner-occupied homes. Development Director Patrick Grogan-Myers said that the issues were comparable, but if non-income generating properties were expected to pay taxes, then rental properties certainly should pay. The problem is with ghost properties, in which a person buys a property and rents it without paying taxes or doing any property maintenance. Councilman Wiseman asked to table the ordinance until after it can be discussed by the building committee of council. [Details of the legislation was not presented to the audience.]

Medical marijuana dispensaries

Councilwoman Weiss has continued to follow the medical marijuana legislation. She reported that medical marijuana dispensary licenses would be issued in November. Some communities are passing legislation placing moratoria or banning them outright. She urged council to develop some rules in the near future. Only one location within University Heights meets the multiple criteria, whereas South Euclid and Lyndhurst have applied for three locations which are close to the one site in UH. Thus, there isn’t a likely possibility for University Heights to secure a dispensary anyway. The issue was referred to the Government Affairs Committee.


LWV Observer: Wendy S. 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.

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