University Heights City Council meeting highlights 6-18-2018
JUNE 18, 2018
- Death of Councilman Steven Sims’ wife
- Honoring Walter Stinson
- Increase in rental permits
- Civil service commission appointment
- Meadowbrook home declared a nuisance
- Donation of animal oxygen masks
- Police and fire contracts with Lexipol
- Community Reinvestment Area designation
- Seasonal staffing for brush pickup, etc.
- Furniture and equipment for new annex
- Director reports
Present were Mayor Michael D Brennan, Pamela Cameron, Phil Ertel (who left at 8:45 pm), John Rach, Michele Weiss and Mark Wiseman. Excused were Vice Mayor Susan Pardee and Steven Sims. Also present were Law Director Luke McConville and Clerk of Council Kelly Thomas. The meeting was held from 7 to 9:50 p.m.
Death of Councilman Steven Sims’ wife
Mayor Brennan opened the meeting with an announcement that Councilman Sims wife had passed away on June 8 after a long illness and asked for a minute of silence in her honor.
Honoring Walter Stinson
Mayor Brennan presented a declaration to Walter Stinson on his 90th birthday, honoring his many years of continuing service to the community. Stinson was first hired in 1976 as the first community coordinator and served in that role for thirty years. He is still actively involved, organizing the senior program held at the University Heights Library branch. There was a reception prior to the meeting in his honor.
During public comment there were many statements from owners of rental properties, protesting the council’s recent fee increase from $300 or $400 biannually, to $600 or $800 annually. Several stated that the decision seems to have been made in secret, and that it received much less publicity than the chicken ordinance.
Ben Greenberg, who owns a home on Ashurst, said that, although he understands council’s concerns, raising the fee would reduce the means for property owners to make improvements and would make the property more difficult to rent if the fee is passed on to the renter.
Donna Simons suggested that council conduct a study to determine a better approach, and offered the help of her husband who is a professor at Cleveland State’s Levin College. She noted that although the rental fee in Beachwood is $500 annually, property taxes there are much lower, and the communities aren’t comparable. She also felt that the city should embrace rental properties as the housing market remains soft.
Shelby Hersh of Beachwood owns three properties, all rented to John Carroll students. He noted that these homes are owned by individuals, not real estate developers, and these fees feel punitive.
Tony D’Agostino of Highland Heights asked what percentage of owners create problems. He noted that these fees are far higher than surrounding cities, and inspections are short and don’t justify the cost. He said that owners will respond by increasing the number of students that they fit into each house.
Bob McClintock of Novelty owns four houses that he is in the process of selling because they were not a good investment.
Michael Halpern of Brentwood Road owns ten houses and is still a proud investor because he believes council will find a better solution. He was advised not to invest in University Heights, but he has friends and family here and has no regrets.
Jeff Muller of Elmdale Road expressed frustration, anger, and also concern. He believes council is trying to do the right thing but there is a lack of transparency. He suggests the city should work with the owners to find solutions for problems. He asked council to postpone the legislation and give the owners time to work with the city to find a resolution.
Donna Simons asked at the end of the meeting if council would add an item to the agenda regarding this, but no motions were put forth.
Council members Weiss and Cameron acknowledged the concerns expressed, and explained the process for putting items on the agenda and proper protocol in meetings. During the committee reports, Councilman Weisman noted that he would schedule a meeting of the housing committee, and Councilwoman Cameron noted that the government affairs committee would join them to further review this legislation, which was to go into effect on June 20. [Since this meeting, the city has postponed implementation of the new fee structure while they review the issue.]
Civil service commission appointment
Steven Dlott was given the oath of office to begin serving on the city’s civil service commission, which, according to the city’s website, comprises three city residents “…who shall make necessary rules for the appointment, promotion, transfer, lay-off, reinstatement, suspension and removal of persons in the classified service.”
Meadowbrook home declared a nuisance
Council declared the home at 3765 Meadowbrook Boulevard to be a public nuisance. James McReynolds, building commissioner, obtained a search warrant after the city was alerted by complaints from neighbors. They found vermin, animal feces, mold and lots of trash covering the floors. The house itself seemed to be in sound condition but will require extensive cleaning. The taxes and mortgage have been paid, but the city has been unable to determine, thus far, who actually owns the property. The roof was replaced three years ago. This official declaration is the first step toward getting the property owner to come forward.
Donation of animal oxygen masks
Two representatives from Invisible Fence came to the meeting with their friend Zeus to demonstrate, and donate to the fire department, oxygen masks for animals. They gave the city two sets of masks, which come in sizes small enough for a hamster or puppy, up to large enough for the largest dogs. The masks connect to a standard oxygen tank with tubing, or can be hand-pumped, and they can be adjusted to allow the correct amount of oxygen based on the animal’s size. Zeus proudly allowed them to place the mask over his nose, with his tail wagging happily the entire time.
Police and fire contracts with Lexipol
Council authorized the purchase of two separate annual subscriptions with Lexipol LLC, which provides, for the police and fire departments, policy manuals, daily training bulletins, policy updates and electronic monitoring for compliance with state regulations. Each department currently has multiple manuals which are sometimes contradictory or out of date. This will provide a consistent Ohio-specific training and policy process for each of the departments at a cost not to exceed $14,768 for the fire and $14,999 for the police departments. This cost includes the initial fee plus access for one year. Subsequent years will be approximately half that price.
Community Reinvestment Area designation
Councilwoman Weiss reported that council has submitted a request to Ohio to establish the city of University Heights in its entirety as a Community Reinvestment Area. If approved, it will authorize the city to offer a 10-15 percent tax abatement on all new construction or additions. The city has to submit a substantial housing report to show that investment has been discouraged. Investments from $2,500 to $25,000 would be eligible for abatement on the increase in the assessed value of the property for a certain number of years. Ordinance 2018-33 was presented on first reading.
Seasonal staffing for brush pickup, etc.
Council approved Service Director Jeff Pokorny’s request to seek bids for seasonal workers by temporary staffing agencies. The city uses these workers annually to help with brush pickup and other temporary seasonal work.
Furniture and equipment for new annex
Council approved the purchase of computers, printers and other necessary IT equipment for the new annex space for four new employees. The equipment will be provided by PC Alternative at a cost not to exceed $25,087.25. Council also authorized the purchase of four desks, a credenza, privacy panels, filing cabinets and some other furnishings from Rite Office Products Inc. The $5,300 cost does not include chairs, as they hope to find better chairs from another source. Council authorized the mayor to spend up to $6,000 to include the chairs.
Mayor Brennan reported that Interim Finance Director Michael Frederick has successfully reconciled the city’s accounts through October 2017. The accounts should be completed by July 4 so that the audit can then begin.
Interim Police Chief Rogers announced that he is looking at creating an honor guard to serve at various city functions.
Development Director Patrick Grogan-Myers reported that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant for the pocket park was approved, and a Community Development Block Grant has been submitted.
The next meeting will be Monday, Sept. 4, 2018, but Mayor Brennan noted that there will be two or three special meetings regarding the pocket park, the Community Development Block Grant, and the small cell tower.
LWV Observer: Wendy S. Deuring.
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