University Heights City Council meeting highlights 11-20-2017

NOVEMBER 20, 2017

  • Message from Mayor Infeld
  • Recommendations for University Square
  • Police and dispatch contracts
  • Cuyahoga County project grant
  • Protective clothing for firefighters
  • Budget appropriation for 2018
  • New software for the building department
  • Transition report
  • Road and waterline projects
  • Housing committee update

Present were Mayor Susan Infeld, Vice Mayor Susan Pardee, and council members Phillip Ertel, John Rach,  Michele Weiss and Mark Wiseman. Councilman Steven Sims was absent; Councilwoman Pamela Cameron arrived just after roll call. Also present were Law Director Luke McConville, Finance Director William Sheehan, and Clerk of Council Kelly Thomas. The meeting was held from 7 to 9:05 p.m.

Message from Mayor Infeld

Mayor Infeld congratulated the people who were elected to office on Nov. 7, wishing the best for the officials and for the city. She also announced that Gearity Elementary School is looking for after-school tutors. Those interested should contact Sandy Womack of the school district. City hall or the school district could provide that phone number.

Recommendations for University Square

Council approved two recommendations from the planning commission for possible changes to University Square. The first is to allow variances for the area around Key Bank and the four-unit building partly occupied by Verizon, to allow flexibility to potential new owners. The second is to move the lot line on the north side of the property south “into” the garage, meaning part of the garage may be demolished, creating more space and light along the north side. Any actual changes will require specific approval by council, but this will allow for more flexibility in marketing the property. Councilman Wiseman noted the number of actions council has taken attempting to support University Square. He strongly hopes that the space will continue to have some retail and not be converted fully to residential use.

Police and dispatch contracts

Union members and the administration have approved three (3) three-year contracts between the city of University Heights and the patrol officers, the sergeants and lieutenants, and the dispatchers. The city’s labor counsel presented the new terms to council as ordinances 2017-43, -44 and -47, on first reading. Council has 30 days if they wish to disapprove the contracts; without action, they become binding. The primary concerns were wages, health care, stipends, and hours.

The patrol officers will change from five eight-hour shifts to three 12-hour days and one four-hour day per week. The sergeants and lieutenants will work four 10-hour days. These longer shifts have been found to reduce overtime and scheduling difficulties, with fewer shift transfers per day. Wages will be increased 2.5 percent for the July to June contract year, with a retroactive wage adjustment paid in December. The new contract also includes limited stipends for training. Health insurance plans will remain the same, with employees paying 11 percent of the premium for 2017–18, 12 percent in 2019, and 13 percent in 2020.

Dispatchers will also receive a 2.5 percent pay increase, and the severance package offer remains in effect with the time paid out increased by one week.

The final change is that employees can use some of their sick days as personal days instead. If using the personal day forces overtime for someone else, it will cost the employee 18 hours instead of 12 for a day off.

Cuyahoga County project grant

Council decided against authorizing the application to Cuyahoga County for a $50,000 grant to be used for a new gateway plan for the Cedar-Warrensville intersection. The proposed grant would have sought funding for three new bus shelters, a recycling receptacle, a sign, and trees. The grant couldn’t be [made] for the Cedar-Taylor intersection because the city has already budgeted $25,000 for that project, making it ineligible. Development Director Patrick Grogan-Myers presented pictures of the items that would be specified in the grant.

Councilwoman Weiss was concerned that there was no correlation between the two gateway designs. The mayor noted that the selections were chosen to be neutral to blend with any other additions. Councilman Ertel noted that the city keeps choosing designs that will blend in because there isn’t an overall design concept. Councilwoman Cameron voted to proceed with the grant application because money is money, but all other council members voted no. Council would like to develop an overall "brand" for the city before undertaking any additional projects. (The grant is to distribute revenue from the casino, and is highly competitive.)

Protective clothing for firefighters

Council approved Resolution 2017-41, authorizing application to the Bureau of Workers Compensation for a grant to purchase protective clothing for the firefighters. Chief Zook is authorized to spend up to $15,000, but has thus far only listed $7,000 on the grant application. He will look for additional protective clothing that the firefighters will need.

Budget appropriation for 2018

Ordinance 2017-45, appropriating funds for the first quarter of 2018, was presented on first reading. Mayor Infeld didn’t want to stipulate a budget for the incoming mayor, so she is presenting a budget for just the first quarter of 2018 in order to get the year started. Council will review the budget. The budget for the year doesn’t need to be submitted to the county until March 31.

New software for the building department

Based on research and recommendations by the First Suburbs Consortium, the mayor is asking to purchase a software program for building code enforcement from Online Solutions LLC for use by the building department. Currently, when building inspectors complete an inspection they write their findings on a form and that information is then given to people in the office to input into a computer program that was developed 12 years ago. This new software would work on tablets that the inspectors could take with them and update on site. The annual cost to use the program is $10,500. The cost to implement the new program is $19,000. This resolution was presented on first reading.

Transition report

Councilman Wiseman asked for this to be added to the agenda. He noted that he was seeking a report from the mayor on steps taken to transfer knowledge and processes to the new mayor. Mayor Infeld reported that she and Mayor-elect Brennan were in communication, and that they had reviewed the new contracts extensively that day.

Road and waterline projects

City Engineer Joseph Ciuni reported that the road program is complete, and the Silsby Road project is going through the final “punch list.” The Cleveland Water Department has approved two water-main projects for 2018. (University Heights will pay the cost up front and then be reimbursed in full by the water department.

Housing committee report

Councilman Wiseman reported that the committee is looking at the city’s requirements before demolishing a house (there is a significant loophole in the current regulations); the inspection of empty and foreclosed properties; and the possibility of allowing chicken coops in the city.

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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Volume 11, Issue 1, Posted 10:49 AM, 01.30.2018