Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 4-20-2020
APRIL 20, 2020
- City manager’s report
- Solar project
- Top of the Hill agreement
- Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development
- Consent agenda
- Solar panel presentation
- Council member comments
Present were Mayor Jason Stein, Vice Mayor Kahlil Seren, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell and Michael Ungar. Staff present were City Manager Tanisha Briley, Clerk of Council Susanna O’Neil, and Law Director William Hanna. The virtual meeting was viewed on YouTube and lasted one hour, twelve minutes.
City manager’s report
City Manager Briley commented that her detailed report is available to the public on pages 2-9 of the council meeting packet on the city’s website: Government/ 2020 Agendas and Minutes.
On second reading, council authorized participation in the Cuyahoga County Aggregated Solar Project, allowing placement of solar panels on three city buildings, which will use the electricity generated on site (Ordinance 33-2020). Mr. Seren expressed his happiness with this project and credited the county. Mr. Stein said it was good for the environment and the city’s pocketbook. Other members also endorsed this ordinance. (See presentation below.)
Top of the Hill agreement
Council authorized, on second reading, an agreement with Panzica Construction for consultant services as representative of the city (“owner’s representative”) for the Top of the Hill Redevelopment Project (Resolution 34-2020). Ms. Russell praised the work done by this contractor. Ms. Hart agreed.
On emergency, council extended, for a third time, the term of the memorandum of understanding with Cedar Lee Connection, LLC, concerning the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook development (Resolution 36-2020). Mr. Ungar recused himself because he and his spouse are passive investors in other projects with the developer, Rick Ferris of Sequoia Realty.
Ms. Hart commented that this negotiation has been going on for well over a year, but she is willing to extend the 90 days. She said that something solid is needed at the end of 90 days or the city should begin looking for another developer. Vice Mayor Seren said that he was willing to give the developer the benefit of the doubt, as the COVID-19 health crisis has slowed business.
Council approved a consent agenda that included:
Resolution 37-2020 authorizing the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to proceed with a project to improve sidewalks and pedestrian crossings in the city. The areas to be improved may be found on page 71 of the packet.
Resolution 38-2020 designating City Manager Tanisha R. Briley and Finance Director Amy Himmeleinas signers for the city’s municipal fund investment account with Nirvana Funding, LLC.
Resolution 39-2020 updating the same individuals as signatories on accounts at US Bank, Fifth Third Bank, STAR Ohio, and STAR Plus Ohio.
Solar panel presentation
Scott Amenduri, president of Enerlogics Solar, spoke and answered council members’ questions about the proposed Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the city, arranged through Cuyahoga County, for installing solar panels on three city facilities at no cost to Cleveland Heights. The agreement obligates the city to buy the power generated by the panels and use it on site. The solar panels are estimated to provide about 40 percent of the electricity used in city hall, the service garage, and the community center. The cost is estimated to be significantly lower than electricity from the power grid. This program has been successful on several county buildings, and is being offered to the suburbs. Construction will begin July, and the panels should be operating in November or December. Details of the PPA may be found in the city manager’s packet, pages 14-48.
Council members had questions and comments. Mr. Seren asked about using the solar generated power more broadly in the city. The reply was that there are regulatory hurdles with First Energy that limit use to the site it is generated. Mr. Ungar called the project “terrific, a no-brainer,” and thanked the county. When asked by Mr. Ungar about other suburbs’ participation, the presenters noted Lakewood and Kent State University, and that the PPA is also under discussion in other cities and school districts. Mr. Amenduri also responded that building roofs will not be penetrated to anchor the panels, and that the city will pay only for the power it uses. Ms. Hart asked about weather resistance, such as in a “microburst,” and was told the system is tested for hurricane resistance. Ms. Russell asked additional questions about roofs and expressed her satisfaction.
Council member comments
Mayor Stein concluded the meeting by wishing all residents good health and urging the continued observance of distancing guidelines.
Ms. Hart expressed concern that she had not known the what, how, and why of staff layoffs before reading about them on cleveland.com. Ms. Briley responded that she had sent council members a detailed email on April 2 about employees receiving layoff letters on April 5, and that the layoff would occur April 19. Ms. Hart also desires further discussion of prepayment of medical insurance premiums soon.
Ms. Russell investigated doing wellness checks on senior residents, starting with the ones for whom sanitation brings out the trash. She discovered that there are no phone numbers recorded, and wondered if numbers can be collected. The city manager assured her that, for these households, sanitation does ask police to check if there are concerns, and that numbers can be carefully collected and saved going forward.
Mr. Ungar also expressed concern that there be timely notice to council about layoffs so committees can convene and ask administrators questions. He announced that he is working on plans for regular check-ins with elderly residents by consulting with Shaker Heights and University Heights, which have such programs, and by talking with FutureHeights, which has initiated a program.
He commended Council Member Dunbar and Susanna Niermann O’Neil for their leadership in obtaining grants over $1 million for Safe Routes to Schools improvements. Ms. Dunbarin turn thanked Capital Projects Manager Joe Kickel for continuing the work with the funder, noting these projects require no matching local funds.
LWV Observer: Blanche Valancy.